Priory Hall will be resolved ‘within a short period’: Tánaiste

Builder, architects, engineer, banks should be made accountable for complex, Dáil told

Eamon Gilmore met banking representatives today to begin efforts to resolve the Priory Hall crisis. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

Eamon Gilmore met banking representatives today to begin efforts to resolve the Priory Hall crisis. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

 

Senior Government officials met banking representatives today at the start of a 21-day process to resolve the Priory Hall crisis and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he hoped for a solution “within a short period”.

Mr Gilmore was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald who asked him if the Government would force the banks to wipe out the standing mortgages and allow the former residents of Priory Hall to hand back their keys.

One hundred and eighty families were forced to leave the Priory Hall apartment complex in north Dublin two years ago when serious fire hazards and building deficiencies were identified.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan this week announced a three-week deadline for a resolution to the controversy surrounding the families and their outstanding mortgages, after a 15-month process ended without resolution.

Mr Gilmore said he did not want to prejudge the outcome of the process. “It will be dealt with quickly. The residents of Priory Hall have waited a very long time.” The problems in Priory Hall “are being dealt with and there will be an outcome to that without undue delay”.

Later Mr Hogan urged all parties involved in the process “to work together constructively” to quickly facilitate the former residents and ensure that “this process is not dragged out”.

The Minister was responding to a number of TDs who raised the Priory Hall issue. He again defended his decision not to meet the residents while a judicial process was in place. Mr Hogan said “we have had a long record in this House of ministers driving a coach and four through the court and legal process. I certainly was not going to do that.” The Minister said he had to observe the legal process.

He added that people in Dublin City Council and in Nama and other financial institutions may not have wanted to engage in the process chaired by Mr Justice Finnegan but they were now prepared to engage.

He told the Dáil “I have delivered for Priory Hall residents where others have failed. I am not going to take any lectures from people who have driven a coach and four through building regulations in the past, who have done nothing about modifying these regulations to ensure they will not happen again.”

He said regulations he signed into law in July would have a major impact on building regulations, preventing the recurrence of buildings such as Priory Hall.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan, who described the residents as “victims of an outrageous fraud”, criticised the Minister for failing to meet the residents over the past two years.

He welcomed the “belated positive response” of AIB and Permanent TSB to the residents. He said the Bank of Ireland and EBS should also be ordered to facilitate the families as should foreign-owned banks including Ulster Bank, Bank of Scotland, Certus and KBC.

Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan said there was a “major injustice in having to pay a mortgage for a property that lies empty and which cannot be lived in”.

Fianna Fail environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the unfolding tragedy of Priory Hall was brought home with real force through the interview of Stephanie Meehan on the Late Late Show and the tragic death of her partner Fiachra Daly.

Independent TD Mick Wallace, a builder, said those who were culpable should be forced to take responsibility, including the builder, the architect and engineer who signed off on the building, the banks who sent out valuers to check the construction

Independent TD Clare Daly said if there was a resolution it was only because of the tragic death of Mr Daly and Ms Meehan’s courage and determination to bring the issue back into the public domain.

She said the “rogue or criminal developer Tom McFeely” built correctly in Britain “because standards were enforced. If he had not built well he would have been caught.” She said it was a scandal that architects signed off on Priory Hall as fire safe and compliant with the regulations.

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