Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Priory Hall Development
I am supportive of the Priory Hall residents and my Department is supporting the efforts of Dublin City Council in that regard. At my request, the Department has previously assisted the council, in consultation with NAMA, to secure alternative temporary accommodation for many of the residents. My Department has to date contributed in excess of €500,000 towards the costs necessarily incurred by Dublin City Council, in the context of a judgment of the High Court, in providing temporary accommodation for households evacuated from Priory Hall.
The resolution process in respect of the problems associated with this development which I understand is ongoing arose in the context of legal proceedings which were adjourned to afford relevant parties the opportunity to work together under the chairmanship of the retired President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Finnegan, to identify a way forward on the complex problems at Priory Hall. Given that the matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further other than to continue to urge all concerned to afford Mr. Justice Finnegan the opportunity to complete the task he is undertaking.
Dublin City Council is the designated authority with powers to enforce the statutory requirements arising under the Fire Safety Act, the Building Control Acts and the Planning and Development Acts, all of which are at issue in Priory Hall. The council is also the designated housing authority under the Housing Acts. Neither I nor my Department has a direct role or responsibility in the exercise of these statutory responsibilities. I am aware of the significant efforts made by the council, with the assistance of my Department, to provide for the needs of residents to date. I understand that the council will continue to work proactively on behalf of the residents towards achieving the much needed resolution of the issues at Priory Hall.
Once again I raise the plight of the residents of Priory Hall in my new constituency of Dublin Bay North. As the Minister will be aware, more than 250 families were forced to leave their homes to seek alternative accommodation owing to safety concerns. I note with interest that he has said he is supportive of the residents. All involved, from the Minister and the Government to Dublin City Council, need to up their game to support them. Does he or the Government really understand their anguish and hurt? They urgently need homes and justice. Does he realise that many people on the northside of Dublin believe the residents of Priory Hall are the Palestinians of the northside? They are ignored and have been exploited and treated in a despicable manner. I urge the Minister to get on with the job and show more support to the residents. When is the Finnegan report due to issue?
In his usual flowery language the Deputy has sought to put responsibility where it is not. Surely he is not advocating that the Government should intervene in a court process. The matter is before the courts and Mr. Justice Finnegan has been allowed an opportunity by all parties to come up with a report. I share the Deputy's frustration at the length of time it is taking, but that is not the issue in hand. I understand Mr. Justice Finnegan has been making progress with financial institutions in resolving the issues involved.
In the meantime, I have been very much involved with the Department in ensuring that Dublin City Council is supportive of the residents in their temporary accommodation as far as possible.
I agree with the Minister with regard to the courts. However, the Government and the Minister need to be seen to be more supportive of the former Priory Hall residents. Some owners have moratoriums in place, but others are still liable for repayments on mortgages of up to €250,000. One of the residents, Stephanie Meehan, said that she and her partner bought their apartment at the time with the intention of making it their family home but that the situation has been very upsetting for them. From the minute they moved in, they had problems. Their windows leaked and the balconies were built on an inward tilt, so that if there was any heavy rain, it rolled into the apartment.
We need to be more supportive of these people. They were exploited and abused by developers and now they are being ignored by a lot of people.
They are not being ignored by me. I agree with the comments made by Deputy McGrath. There is certainly impatience and frustration on the part of the residents and that is understandable. They have inherited a situation not of their making because of the very lax building control regulations the Department had in place at the time. We will publish new regulations within the next week to ensure the likes of Priory Hall will not happen again and will minimise the opportunities for unscrupulous builders, developers and professionals to allow consumers to be treated this way in future. In the background, I will continue to support financially and every other way, the people in Dublin City Council who are directly responsible through the courts for the residents of Priory Hall.