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Retired judge may help resolve Priory Hall debacle

A CONCILIATION process headed by a retired High Court judge may now be brought into play in an attempt to solve the ongoing row over the Priory Hall apartments in north Dublin.

Residents of the complex in Donaghmede are to consider a proposal by Dublin City Council for a resolution process chaired by a retired judge, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Such a process would be chaired by Mr Justice Finnegan, former president of the High Court. However, the residents have yet to decide upon their response to the proposal.

The legal proceedings have now been postponed for three months in order to allow the conciliation process to go ahead.

The Supreme Court was due to hear an appeal next Tuesday against a number of orders made by the High Court last October, directing the council to assume responsibility and pay the accommodation costs for the evacuated residents, as well as bearing the costs of storing their belongings.

Thomas McFeely, whose Coalport Building Company built Priory Hall, was not involved in the council's appeal. He is separately appealing an order jailing him for contempt and fining him €1m for failure to carry out repairs.

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to a request from lawyers for the council and the residents to postpone next week's hearing.

Council

The judges heard that the retired judge would act as chairman of the resolution process and would produce a report making a number of recommendations aimed at resolving the situation at Priory Hall.

If the resolution process goes ahead, it is hoped that it will involve not just the residents and the council but also lending institutions, banks and building societies.

Lawyers for the residents have recommended that they vote in favour of the proposal.

The residents said later that they had been calling for dialogue with all parties "since we were evacuated from our homes six months ago and (we) welcome any attempts to facilitate a resolution."

They continued: "Due to the short timespan involved, the proposal has yet to be put to all residents for their consideration and agreement. Until such time as this happens, we will be making no further comment."

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the proposed conciliation process "provides an appropriate context for the parties concerned to work together towards identifying a way forward".

He added: "I would encourage the financial institutions, the residents and Dublin City Council to have an open mind and to engage fully with this new process and give it every chance to succeed."

Irish Independent