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Nightmare over as six marooned families get to 'give up the ghost'

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Developer Sean Rooney in the Asc Aill Rois estate in Carrickmacross. Picture;  GERRY MOONEY.  4/3/15

Developer Sean Rooney in the Asc Aill Rois estate in Carrickmacross. Picture; GERRY MOONEY. 4/3/15

Ascaill Rois, an unfinished housing estate situated in Monaghan and hugging Carrickmacross, is a large development with potential to home over 40 families in modern housing.  Photograph: Shane Maguire Photography

Ascaill Rois, an unfinished housing estate situated in Monaghan and hugging Carrickmacross, is a large development with potential to home over 40 families in modern housing. Photograph: Shane Maguire Photography

Shane Maguire Photography

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Developer Sean Rooney in the Asc Aill Rois estate in Carrickmacross. Picture; GERRY MOONEY. 4/3/15

For six families marooned in a Monaghan ghost estate, the last five years have been a nightmare.

They had to endure having no street lighting, hazardous footpaths and the depressing sight of rows of half-built houses and apartments each time they pulled back the curtains in the morning.

Rodents moved into one of the half-built houses and pest control had to be called in. The green amenity areas went untended for years, becoming a no-go area for residents and their children.

But now the 'ghost' estate of Ascaill Rois in Carrickmacross has risen from the ashes after a millionaire entrepreneur, who made his fortune in waste management, took a gamble at a sale of distressed property assets.

Sean Rooney, who was a founder of the waste disposal giant Oxigen before he disposed of his interest some years ago, paid just over €1.9m for 31 half-finished three- and four-bedroom houses and six apartments at an Allsops auction. Some were built only to the first storey.

The price he paid was nearly double the guide price for the estate but now after five months of intensive work, the estate is now nearly finished and will go on sale on April 24.

The families who were trapped when the original developers fell victim to the crash are delighted.

Resident Grainne Morgan and her partner were first-time buyers when they purchased five years ago.

"With no street lighting, we just didn't feel safe. Now the estate has been rejuvenated," she told the Sunday Independent.

The couple have a young son, Cillian (2), and she says she is looking forward to seeing the estate filled with lots of other young families.

"We are delighted to see the work being done. It looked really, really bad at one stage. The lack of street lighting was depressing and dangerous. You didn't feel safe. The first thing the man who bought it did was get the lights switched on. They have been working around the clock since then," she said.

Toal Auctioneers, who are handling the sales launch of the finished estate on April 24, says there is a pent-up demand for housing in the area, especially for first-time buyers. "It's only 45 minutes from Dublin and the work has been carried out to stringent standards," said Therese Toal.

Developer Sean Rooney started his working life as a bricklayer.

He moved into waste disposal when he saw the requirement for skips wasn't being met on building sites where he worked.

"I spotted that gap and moved into the business," Mr Rooney said.

He says he is proud that his gamble on the Ascaill Rois estate looks like coming off.

"It was tougher than I thought. When we actually bought the place we discovered there were a series of problems we hadn't envisaged including an issue with the sewerage system. Monaghan County Council laid down very tight deadlines and, as you would expect, very demanding guidelines.

"It has been a huge learning curve for us and the lads have had to work really hard through the winter," he added.

He expects to be selling three-bed houses for between €165,000 to €170,000.

Nearly 1,000 estates (992) around the country remain unfinished.

Of these remaining ghost estates, a total of 766 have residents while the remainder are vacant sites.

The ghost estate phenomenon which affected almost every county reached its zenith in 2010.

Since then, some 1,854 estates have been completed.

Sunday Independent