Priory Hall: There is some light at the end of the tunnel

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In the following article “Priory Hall: There is some light at the end of the tunnel” By Caroline O’Doherty in the Irish Examiner on July 15th, Stephanie Meehan looks forward to moving this month into a new home after the personal devastation wreaked by her experience as  Priory Hall resident. Quote:

“It will be difficult but Stephanie is determined to look forward. “Fiachra wasn’t given a chance but I’ve been given another chance,” she says of the house that will become her long-awaited permanent home…

That it took one family’s tragedy to get action remains a painful issue for the residents. “Unfortunately it was a turning point and the catalyst was Stephanie,” says residents’ spokesman throughout the crisis, Graham Usher…”

For full article click here

Extract:

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Priory Hall: There is some light at the end of the tunnel By Caroline O’Doherty, Irish Examiner,  July 15th

Stephanie Meehan is moving into a new home following the Priory Hall debacle, but not all former residents have made a fresh start, Caroline O’Doherty reports

THIS could be the hardest time of the year for Stephanie Meehan but somehow she’s managing to see it as a fresh start.

On July 31 she and her two young children move into their new home and she can’t wait to put the key in the door.

But before she gets there, the woman whose heartbreak came to epitomise the personal devastation wreaked by Priory Hall must first face the anniversary of the death of her partner, Fiachra Daly, who took his own life on July 15 last year, and deal with the knowledge that he never got to see his family’s plight resolved.

It will be difficult but Stephanie is determined to look forward. “Fiachra wasn’t given a chance but I’ve been given another chance,” she says of the house that will become her long-awaited permanent home,.

“It’s local. It’s only about five minutes away from where we are now, it’s five minutes from Priory Hall and it’s 10 minutes from my parents, so it’s absolutely perfect and I can’t wait.

“That’s our good news and with Fiachra’s anniversary on the 15th, it feels it’s kind of the start of a new year. I kind of feel that there is some light at the end of the tunnel and we can close the door and just live quietly and happily.”

Eighty-nine other Priory Hall apartment owners are working towards that same modest, but to them precious, goal. After their evacuation from the firetrap complex in north Dublin in October 2011, they lived with constant uncertainty, battling banks demanding mortgage payments for homes they could not live in, fighting Dublin City Council for the provision of temporary accommodation and pleading for help from a government that displayed cold indifference.

The breakthrough came when Stephanie, still raw with grief, put pen to paper last August and told Taoiseach Enda Kenny of the stress that finally proved too much for Fiachra to bear.

Within weeks meetings had been convened between the residents, the banks and the council and a plan was being drawn up that would see the council take over the complex, the 90 owner-occupiers have their mortgages written off and 27 buy-to-let owners have their repayments frozen for two years to allow the apartments be extensively refurbished.

That it took one family’s tragedy to get action remains a painful issue for the residents. “Unfortunately it was a turning point and the catalyst was Stephanie,” says residents’ spokesman throughout the crisis, Graham Usher.

“There’s no point in saying otherwise. That is what seemed to focus attention on it and got things moving. I think it’s an absolute tragedy and it shouldn’t have to come to that.”

The plan is still being worked through and there are legalities to be finalised, but around 15 former residents have bought new homes since the deal was struck and others are in the process of buying.

Not everyone has been able to avail of the new mortgage on offer as the Priory Hall scandal broke just as the economy plummeted but part of the deal was that social or affordable housing options would also be provided.

But new obstacles arose in the form of soaring demand for property and rocketing house prices.

“Myself and my wife are looking for a house and at times there’s a sense of deja vu,” says Graham. “It’s like it was when we were looking before we bought Priory Hall in 2006 — you can go out to view a house and there may be 30 or 40 other people viewing the place as well.”

As he speaks, he’s standing on the balcony of the “temporary” accommodation where he has lived for more than two years, with the view taking in Priory Hall, now surrounded by hoarding in preparation for refurbishment.

“I know people who would drive a different route to avoid it. They wouldn’t go up the road because they didn’t want to drive past it,” he says of the emotional impact the ordeal has had.

It has made Graham wary of buying again and he won’t buy a home less than 20 years old so he can be sure any glitches will have come to light. It has also made him sceptical about the State’s ability to deal with other potential Priory Halls and developers like now bankrupt Tom McFeely whose corner-cutting left the development a potential death-trap.

“It’s a sad indictment of how things work that he and his company, and the other people who were responsible for hundreds of people losing their homes, walked away scot free.

“It just shows how the building legislation and the inspection regime here were stacked in favour of the developers and very much against the homeowner.

“The next few years will be interesting because it seems as if we’re going to have another spate of new builds.

“My own view is the only way of preventing something like Priory Hall is for independent inspections to be carried out and I’m not convinced that that’s going to happen. I’m not sure the local authorities have the resources.”

Stephanie Meehan shares those concerns, which is why she wants to keep the issues raised by Priory Hall in the spotlight.

“If it pricks a builder’s conscience, even only slightly, to not skimp on materials and to do things properly then that’s a good thing.”

The good things are what Stephanie concentrates on. “We’ve been absolutely through the mill but I’ve had a huge amount of support.

“There are a lot of people far less fortunate than me who don’t have a good support network when they’re going through a really rough time, so for that I’m really grateful.”

For the moment, she’s focused on the children, Oisin, 8, and Carys, 3, but she’s also gone back to her work in restaurant management one night a week and says she’ll start thinking seriously in September about her own future.

Without Fiachra to share care of the children, the anti-social hours of the restaurant business may not suit her, but she’s hopeful of finding something family-friendly.

In the meantime she’s looking forward to the simple things like having post delivered to her own front door.

“I haven’t had a postal address in six years because in Priory Hall my post was never delivered because it was an unfinished site, and then we were in two hotels and two other temporary homes so I had everything re-routed to my parents.

“Oisin is going into third class in school and his address has always been my parents’ house so it’s going to be really nice for him to have an address of his own.”

The one thing that’s not on her agenda is bitterness. “What happened was at a huge loss to myself and the kids and to Fiachra’s family, but life goes on.

“My mam always said to me life is for the living and that’s my motto at the moment. Some days I’d love to close my curtains and just not get up, but I’ve got two little kids who need me more than ever so that’s my job now and that’s what keeps me going.”

Other posts of interest:

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Self builders appeal to Priory Hall residents: BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

How to complete ghost estates + Priory Hall?:BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Chartered Surveyors: “More Priory Hall scenarios could happen if the laws are not enforced”  – click link here

Home-owners will be no better off at the next “Priory Hall” – click link here

Radio Clip- O’Cofaigh: self building, self-regulation & the consumer – click link here

“Building Control and the Common Good”: Architecture Ireland – click link here

 

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