herald

Friday 20 September 2019

'We are homeless', say 40 tenants as judge extends order to get out of their 'blaze deathtrap' bedsits

Vincent Donoghue, owner of 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place
Vincent Donoghue, owner of 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place

AROUND 40 people say they are homeless after the High Court yesterday continued orders that they leave their homes amid concerns over fire safety.

Last week the High Court granted Dublin City Council temporary injunctions requiring residents at 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place, Dublin, to immediately vacate the properties.

Most are divided into several flats or bedsits and the majority of tenants are foreign nationals and include children.

At the High Court yesterday Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he had no alternative and would be negligent in his duty unless he continued the orders.

He accepted the residents were unhappy at having to leave what had been their homes for several years and sympathised with them.

But evidence from senior council fire-safety officials said each building was "potentially a deathtrap".

Bedsit doors were not fire doors, fire-detection alarms were faulty and fire detectors had been removed from common areas, the court heard.

Control

The council's actions are against owners Vincent and Catherine Donoghue and Stephen Tennant, of Grant Thornton, who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB Mortgage Banks and AIB in October 2016.

Mr Donoghue said he had had no control over the properties for almost three years and did not like his name being used in the proceedings.

The receiver, represented by Joe Jeffers BL, wants to sell the properties.

Counsel said contracts were in place to sell the buildings and said his client had not had rent from the properties since early 2018.

Joe Jackson BL, acting for residents in 101 Seville Place, asked for the injunction to be varied to allow them to stay in the building while their engineer made repairs.

He said it would be "draconian" and "unreasonable" to continue the orders that would render his clients homeless.

One resident of 101, electrical technician Romas Tusla, said the situation in the building was different from the other two and that the tenants had maintained it to a high standard.

He said he had asked the council for the fire-safety reports so he and the other tenants could remedy the defects themselves.

Residents of the other two properties attended court and said they were looking for a lawyer to represent them.

Concerns

They said they were objecting to orders to vacate the buildings as they had nowhere to go.

Mr Justice Simons refused to vary the orders but accepted that tenants had a right to contest the application.

He said the council's claims about its fire-safety concerns in the three buildings had not been addressed in the evidence put before him yesterday.

He adjourned the case for two weeks, to allow the residents to prepare their cases, but said the orders to vacate the buildings would remain in place.

The council, represented by Conleth Bradley SC and Karen Denning BL, said officials had inspected the buildings in recent weeks and found the three properties in very poor repair.

If fire started in any of the buildings it would spread very quickly, the court heard.

The risk to people in the four-storey buildings was so serious that continued use should be prohibited until serious deficiencies were addressed.

The council said the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive was aware of the situation and was doing its best to help the residents.

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