Priory Hall and the Prevalence of Naivety

I have great sympathy for the residents of Priory Hall and I’d like to see them helped out of their predicament. I want the government to spend the money and get rid of the problem, even though it will cost me even more taxes than I’m already paying, but we should support our fellow citizens.  So therefore, yes, go for it.  Help these people. priory hall There is, however, a caveat.  We do this because we feel sorry for the people who bought the apartments in Priory Hall, and perhaps because we detest the developer, Tom McFeely.  I can tell you that I personally find him utterly detestable. He built shit apartments.   He sold them to trusting customers.  He walked away with the money.

Tom McFeely embodies everything that was wrong with the Celtic Tiger feeding frenzy and then he added a bit more of his own. He’s a thug.  He’s a bully.  He’s a convicted criminal.  He’s a hypocrite, this former IRA hunger striker proclaiming his British citizenship to avoid Irish bankruptcy proceedings.  Tom McFeely is an utter prick.

Having said all that, is the State responsible for compensating people who have been ripped off? No.  It is not.  There’s no law, no constitutional provision requiring the taxpayer to pay you back if some scumbag robs you.  Most of the time, that’s why we pay insurance.  There’s a widespread, naive belief that somehow the State is responsible for the actions of people like McFeely when the reality is that there is no such obligation.  We fix the problem solely because we think we should, out of sheer altruism and that’s fine too.   Altruism is what sets us apart from brutes, but there is not now, and never was, an obligation on the taxpayer, to pay the bills generated by chancers.  It’s that simple.

I’m bothered about this Priory Hall thing, not because I think the residents should be abandoned, but because I wonder where it will stop.  Should every homeowner who paid a bad builder for bad work be entitled to compensation at the expense of you and me?  And if not, why not? Let’s define the circumstances in which we, the Irish people, pay extra taxes to cover the costs generated by bad builders.  I’m not saying No.  I’m just asking for a definition.  When do I pay?


Related posts

39 thoughts on “Priory Hall and the Prevalence of Naivety

  1. Wouldn’t it have been as simple as having legislation to get a guy from the local authorities to go down with a clipboard and actually inspect the building against the plans before allowing it to be signed off for sale?

    Hardly the science of rockets?

    In Germany, not only does the building have to be in good condition before a developer can let a new owner move in, but the quorum of schools, roads and other amenities must already be in place.

    It would have been seen as anti-development or anathema to light-touch (or in this case, no-touch) regulation.

  2. It’s a fair point, however there is another question – how did the ‘system’ allow this property get to a point where the apartments could be offered for sale at all? No adequate inspections before sign-off by the local authorities, and the banks not insisting on proper surveyors reports before they offered mortgages.

    It was all fast-track. Government happy with an accelerated property market, and the banks pushing loans out the door like a MacDonalds takeaway.

    As much as T McF angers me as well, there should have been safeguards in place to make sure chancers didn’t even have the opportunity to get away with stuff like this in the first place.

    So, what safeguards are being put in place now, or are we just relying on the fact that no one’s building anything anyway these days?

    Priory Hall residents? Yes, they should be helped out. Very sad that it took a suicide to prompt some political reaction.

  3. yep, and i’m tempted to say anyone who voted FF should be the ones to pay for it!

    However, in answer to your actual question…

    I think it’s reasonable to expect if you are buying a property that is part of a multi-occupancy commercial development that that development should meet minimum building standards.

    So, you / me / we should pay wherever the mechanisms of the state failed to ensure those regs were met.

    Single private dwellings – different story.

  4. I don’t know how this block of flats got so far without being nabbed. It seems to be of a very poor standard.

    However I also don’t know what inspections were carried out. It would be very interesting to have this information. If you have it, please share.

  5. Bock we’ve had this conversation before and I’m with Mick on this.Just because there are no regulations in place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your job properly.It’s an excuse that wouldn’t be considered in most European countries.Athough McFeely seems to be a very unsavoury character he hardly held a gun to anybodys head,and he was only one of many people who took part in this con.I don’t hear of anyone chasing architects,engineers or surveyors,and even the banks who lent the money,and these are the so called professionals.Remember most of those people who bought those apartments were first time buyers and were very niaive,but even those people should have done some checks.As I said to you before,even if you are buying a secondhand car you will at least kick the tyres and start the engine before you part with your money.To my way of thinking the onus should fall on all of the who perpertrated this enormous con.

  6. Never pay is my answer.
    Caveat emptor applies but too, laws introduced since that applied, obligate the seller to not defraud or trick the buyer.
    Simply, it is the seller’s responsibility within law as it stands regardless of the actions of scumbag fianna-fáilers and regardless of any insurance possibilities; of which none seem to exist in this case.
    The bank’s responsibility in the matter as owner-in-default remains undefined.
    Which probably doesn’t matter as the tax payer is paying all banks’ gambling debts.

