Eight years since more than 250 people were ordered from their homes in Priory Hall, the reconstruction of the condemned complex in the Clongriffin area of north Dublin has been completed, bring to a close one of the sorriest tales of shoddy boom-time building.
The newly revamped apartments are on sale at an average price of €260,000, close to what they went for at the top of the market when they were built by former IRA hunger striker Thomas McFeely. However, the apartments in New Priory are a world apart in quality from the fire traps served up by McFeely.
To bring the complex up to standard, the council had to completely strip the building, leaving only a basic frame intact. The external walls were rebuilt with new brick, insulation and fireproofing. The roof was given a new covering, insulation and ventilation. All mechanical and electrical installations, including lifts, were replaced and new fire alarms installed.
Pyrite, the mineral which can cause cracks and subsidence in buildings, was found beneath footpaths, roads, basement car parks, stair foundations...
The doors and frames inside each apartment were replaced, as were floors, skirting boards and architraves. Soundproofing was installed and walls and ceilings replastered and painted. New kitchens and bathrooms were also fitted.
The basement now has a smoke ventilation system, waterproofing, concrete repair and new lighting.
Pyrite, the mineral which can cause cracks and subsidence in buildings, was found beneath footpaths, roads, basement car parks, stair foundations and four apartments in the complex. It was removed and replaced with new materials.
The final cost of all this work, along with legal costs associated with protracted court proceedings, and security cost, will come to €52 million, according to Dublin City Council. Despite strong sales, the ultimate loss to the State will be about €40 million.
The 187-apartment Priory Hall complex was built in 2007, with the city council buying 26 of the apartments for social housing.
In October 2011 High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ordered its evacuation because of fire risks to the 256 residents.
After failing to obey the council, McFeely did not undertake satisfactorily the work as directed by the court, which subsequently ordered he be removed from the site
Dublin City Council was ordered to cover the accommodation costs of the residents, while McFeely was ordered to complete the repairs.
The council had already evacuated its tenants two years previously because of fire safety concerns and had ordered McFeely to carry out remedial work to protect the remaining residents. It was his failure to do so which caused the council, as the local fire authority, to initiate High Court action.
After failing to obey the council, McFeely did not undertake satisfactorily the work as directed by the court, which subsequently ordered he be removed from the site.
In 2012, a mediation process between the banks and the residents was set up under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, but a resolution was not achieved.
A new process was established and a deal agreed by residents in 2013. At the time of the evacuation, 62 apartments were owner occupied, 23 were buy to let, 35 were social housing and 65 – in various states of completion – were owned by McFeely. These 65 were subsequently taken over by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.
Under the terms of the deal the owner-occupier properties were signed over the to council and the 65 McFeely apartments were bought by the council from the IBRC for an average of €15,000 each.
The owner-occupiers had their mortgages written off. Some received fresh mortgages or stayed in the private rented sector, while 16 families who no longer had the means to pay mortgages or rent privately were housed by the council.
McFeely was declared bankrupt by the Supreme Court in July 2012 and is due to exit bankruptcy next March.