Priory Hall developer wins reprieve

 

Developer Thomas McFeely has won a reprieve against a three-month prison sentence and a €1 million fine for contempt of court orders and undertakings linked to the completion of urgent fire safety works at the Priory Hall apartment complex in Donaghmede.

Dublin City Council, which had brought the case against Mr McFeely, did not contest the stay on his conviction, pending a Supreme Court appeal.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, earlier imposed the fine and jail term in proceedings in which Dublin City Council had sought Mr McFeely's committal over failures to carry out a schedule of works at the complex of 187 apartments. A total of 240 residents remain out of their homes in the complex.

The judge said there had been "a very severe breach" in this case, and that the distress and disruption caused to the Priory Hall residents as a result of Mr McFeely's failures had no parallel in this country in recent times.

In imposing the sanctions on Mr McFeely, he was taking into account those and other matters, including that Mr McFeely had been aware since 2008 of the serious fire safety concerns over Priory Hall, had failed to address the problem with the urgency required and had previously been convicted at the District Court over his failures, although treated leniently there.

Earlier, Mr McFeely, though his counsel Martin Hayden SC, had denied any breach.

Mr Hayden also argued his client had been dealt with unfairly in relation to how the court previously ruled there was a breach of undertakings and orders.

Mr McFeely had been given no opportunity to complete the works by the fixed date of November 28th because he and his workers had been ordered off site two weeks ago by the court, on the application of the council, Mr Hayden said.

Conleth Bradley SC, for the council, said there was evidence Mr McFeely had failed to adhere to a schedule concerning completion, on a weekly basis, of specific works. He had failed to carry out certain agreed works to address fire safety issues in the external cavity walls of the complex and instead had "moved the goalposts" concerning the nature of works.

The judge had previously directed Mr McFeely, his Coalport Building Company Ltd and 21 workers to leave Priory Hall after the council sought their removal over lack of progress in works. Mr McFeely denied any breach, but the judge ruled there was a breach and also said the council could bring committal proceedings.

Court orders remain in place requiring the council to pay alternative accommodation, storage and rent differential costs of the residents pending completion of the fire safety works. Those costs amount to about €250,000 weekly, the court was told today.

The court last month ordered fire safety works must be completed over a five-week period, concluding on November 28th, but fire safety officer Donal Casey said last week there was inadequate progress in works to the external wall structure, although works had been carried out on some 40 apartments and internal structures.