herald

Sunday 17 November 2019

'No option' but to evacuate buildings over fire safety worries

Vincent Donoghue
Vincent Donoghue

A High Court judge has said he has "no option" other than to make orders that three "firetrap" Dublin properties be vacated over safety concerns.

The orders were made by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who also criticised the handling of fire safety warnings issued in relation to the buildings by the receiver appointed by AIB over the properties at 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place, Dublin.

Last month, the court granted Dublin City Council (DCC) temporary injunctions, requiring residents of the properties - each divided into several flats or bedsits - to immediately vacate.

Inspections carried out by senior fire safety officials at DCC had revealed that the three properties are in very poor repair, and if a fire started in any of the 190-year-old buildings it would spread very quickly.

The risk to those living in the four-storey buildings is so serious that their use for residential purposes should be prohibited until the deficiencies are addressed, DCC said.

Control

DCC sought orders against the owners of the properties Vincent and Catherine (otherwise known as Kathleen) Donoghue, and Mr Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton, who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB Mortgage Banks and AIB in October 2016.

The Donoghues did not take part in proceedings. The court heard they have not had control over the properties since the receiver's appointment.

The court previously heard that the buildings were to be sold but those sales fell through.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Noonan made the injunctions final. The properties, he said, must be vacated until they are compliant with safety regulations.

It had been estimated that up to 40 persons had been living there. None at 100 and 104 Seville Place objected, although lawyers representing several residents at 101, who claim they have valid tenancies, had initially argued that they should be allowed stay in their homes while works were carried out.

Those residents, represented by Joe Jackson Bl instructed by solicitor Herbert Kilcline, said the application was undermined by the fact that persons had forcibly entered and are now living in the basement at 101.

That part of the building requires extensive fire safety repairs, counsel said.

Their expert's report stated that his six clients could remain in the building while fire safety works could be carried out as long as the basement was not used, Mr Jackson said.

DCC accepted that some improvements had been made to 101 in recent weeks, but that its latest inspection had shown that all three buildings need to be vacated immediately.

Conleth Bradley SC, for DCC, said that efforts were being made to find alternative accommodation.

The judge said he had "huge sympathy for" the residents represented by Mr Jackson, who the court accepted now found themselves homeless "through no fault of their own".

He said he had no option other than grant the orders sought.

The judge said he could not allow a situation to develop where the residents could be "burned in their beds in the middle of the night".

The judge said the buildings had been the subject of fire safety notices requiring certain works to be in 2017 and it was "quite astonishing" that little was done to rectify this since.

He granted DCC and Mr Jackson's clients their legal costs against the receiver.

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