Second Christmas away from home for Priory Hall families
DON'T stop here, Santa -- that was the stark message from Priory Hall families, as they gathered to mark a second Christmas outside their homes.
It's now more than 14 months since they were forced to vacate the firetrap apartments and all hope of a seasonal miracle is gone for another year.
As the 256 former neighbours met outside the Donaghamede complex last night, children held up signs telling Santa Claus there was no point in stopping at Priory Hall.
"It's been the longest 14 months of our lives," says apartment owner Stephanie Meehan.
"I can't believe it's another Christmas we're facing now from our home.
"We're pretty much still at the same place as last year."
The mother of two young children told the Herald: "At this stage we all just want a solution. We can't pay €1,200 rent on top of our €1,500 mortgage every month. I have to put a roof over my children's heads so I would have to default."
Just hours before the vigil, Dublin District Court was hearing a case involving bankrupt developer Tom McFeely, who is accused of not paying a debt to a recruitment firm.
The former IRA hunger striker, who built the ill-fated complex, has recently complained that he is the victim of a "media circus". He was not in court yesterday for the case, which involved an unpaid debt of €24,288 for services obtained from MCR Personnel Ltd.
He could face a three-month jail sentence for failing to comply with an instalment order made earlier. Judge Mary Collins adjourned the case until February 8.
Despite McFeely's complaints about being harshly treated, Ms Meehan believes he has been "getting away scot-free".
"He's laughing in the face of residents. He seems to be in court every other week and they keep adjourning it."
Stephanie and the other residents used last night's candlelight vigil to plead with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step in and sort out the mess.
The coming year could see the apartment owners forced to pay rent on top of mortgage repayments for homes they cannot live in. The families are now waiting to see if Dublin City Council will be successful in overturning a court judgment ordering the local authority to house the residents.
Denise McManus and her husband Phil have already been driven to stop paying the mortgage on their unsafe apartment.
She said: "We just took the decision that we'd have to stop paying. We're facing years of renting, because banks just don't want to know once they hear Priory Hall."
Newlywed Denise explained: "It's very hard around Christmas to see other people in their homes and we're wondering where we're going to be and where we'll be next Christmas.
"It's €20,000 down the drain on the deposit and another €100,000 in repayments. I can't even bear to think about the money that's gone."
The residents have vowed to keep the fight alive and continue to challenge the limbo which sees them forking out for homes they have no access to.