SF TD tells court building row linked to council criticism

John Brady and wife Gayle challenging eviction notice served over attic conversion

Sinn Féin TD John Brady has told the High Court he believes a row with Wicklow Co Council over an attic extension in his council home is connected to his criticisms of the local authority.

Mr Brady, a councillor in Bray since 2004 who was elected a TD this year, is, with his wife Gayle, challenging an eviction notice served on them over the 2004 attic conversion after the council alleged it was a fire hazard.

The council denies the claims and argues the situation arose from the couple’s own actions. The fact the conversion is now substantially in compliance proves the works sought by it were required, says the council.

Mr Brady told the court there had been a lot of tension between him and officials in the immediate run up to “so-called random inspections” of council houses where extensions had been carried out.

He had been highly critical of the council over the deaths of two council firemen in 2007 and during a subsequent health and safety prosecution against it, he said. He had also supported two women who staged a sit-in at Bray Town Hall over homelessness.

As a result of the sit-in incident, the council deducted payments from his salary as a councillor, removed his security clearance from the Bray council building and told him he was only entitled to go into public areas, he said.

He was also highly critical of the council’s failure to upgrade all the houses in the Oldcourt estate in Bray, where eight members of one family had died in a fire.

An independent report in 2007 for the council on the Oldcourt houses had not been acted on, and is still not fully acted on, and council tenants are still living in unsafe houses, he said.

‘Clear difference’

Luan O’Braonáin SC, for the council, put to Mr Brady he appeared to be saying there was a different standard about fire regulations for him and for the council.

Mr Brady said there was a “clear difference” between the issue over his home and the Oldcourt houses because a problem was identified in Oldcourt in 2007 where there were eight deaths and an independent report had still not been fully acted on.

Despite being a councillor since 2004, he had never heard of random inspections of council houses until the inspection of his own house, he said.

Such inspections never appeared on a council agenda before his home was done but they began appearing after that, he said. They disappeared from the agenda soon afterwards, he added.

Earlier, Gayle Brady told the court she "would have done an Irish dance" to bring the dispute to an end and the couple had made great efforts to comply with requirements so as to keep the roof over the heads of their five children.

One of the problems they faced when the council demanded they get retention permission for the attic conversion was that they had to get a certificate from a professional with €6.5 million public indemnity insurance, she said.

They could not get a professional with that level of insurance, she said.

The Bradys argue such a level of insurance is usually reserved for professionals involved in major projects, not domestic extensions.

Asked by Mr O’Braonáin why had they not told the council about this difficulty or suggested getting a professional with just €1 million indemnity insurance, she said they wanted to achieve compliance.

“We did not want this fight, we did not want to be here,” she said. “I would have done an Irish dance for them if they wanted me to”.

The case was adjourned for legal submissions.