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Saturday 10 December 2016

Residents in limbo as fire safety notice set to be issued today

Resident Maria O'Callaghan
Resident Maria O'Callaghan
Martin McAleese

Dublin Fire Brigade is expected to issue a fire safety notice on an unsafe apartment complex today, but it will not be evacuated yet as residents wait to hear how much of a €4m repair bill they will face.

Some 900 people who live in the 299 apartments and duplexes in the upscale Longboat Quay development learned this week that a second round of remedial work is needed on their homes.

The apartments, which have been compared to Priory Hall, are poorly constructed and do not meet fire safety regulations.

Former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin bought two apartments in Longboat Quay in the mid noughties while they still lived at Aras an Uachtarain.

Sum

They are reported to have spent a combined sum in the region of €1.2m for the two apartments at the end of 2006 based on the cost of properties in the development at the time.

Martin McAleese declared the properties on a register of interests declaration while he was a Senator.

The declaration stated that they were letting out the properties at the time. Land papers show that Sarah McAleese was registered as the owner of one of the properties in 2014.

Attempts to contact the former president for comment on the current situation at Longboat Quay were unsuccessful last night.

Earlier this year, fire officers had to patrol the communal areas of the development while the fire alarm system was fitted to design, in order to alert residents in the case of a fire.

Resident Maria O'Callaghan purchased a two-bedroom apartment in 2011 for €225,000 - it is her first home.

Now she is facing a €12,000 bill to "pay for someone else's mistake".

Ms O'Callaghan said that she was first alerted to the problems when she discovered damp in her apartment.

"It's everywhere, the ceiling, the window frames, the skirting boards. I'm living out of boxes because I can't put my clothes in my wardrobe," she revealed.

What should have been her dream first home in a prestigious area of the capital has turned into a nightmare and it will be "impossible" for her to pay for repairs she said.

"I'm afraid to think of what the outcome is going to be."

The Dublin Docklands Authority (DDDA), a nominal landlord, said last night that no decision had been made as to whether they would fund the repairs.

The DDDA provided some €1.2m for the first round of works, but residents say they also saw a hike in management fees this year to cover the work.

Support

The authority said that it has offered support over the last 18 months including "financial support for the contracting of fire wardens across the development, the installation of a state-of-the-art fire alarm system and the commissioning of a comprehensive review of measures necessary including structural measures required to ensure the full compliance of the building with all relevant fire safety regulations."

The apartments were built by Gendsong, of which boom-time developer Bernard McNamara was a director until early 2011.

The Taoiseach was called to intervene and get the developer to stump up for the work.

But Mr Kenny said it was years since he had spoken to Mr McNamara, who declared bankruptcy in London in 2012 with debts over €1bn.

Tanaiste Joan Burton also weighed in on the controversy which she said was "part of the legacy" of Ireland's property boom and bust.

The DDDA was first alerted to the fact that there were fire safety issues in June 2014.

The problems include defects with fire stopping material in some linking areas and problems in the communal parts of the building.

Last night there was little update for residents following a public meeting on Tuesday where the extent of the €4m bill for works was revealed.

Richard Eardley, the director of the Longboat Quay Management Company said that negotiations are ongoing with the DDDA and the receiver in a bid to have them contribute to the costs.

It is expected that they will pay something toward the huge repair bill but Mr Eardley said that he was "not confident" that contributions from either party will cover the entire costs.

He added that the fire notice was simply to compel works to start.

It was "the first in a series of steps which could ultimately lead to closure but that's very much a last resort".

"People don't have to worry about not having homes or anything like that."

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