Council seeks hearing over costs of housing Priory Hall residents

Fri, Nov 25, 2011, 00:00

DUBLIN CITY Council has asked the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing of its appeal against court orders requiring it to pay accommodation and other costs of about 240 residents evacuated from the Priory Hall apartment complex due to fire safety concerns.

The residents were evacuated in mid-October after an application to the High Court by the council, which to date has incurred a bill of about €350,000 as a result of court orders to meet their costs, Conleth Bradley SC, for the council, said yesterday.

The council was concerned at the implications of the orders – made by the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns – regarding taxpayers, and regarding its role as a fire authority, and wanted an urgent hearing of its appeal, he said.

Lawyers for about 125 residents said they were very concerned regarding what is to happen to their clients in circumstances where developer Thomas McFeely had been ordered from the Priory Hall site at Donaghmede and amid continuing uncertainty as to when fire safety works will be completed, and by whom.

Martin Hayden SC, for Mr McFeely, said his client would not be involved in the council’s appeal but had his own appeal against other orders of the High Court, including orders committing him to prison for three months and fining him €1 million.

Having heard from the sides, Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham said lawyers for the residents could make submissions on the council’s appeal.

She made directions for the filing of legal documents and adjourned the matter for further mention to next month.

The Chief Justice said the issue in the appeal appeared to relate to construction of the Fire Safety Act, and she indicated the serious problems faced by the residents may have to be addressed separately.

She added developer Larry O’Mahony, former owner of the Priory Hall site, was not required to participate in the appeal.

Earlier, Mr Bradley said the net issue in the appeal was whether the High Court was entitled to make orders under section 23 of the Fire Safety Act requiring the council to pay the accommodation, storage and rent supplement differential costs incurred by residents as a result of their evacuation.

The council, as fire safety authority for the greater Dublin area, had concerns about the implications of those orders for its work as a fire authority, he said.

The council hoped another scenario such as that at Priory Hall would not happen, and said it was down €350,000 as a result of the orders.