A recently elected county councillor and his wife have launched a High Court action aimed at preventing Wicklow County Council from evicting their family from their home in a row over an attic conversion.
The action has been brought by Sinn Féin’s John Brady, who was elected to Wicklow County Council after topping the poll in the Bray electoral area in last month’s local elections, and his wife Gayle.
In March, the Bradys, who have five children, were served with a notice to quit their council-owned home at 63 Kilbride Grove, Bray, where they have lived for the past 14 years.
Today, the High Court was told Bray Town Council, which was recently abolished and merged into Wicklow County Council, issued the notice against the Bradys because the council claimed the attic conversion breached building regulations and posed a fire risk.
The Bradys reject the claim. In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Brady, who was a member of Bray Town Council for almost a decade before its abolition, said he believed the council’s action against him was “motivated by personal animosity of council officials”.
The Bradys’ barrister, Cormac Ó Dúlacháin SC, said Mr Brady, in his capacity as a councillor, had been in dispute with the local authority over a number of issues, including the deaths of two firefighters in Bray in 2007, and his support of a sit-down protest organised by a number of homeless women at Bray Town Council’s offices.
Counsel said a council inspector conducted “a three- or four-minute inspection” of the Bradys’ home, in July 2013. Arising out of that the council sent a letter saying the converted attic posed a fire risk. The Bradys, who deny the attic poses a fire risk, were told to apply to the council for retention of the work or restore the house to its original condition.
The council also said any application the Bradys made for retention of works had to be accompanied with a fire professional’s report. That professional, they said, must have minimum of €6.5 million indemnity insurance. The Bradys were also told to remove the stairs leading up to the attic.
The Bradys say they applied and got permission from the local authority to convert the attic. Counsel said the houses in the estate where the Brady family lives were specifically designed to accommodate attics to be converted to additional living space.
The Bradys engaged a consultant engineer and an architect to deal with matters. They were not able to do the work as neither had the level of indemnity insurance sought by the council. The Bradys did not remove the stairs but carried out works, including upgrading the attic door to a fire door and conducting fire safety improvements on the ground floor.
In their action against the council, the Bradys are seeking orders quashing the decision to terminate the family’s tenancy and declarations from the court that the council’s decision is irrational, unreasonable, disproportionate, unlawful and was made in bad faith.
They are also seeking a declaration that the decision breaches their rights under the Constitution and under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and an injunction preventing the council taking steps to recover possession of their home.
Finally, they are seeking damages and aggravated damages.
Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte basis (one side only represented) by Judge Bronagh O’Hanlon. The judge made the action returnable to June 23rd.