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'We bought our home in good faith... What do we do now?'

RESIDENTS in a Donaghmede apartment complex built by a former IRA hunger striker are clashing with Dublin City Council after being told their homes are a serious safety risk and unsafe to live in.

The problems centre around the 187-apartment Priory Hall development built by the Coalport Building Company, of which former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely (63) is secretary and director.

Fire chiefs raised serious concerns about the fire protection and fire systems within Priory Hall and other developments built by Coalport, resulting in the council removing all its tenants from the blocks under its control two years ago.

Outrage

But now a letter from the council to private owners has sparked outrage. Owners are being warned that the Fire Authority is to apply to the courts to prohibit the use of the development, which could lead to everyone being put of their homes until the problem is fixed.

But owners say they are being left high-and-dry by the council, blaming the local authority for allowing the apartments to be built in the first place. "Dublin City Council are the planning authority, and these apartments were never built to approved planning specifications," said owner/occupier Mark Byrne.

"They say this is our responsibility, but we say it is theirs. They should never have built if the specifications weren't right," he added.

Mark bought his three-bed top floor apartment for €290,000 four years ago, and is paying the mortgage on it since.

"They are saying we will have to move until the problem is fixed, and expect me to rent somewhere else while still paying a mortgage here on a place I will not be able to sell or rent out without a fire certificate," Mark explained.

He also said the insurance on the homes has now run out because there is no fire certification, and the owners are left carrying the can.

Picking up his children this morning at Priory Hall was Sean Guiden, whose partner now faces an uncertain future.

"She's looking to get somewhere else now and will be talking to the council about housing, but with two small children you don't need this coming up to winter and Christmas," Sean said.

"The apartments should not have been built if the design was wrong. I don't know how it could be allowed to happen," he said as he picked up Kayla (2) and Lelan (4).

"It's very upsetting and worrying for everyone. It's a real mess," he added.

The letter from Dublin City Council to the owners, sent this week, states that the Fire Officer has found that there is "an absence of adequate cavity barriers within the external wall cavities" in the buildings it inspected, and that these problems "may be replicated elsewhere in the development".

It also states other problems such as cavity walls with inadequate fire resistance, lack of fire alarms, vents not wired with fire rated cables, and service ducts within stairwells not provided with adequate fire hatches.

Mark Byrne says there should be some recourse with the builder and if not the builder, then the council.

Another owner/occupier, Nick Smith, said the underground car park in the development was shut by the fire officer two years ago and nobody has been allowed park there since.

"Who do we go to? Who do we approach? We bought here in good faith," he said. He bought his two-bed apartment four years ago off the plans for €238,000.

Mark Byrne said people with rent allowances who are renting in the complex from private owners might be eligible to join the local authority housing list, but that the owners, including himself would not qualify.

"The council are just washing their hands of it," he said.

Dublin City Council declined to comment on the matter.