Priory Hall residents want to talk to Phil Hogan about demolition comments
The Minister for the Environment said he will intervene once a mediation process concludes
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan: ‘We are very sympathetic because this isn’t an issue that is typical of the circumstances that we’re dealing with.’ Photograph: David Sleator
Residents of Priory Hall in Dublin have requested a meeting with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan after he indicated the Government would consider demolishing and rebuilding the apartment complex.
Mr Hogan said he would intervene once a mediation process, under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Joseph Finnegan, between Dublin City Council and former residents concludes next month.
The Minister was speaking on RTÉ radio when he added that the Government had a “very open mind” about dealing with Priory Hall.
“We may have to demolish and start again,” he said, indicating that the solution could cost up to €12 million.
The High Court ordered the evacuation of 256 residents from the complex in October 2011 because of a potential fire hazard. Since then Dublin City Council has been housing 41 families in temporary accommodation at a cost of about €3 million.
In May the Supreme Court adjourned until October 15th proceedings brought by the council concerning the evacuation to allow the mediation process to continue.
AIB yesterday said it might offer debt write-downs to Priory Hall mortgage holders. The bank’s chief executive David Duffy told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: “We will negotiate an individual solution with [residents] up to and including debt write-down if the circumstance warrants it.”
He added that the 27 AIB customers in Priory Hall, of which 18 were home loans and the remainder buy-to-let properties, are currently on moratoriums.
“We are very sympathetic because this isn’t an issue that is typical of the circumstances that we’re dealing with,” Mr Duffy said, adding that the “great majority” of Priory Hall customers have been spoken to directly.
Mr Hogan said yesterday he would not give a date by which the issue of accommodation would be resolved, saying he didn’t want to give residents “false hope”.
The Priory Hall Residents’ Committee yesterday evening welcomed the apparent progress but criticised Mr Hogan for using a public platform to communicate the message instead of contacting them.
Eager to meet
Its spokeswoman Ursula Graham said the Minister would have to put the proposal to demolish the complex directly to the residents.
She added that the residents were now eager to meet with Mr Hogan, who she said “has just blanked us”, since they were evacuated.
Mr Hogan said the ongoing court case precluded him from engaging directly with the residents, although Ms Graham questioned this.
Mr Hogan’s comments come less than a week after a former resident wrote an open letter to the Taoiseach asking him to intervene in the controversy after her partner took his own life.
The Government has come under increasing pressure to act on Priory Hall since Stephanie Meehan’s partner of 17 years, Fiachra Daly, died by suicide last July.
In an open letter to the Taoiseach, Ms Meehan said pressure to pay arrears on their apartment – in which they have not been able to live for the past two years – was a factor in his death.