Monday 22 July 2019

Priory Hall: Anger outside court as work on complex is stopped

Developer Tom McFeely refuses to accept an
envelope believed to contain a summons
outside the High Court yesterday.
Developer Tom McFeely refuses to accept an envelope believed to contain a summons outside the High Court yesterday.
Developer Tom McFeely refuses to accept an envelope believed to contain a summons outside the High Court yesterday.
work was under way yesterday at Priory Hall, which has been condemned as a fire hazard, but it has now been stopped.
High Street, Stratford, London, where Tom McFeely has an apartment block.

Aoife Finneran, Fiona Ellis and Mark Hilliard

THE fate of the infamous apartment complex Priory Hall hangs in the balance as neither the council nor the developer Tom McFeely claims to have the funds to make the dangerous complex safe.

There were heated exchanges yesterday after the High Court ordered the removal of workers. Angry residents demanded to know will happen next but were again left in limbo. Mr McFeely was involved in a confrontation as he left the court.

Earlier, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, had made an order against Mr McFeely and Coalport Building Company Ltd, which built the 187-apartment complex at Donaghmede, Dublin in 2006.

The judge was told by Dublin City Council that work to fix the multiple serious fire safety problems at the apartment blocks was not progressing. The court instructed Mr McFeely to cease work and to remove all his workers from Priory Hall by 6pm yesterday.

However, neither the council nor the developer said they could afford to pay for the works required to make the complex safe.

Conleth Bradley SC, for the council, told the court that the council had another firm of contractors lined up ready to complete the works. However, he said it could not fund the work itself and was not required by law to do so.

The council, he argued, had sought the evacuation order at Priory Hall as "a matter of life and death" but was not responsible under law for what happened to the residents evacuated.

Mr McFeely said he would not oppose the council's application for him to hand over responsibility for the work. But he claimed that he could not fund the works by the replacement firm, as his accounts were currently frozen.


Mr Justice Kearns said the council must address the situation at Priory Hall "as a matter of extreme urgency" and described its approach to the situation as "half-baked".

He said it was not the court's function to direct who should carry out the work at Priory Hall but, he assumed -- given that the council had applied to have Mr McFeely removed -- that "intelligent people had thought ahead".

Some 240 residents remain evacuated amid uncertainty as to when safety works will be finished. One of them, Niall O'Reilly, said they were now playing a waiting game and were terrified that the dispute would go on for months.

He said: "The main concern we have is that there is going to be a delay now. There is a lot of work to be carried out and we just don't know what will happen.

"We were told it was only going to last a few weeks, now that time frame is blown out of the water. If there is a fight on between them now about money and stuff, these works are going to be put off and put off and put off."

Another resident, Paul Uzell, said the council and the developer were "passing the buck" and that a decision needed to be made.

"They are trying to pass the buck as to who pays the bill. This building is going to have to be seriously pulled apart and redone," he commented.

The owners of apartments from the complex were offered housing last week and are also working with lawyers to try and obtain a moratorium of a few months on their mortgages.

Mr Justice Kearns directed the council to meet shortfalls being experienced by residents who are entitled to rent supplements but whose alternative rented accommodation is more expensive than that at Priory Hall.

A spokesman for the council said the time limit to assist refugee residents was indefinite.

"There was no order about who should carry out the works to remediate the complex," he added.

The court ordered that a motion for attachment and committal would be returnable for next Friday.

Irish Independent

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