  7. Thank you!
    I am sorry to break the news to you ( the royal you) but Ireland has become a ME society. My shit don’t pan out YOU gotta pay. Nobody was forced to buy anything during the boom ( fair enough the banks were throwing money around) but if I don’t have the ability to pay I don’t buy! Ireland has become the bastard child of Europe and will remain so for many years to come, what’s next mass emigration?

  8. What I don’t understand is how the insurance & Homebond companies can simply shrug their shoulders and say it’s not their problem. From experience, I know a bank won’t send out the mortgage cheque without proof of home insurance so why is the insurance not paying ?

    On the government doing sfa about it, I’d say they’re scared sh*tless that there are loads more Priory Halls around the country and if they pay for this one, a precedent will be set and secondly the Pyrite problem which will eventually cost millions.

  9. The insurance companies are not paying because this whole shambles is a game of bluff to see who coughs up to repair the damage – Tom McFeely, not a chance. Dublin City Council, extremely doubtful. Insurance companies, not if they can sting somebody else. The tax payer, quite possibly. The housing boom in this country was a Fianna Fail backed ‘free pass’ to builders and developers to build whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted and to any standard they wanted. And now the dice is going to be spun to see who picks up the tab for the shite that was built.

  10. Homebond no doubt say that it is non-structural and so not covered by their terms.

    The insurers of the individual apartments and common areas get out because no insured event (escape of water; fire; etc) has happened. The defect was pre-existing.

    Architects/Engineers will state their certificate as to design element (not construction) so when builder goes belly-up there is no ‘mark’.

    With Local Authority certification in UK, it does result in the local authority being sued. Maybe an obligation on any vendor of new property to provide an insurance-backed guarantee that the works are compliant with fire and building regs. There will be a cost that will be passed on to the purchasers but at least there will be a fund to deal with any problems in the future.

    I cannot see how the government can bail out the Priory Hall residents without opening up a precedent for bad workmanship by every burst builder around the country.

  11. During the so called “Celtic Tiger” many peopel thought that they could become developers over night..
    People alos thought that they could play the Celtic Tiger Monoply Board Game with buying over priced property across the country..

    Tom Mc Feely certainly robbed these people, he should have doned his IRA balaclave while taking their money… But it the resisdents & government dig deeper, I’m sure there is others to blame in this fiasco called Priory Hall… who signed off on all the building regulations, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, and most of all a fire cert…. not forgetting the bank that handed out the mortgages, surley they sent an assessor to view the properties before they handed out the money..
    I’m sure when many peopel buy a property they take out insurance…
    I do feel sorry for the people of Prioiry Hall, but should we (tax payers) pick up the tab again, for other peoples mistakes….

  12. Should the State pay compensation to the people who bought defective homes with inadequate Radon Barriers that will kill almost a 1000 people a year from now until the problem is fixed?

    The Priory Hall problem is nice and small for a Local Authority to tackle!

  13. when i bought my house,in 2006. i had to supply a report from a surveyor to the bank. the bank also sent out its own surveyor. did this not happen with priory hall? i would have thought that this was common practise. if so then surely the person who should be picking up the tab is the one who told the banks and the purchaser that the buildings were structurally sound.

  14. from a 2005 report
    Joint Statement by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and National Cancer Registry of Ireland. it was based on a residential radon exposure in nine european countries
    When applied to Ireland, the risk estimates from this European study provide a best estimate value of approximately 13% of all lung cancer deaths every year in Ireland being caused by radon. This corresponds to 195 lung cancer deaths, of which 91.5% (178) would be observed in active and ex-smokers and 8.5% (17) in lifelong non-smokers. Thus the majority of all lung cancers will be observed in people whose lungs have been damaged by tobacco smoke. This includes ex smokers, who remain at increased risk from radon for a number of years after they have stopped smoking.

  15. Gerryo, I also bought in 2006 and in a conversation with my bank manager was told that their surveyor would carry out a “kerbside inspection” only. If I wanted a proper survey, I should get a structural engineer and pay for that myself.

    When I enquired as to what a kerbside inspection was, she informed me that the surveyor would have a look out of his car window when he was next passing by.

  16. so he was really just checking to see if the house existed? we had to get a surveyor out before the bank would even consider giving a mortgage. i still maintain that the responsibility for priory hall should lie with the surveyors. surely their job was to tell the purchaser and the banks that the building were sound. have any of them been sued for professional imcompetence?
    perhaps their reports are as useful as the NCT? loads of testing carried out at a high cost, but only relevant to about 10% of all road accident.

  17. Having read your piece again I have to concur with your description of Tom McFeely,but I don’t agree with much more.The way I see it is,that it’s not to different than the bond holders that are currently being paid back.They lent money to the banks without having regard as to how they were going get their money back when things went wrong.All normal banks and lenders require some form of guarantee before they lend money.The banks failed to do this and they should face the consequence.They gambled (your favourite description) and lost AGAIN,and you still think the taxpayer should be involved somehow.You seem to credit Tom McFeely with a lot of power over people,but I fail to see how he could have done this without the connivance and active participation of those “professionals” around him.

