Wednesday 21 March 2018

Priory Hall: Minister Phil Hogan says ‘we may have to demolish and start again’

Michael Brennan, Deputy Political Editor

Environment Minister Phil Hogan says he has an 'open mind' about demolishing the fire hazard apartments at Priory Hall and replacing them with a new building.

The pressure on him to act has increased after a homeowner and father-of-two took his own life over what his family say was due to stress over Priory Hall.

Speaking this morning, Mr Hogan said he would explore all the options to solve the problem.

He said he had an open mind about demolishing and rebuilding Priory Hall.

"I will deal specifically with that case once the court process is completed," he told RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke Show.

Residents were evacuated from the North Dublin residential estate in October 2011 after Dublin City Council declared it a ‘fire-trap’.

While the minister’s comments will no doubt be welcomed, he refused to give a deadline for action, saying he had to wait until an outcome has been reached in the courts.

When pushed by the broadcaster as to whether Mr Hogan could provide residents with a solution by next Christmas, the minister said he wouldn’t commit to a deadline.

“I’m not going to create any false hope for people in Priory Hall by giving a deadline,” he said.

He explained he was waiting for a decision by the courts on the issue, and had to wait before he could take any action.

Mr Hogan said he hasn’t been able to meet with residents as he has “to observe the law” as minister.

Pressure on the government to act on Priory Hall has become immense since Stephanie Meehan wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny after her partner Fiachra Daly took his own life.

Ms Meehan, one of the many homeowners at the firetrap North Dublin housing complex built by IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely, sent a heartfelt letter to Enda Kenny outlining how her life and the lives of their two children had changed beyond all recognition since the death of her partner.

Heartbroken Ms Meehan said the stress and pressure on her partner Mr Daly "eventually took its toll" and he took his own life on July 15 at the age of 37.

It came only a week after Mr Daly, father of Oisin (7) and Cerys (2), received payment demands from his bank.

Priory Hall residents were forced to abandon their homes in 2011 after the council's fire authorities deemed it unsafe to live in.

Many of the families are living in temporary accommodation, some paid for by Dublin City Council, as a mediation process between the council and the financial institutions carrying the mortgages continues.

Spokesman and resident Graham Usher pointed out that the mediation process was supposed to take three months but was still ongoing 16 months later.

So far, Dublin City Council has paid out more than €3.1m dealing with the fallout from the Priory Hall controversy.

The council is due to go to the Supreme Court in October to appeal a decision ordering them to pay for the residents' temporary accommodation.

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