Belfast Telegraph

Proposed deal 'fair and reasonable'

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has claimed a breakthrough in the long-running dispute over the future of the condemned Priory Hall development.

Residents are considering proposals to bring the scandal of the firetrap homes in the north Dublin complex to an end after families were evacuated but left with mounting debts.

Built by bankrupt former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely and b randed one of the worst failures of the Celtic Tiger, Mr Hogan said the offer was a fair and reasonable outcome.

"They will give Priory Hall owners an opportunity to get on with their lives," the minister said.

"The proposed framework recognises the exceptional and unique difficulties faced by the home owners in Priory Hall over the last two years and I believe that it offers a fair and reasonable solution to their housing needs."

Residents have been briefed on the offers, weeks after some banks who lent mortgages said they would consider debt write-downs on a case by case basis.

One former resident Fiachra Daly died by suicide in July. KBC Bank, which lent Mr Daly and his partner Stephanie Meehan a mortgage, have said they will not pursue her for any debt.

While the settlement offer was being put together over the last three weeks a mansion in Dublin's embassy belt which Mr McFeely previously owned was searched by officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Some 200,000 euro was found in a bathroom of the house after a builder discovered rolls of 50 euro notes behind a bath. The money has been frozen by the courts.

Mr Hogan said the proposals to resolve the Priory Hall include a commitment to refurbish the fire hazard development into "a desirable, high quality, safe location by Dublin City Council".

The Supreme Court is to hear an appeal on who is responsible for rehousing residents next Tuesday.

Mr Hogan said an oversight process is planned, which will have input from the residents, to ensure the proposals are implemented effectively if the deal is accepted. It would also hear specific issues on a case-by-case basis.

"I would like to commend all parties for their engagement in this difficult process and for producing a framework for resolving a unique and exceptional situation which was not of their making," he said.

"Priory Hall was one of the worst examples of the failures of the Celtic Tiger years, and I am pleased that we now have an approach in place to resolve it."

Vincent P Martin, a member of the New Beginnings group which has supported the residents, said the only negotiation that matters is one where all the residents agree to a suitable, full and final settlement.

"The residents of Priory Hall have been amazingly resilient since this debacle started and have consistently adopted a very dignified approach to the problem," he said.

"Their conduct has been an inspiration to people in such tough times."

Some 256 people were evacuated from the complex, with about 90 of them having bought homes.

Graham Usher, spokesman for the Priory Hall residents, said homeowners and people who had been living in the complex would not be rushed into deciding on the proposals.

"We welcome the progress that's been made to date. The proposals are being put to the residents committee. They now need to take this back to the residents and they will take some time to consider it," he said.

Mr Usher declined to reveal details of the proposals, saying the scores of residents need to be given space to review them.


From Belfast Telegraph