Developer was Maze hunger striker


PROFILE:DEVELOPER TOM McFeely was in the Provisional IRA and spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1980. He was serving a 26-year sentence for the attempted murder of a Northern Ireland policemen in a gun battle, possession of illegal weapons and a post office robbery.

“You are an extremely dangerous, intelligent and vicious young man,” a judge in Belfast told him in 1976. McFeely ended up serving 12 years in jail and came to Dublin after he was released in 1989, looking for work on building sites, with just stg£240 to sustain him.

He went on to become a multimillionaire property developer with a house on Ailesbury Road in Ballsbridge, which was worth up to €15 million at one stage. Among his mementos are a Celtic cross engraved with the hunger-strikers’ faces and the collected works of Lenin.

The Sunday Tribunereported in July 2009 that McFeely had a €6 million holiday home on the Algarve, where he also owns a hotel. He has been involved in developments in Dublin and other parts of Ireland as well as London and Manchester.

He has been in and out of the courts on numerous occasions, including several cases involving fire safety. Along with his business partner Liam O’Mahony and developer Liam Carroll, he was sued for €130 million in damages by solicitor Noel Smyth over a land deal involving Tallaght Square. The case ran for 63 days. In June 2010, Mr Justice Brian McGovern dismissed Smyth’s claims but said none of the parties involved emerged “with much credit for the manner in which they conducted their business dealings with each other”.

In 2006, his Priory Hall building site was temporarily closed by the High Court because of “systemic” breaches of health and safety regulations. A Health and Safety Authority inspector described it as “one of the most unsafe” sites he had ever seen, with two near-fatal accidents.

The 188 apartments in the scheme, arranged in 19 four- and five-storey blocks, were offered for sale by HOK at prices ranging from €190,000 for small (49sq m) one-bed units to €290,000 for 90sq m three-bed duplexes. Many of them were sold off the plans in May 2005.

In 2006, residents of Na Cluainte, an 88-unit housing estate near Portarlington, complained it had been left in an “appalling state” by McFeely’s Coalport Building Company, and High Court proceedings were taken by Offaly County Council to secure remedial action.

In 2009, a Co Dublin woman won more than €100,000 in damages against Coalport over its failure to deal with “serious structural defects” in the house at Cloch Choirneal, Balrothery, which she had agreed to buy in 2004.

Also in 2009, some 28 tenants in Ard Dealgan, an apartment building in Quay Street, Dundalk, Co Louth, had to move out after the town council served a closure notice on them and on Coalport because it had failed to meet fire safety standards – including the provision of fire doors.

In January 2010, 20 Dublin City Council social housing tenants in Priory Hall were evacuated due to fire safety concerns.

That same month, Coalport was ordered by the Equality Tribunal to pay a total of €9,000 compensation to two Lithuanian building workers after they were found to have been unfairly dismissed.

In August 2010, Irish Nationwide Building Society appointed a receiver to the Priory Hall scheme to assess the fire safety works required to be completed there. A High Court order last February winding up Coalport was later lifted after it paid Revenue €144,000 in VAT and PRSI.

Also last February, the High Court ordered that 198 apartments in Coalport’s Áras na Cluaine scheme in Clondalkin would have to be evacuated because of “foot-dragging” by the developers in putting in place a proper fire safety regime.