A year 'in limbo' for former Priory Hall residents

Mon, Oct 15, 2012, 01:00

FORMER RESIDENTS of the Priory Hall apartment complex in north Dublin today begin a second year out of their homes following their evacuation from the unsafe buildings.

More than 1,000 people, including almost 300 former residents, took part in a protest march from Donaghmede Shopping Centre to Priory Hall on Saturday.

Residents of the north Dublin apartments were evacuated on October 14th last year by order of the High Court until remedial work to address fire safety and other problems was completed.

The work was initially undertaken by the estate’s developer, Thomas McFeely, but he was ordered off the site by the court on November 4th, on the application of the city council, which was not satisfied with the work being carried out.

A resident who took part in the weekend march, Darren Kelly, said it would remind authorities of the despair 65 families have been forced to endure since they were forced from their homes. “We’re hoping to refocus minds.”

He said many of those concerned had been left in limbo, saddled with mortgages for homes they could not live in. Mr Kelly, his wife and two small children are living in temporary accommodation in Belmayne. He said it was “difficult to understand” how they were still in the temporary accommodation one year on.

“We thought it was going to take a few months to repair Priory Hall initially. It feels like our Government is forgetting about us. From the beginning all we wanted was a safe home.”

Dublin City Council continues to cover the accommodation costs of the residents and has so far spent more than €2 million on temporary lettings for all owner-occupiers, storage costs and security costs. This sum also includes money given to cover the cost difference between rents in Priory Hall and higher rents being paid by tenants evacuated from the complex who were in receipt of rent supplement.

The council was ordered by the High Court to cover the accommodation costs of the evacuated residents and is appealing this order to the Supreme Court.

The rental of apartments for the past year has cost the council €620,039. This is less than the council has spent on security for the empty buildings, which has so far cost €697,962.

In addition, the council has spent €396,460 on hotel accommodation. Most of this cost was incurred late last year in the weeks after residents were evacuated, though one resident continues to stay in an unnamed Dublin hotel. A spokesman for the council said this cost was not significant.

The next largest cost relates to surveying, and engineering and fire safety consultancy work, which now totals €335,616. Salaries have cost the council €10,624. Other costs, largely related to the storage of residents’ possessions, have amounted to €76,242.

A mediation process, chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan and involving banks, residents and the council, is ongoing. The parties have agreed not to comment on the process until an outcome is reached.