Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Kenny hails Priory Hall agreement

Enda Kenny has welcomed a deal struck regarding the condemned Priory Hall development

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described a deal struck with families who bought apartments in the condemned Priory Hall development as a good and fair outcome.

As a two-year battle draws to an end with owner-occupiers accepting a pact to have their mortgages wiped, the Taoiseach confirmed a full refurbishment of the north Dublin firetrap would be complete within two years.

"I believe that the agreed framework is a fair solution to this unique and exceptional situation which will give the residents a chance to get on with their lives," Mr Kenny said.

"The residents of Priory Hall are victims of one of the worst excesses of the Celtic Tiger era, and this solution recognises the exceptional circumstances they find themselves in."

Dublin City Council will oversee the refurbishment of the development, and buy-to-let property owners will be given the option of a moratorium on the mortgage while it takes place.

Their repayments will re-commence when refurbishment of Priory Hall has been completed.

Owner-occupiers will not be forced to return to the complex. They will be offered "debt forgiveness" on their mortgages and pre-approved for new loans.

Mr Kenny thanked the residents for the "constructive manner" in which they engaged with the resolution process, which involved talks between the banks, Dublin City Council and the Department for the Environment.

"I believe we now have a good outcome, and I am determined to ensure that it is implemented effectively and quickly," he added.

The Taoiseach also met a number of residents, including Stephanie Meehan, whose partner Fiachra Daly died by suicide in July.

Michael Dowling, who acted as an adviser to 55 of the residents in their dealings with the banks, said the meeting had been emotional but Ms Meehan left reassured by the Taoiseach's pledge.

"The Taoiseach expressed his wishes to her privately in terms of how he felt," Mr Dowling said.

"He expressed his condolences and assured her that the agreement put to the residents will be implemented.

"It's still a very difficult time for Stephanie in the context of the loss she has suffered, she has still got some difficult days ahead of her."

The adviser, who also serves as spokesman for the Independent Mortgage Advisers Federation, said residents were finally happy to move forward.

While the owners of 27 investment properties were understood to be disappointed with the offer to suspend all mortgage payments until the block is renovated by Dublin City Council, at a cost of 10 million euro (£8.5 million), Mr Dowling said they were now generally reassured by the refurbishment process in place.

Built by bankrupt former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely in 2007, Priory Hall was branded one of the worst failures of the Celtic Tiger.

Some 256 people were evacuated from the complex in October 2011 after Dublin City Council declared Priory Hall a firetrap.

The council was forced to foot the bill to re-home owners and the Supreme Court is to hear an appeal on who is responsible for re-housing residents.

While the settlement offer was being put together in recent weeks 200,000 euro (£170,000) was discovered hidden under the bath in a mansion in Dublin's embassy belt, which Mr McFeely previously owned. The money has been frozen by the courts.

Meanwhile, former senator Martin McAleese has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the agreed resolution framework.

He will chair an oversight board, which will include representatives of the Priory Hall residents, the Irish Banking Federation, Dublin City Council and relevant Government departments and agencies.

Their first task will be to prepare and agree a timetable and road map for implementing the framework.

Key elements of the agreed framework include:

:: Ownership of owner-occupier homes in Priory Hall will be transferred to Dublin City Council, as well as obligations to repay the loan to the lender under the mortgage.

:: The credit rating of the residents of Priory Hall apartments, in respect of the mortgage loans on those properties, will be restored to the position it would have been in prior to evacuation of the complex.

:: Owner-occupiers of Priory Hall apartments will have a 12-month period in which to complete purchase of a home.

:: Dublin City Council will continue to provide rented accommodation to owner-occupiers for the 12-month period.

:: The owner-occupiers will be offered a new mortgage for a property by the same bank provided it is affordable relative to their current and expected future income - where necessary, on a case-by-case basis, and subject to affordability, up to 100% mortgages will be provided.

:: The banks will make a contribution to the legal fees of owner-occupiers in Priory Hall arising from the transactions to deliver these solutions.

:: Buy-to-let mortgage holders, who are to be given the option of a moratorium on the mortgage while the refurbishment is carried out, will have their accounts refunded any interest paid or accrued since evacuation of Priory Hall.

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