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Saturday 18 November 2017

Priory Hall's families offered hope of fresh start

Former Priory Hall residents at the abandoned complex in Donaghmede
Former Priory Hall residents at the abandoned complex in Donaghmede

Michael Brennan and Donal O'Donovan

PRIORY Hall residents have been given new hope after state-owned bank AIB said new homes elsewhere must be found for them.

The bank has contacted 18 family homeowners of the fire hazard apartments in Dublin to discuss potential options that would allow them to escape their doomed homes, without being stuck paying mortgages on empty flats.

AIB said it did not believe Priory Hall was an option in terms of a new home – suggesting it might be willing to allow the homeowners use their mortgage to buy a new home elsewhere.

AIB chief executive David Duffy said the bank was very sympathetic to the plight of the customers who were forced out of their homes, and who had put their mortgage repayments on hold.

He said Priory Hall was a "unique situation" and the bank had decided to push ahead with its own solution for customers as it shared their frustration over the lack of progress.

AIB has 27 customers with Priory Hall mortgages, but it sees the 18 family apartment owners as the priority, rather than the remaining nine who bought apartments for "buy to let". Its move will put pressure on other banks who have given mortgages to Priory Hall owners to follow suit.

Priory Hall resident and spokesman Graham Usher reacted cautiously to the AIB comments at the Oireachtas Finance committee.

"It would seem, on the face of it, a positive development, but nothing has been put formally by the bank to any resident," he said.

Priory Hall residents are hoping to be able to buy new homes after Environment Minister Phil Hogan pledged to provide up to €12m to end their "nightmare".

One of the options put forward by Mr Hogan was to demolish their apartments at Priory Hall and replace them with a new building.

But he also said he had a "very open mind" to solutions.

Mr Usher said a possible solution for residents would be to use their existing mortgages to buy a safe home elsewhere.

But he said that political intervention from Mr Hogan was required to allow for this "mortgage transfer" – which would allow a resident with a €300,000 mortgage to buy a house of this value.

Residents were evacuated from the North Dublin residential estate in October 2011 after Dublin City Council declared it a 'fire-trap'. But the pressure on Mr Hogan has increased after homeowner and father-of-two Fiachra Daly took his own life, over what his family say was due to stress over Priory Hall.

Mr Hogan has said that the Government will generate the necessary resources of up to €12m to put the lives of Priory Hall residents back together again after their "nightmare" experience.

His possible solution of demolishing Priory Hall and disposing of the rubble would be costly – and it would take up to two years of planning and construction before a replacement complex would be ready for residents.

Mr Hogan said he cannot meet residents "under the law" until the mediation process between them, the banks and Dublin City Council is finished.

A spokesman for Mr Hogan said he would take action immediately after receiving this report from retired President of the High Court Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan – due next month.

Priory Hall families are now living in rented accommodation – but Dublin City Council is due to go to the Supreme Court in October to appeal a decision ordering them to pay for the temporary accommodation.

Irish Independent

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