  18. To be honest with you, the article is not based on logic. I just don’t want to see these people screwed even though I don’t belive the State is responsible.

    In the case of the bailouts, there was a claw-back clause. For example, Bank of Ireland is busy repaying what the government advanced if to pay its bondholders. AIB will also repay the money eventually. The default only happened in the case of Anglo and Nagtionwide, both of which failed.

    Therefore, it seems to me that the government could intervene to help people who were swindled and apply it as a charge on the banks, to be repaid over time, rather than a permanent burden on the taxpayer.

  19. Anglo and Nationwide were the banks I was thinking about when I mentioned gambling,and your right the government should sort it out,and claw the money back.What I cannot understand is the fact that nobody seems to attach any blame to the lenders.No politician seems to understand the simple mechanics of lending,and seem to attach all of the blame on Tom McFeely who of course is a much easier target,but not clean either.Nobody is without blame,but to blame the the people who bought the properties and go after them for the money is downright insulting to most right thinking peoples intelligence.Why don’t the government swallow their pride and adopt the Dutch or German or indeed the UK builing control systems whole.Then again that would require wholesale honesty and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  20. Oppermann Associates are the architects responsible for the heap of rotten dung that is Priory Hall. They, I believe had an enormous responsibility to carry out regular on-site inspections to ensure that everything specified in their design was included and built to correct standards and building regulations.

    Take a look at their website, they’re still in business. See the photos of their glossy work, Priory Hall does not feature (wonder why).

    They signed off the building after a ‘visual inspection’ according to Stephen Oppermann. If you are the architect of a development, the building is your baby and it’s up to you to do site check to and remedy any mistakes or shortcuts as they occur.

  21. An architect can’t be on site 24 hours a day and very often, cheapskate builders wait until the designer or the local authority inspectors have left before carrying out dodgy work and quickly covering it up. I don’t believe that Oppermann knowingly colluded in this. It wouldn’t be in their interests to do so.

  22. I hadn’t suggested that there was any collusion at all though I believe that the architects may have been irresponsible. During the boom time some architects bit off more than they could chew and had so may jobs on site at the same time that inspections were not carried out at any stage.

    Architects as well as developers got greedy too. More jobs, more fees and less time devoted to each project. Wasn’t just builders or developers that were cheapskates.

    I think Oppermann are collectively and hugely responsible for this awful mess. Though it’s optional, a decent architect would appoint a clerk of works especially for such a large scale development. The clerk of works is on site everyday and their role is to ensure the building is constructed to architects specifications and design.

    A lot of architects too made an awful lot of money by cutting corners. And really, you’d think they’d do a little research before getting involved with a fucking dodgy cowboy like Tom McFeely.

  23. I would agree that it would have been prudent to avoid Tom McFeely at all costs. But at the same time, an architect doesn’t have the authority to simply impose a clerk of works on his client.

  24. True indeed, an architect does not have that clout. But, if you team up with dodgy developers and you’re making money with them it would be ethical to insist on certain standards to ensure best practice and to protect your reputation.

    It is what separates the amateur from the professional in any walk of life.

    I shouldn’t get emotional here, but my heart goes out to everybody who was unfortunate enough to have purchased one of those apartments. Nightmare and heartache!

  25. It’s important to remember here that people’s reputations are under attack, without the full facts being available. Readers will understand that I can’t possibly permit comments accusing the architects or other professionals, including the DCC inspectors, of anything untoward, and any such comments will have to be removed immediately.

    That’s not up for debate, by the way.

  26. Do any of those companies not carry any public liability insurance? I ask this question because I worked as a self employed person for many years here in London loosely attached to the building trade,and I always had to have insurance up to £5m.I never worked on anything remotely near that figure but the insurance was quite cheap for the peace of mind it gave one.On the subject of clerk of works,I never heard of a clerk of works on a private job.They were usually seen on public works such as council housing,and they were usually there to protect the public purse so to speak,but I may be wrong.For what it’s worth I still think the money lenders should face the consequences.Unlike the banks the the people who bought those properties didn’t have the experience and wherewithal to check them.The banks are targeting individuals who cannot fight back instead of facing up to their own failings and shortcomings.If you lie down with the dogs( McFeely) you get up with the fleas.

  27. “Let’s define the circumstances in which we, the Irish people, pay extra taxes to cover the costs generated by bad builders”

    I think that’s the wrong question to be asking.
    If I may be so bold as to propose a more pertinent question, I think it would be what does the state need to do to ensure that people are protected against cowboy builders like Tom McFeely? i.e. builder certifications/permits.

    I don’t get the ‘prevalence of naivety’ bit on the subject of the post. Is the naivety that people expect professionals, such as architects/DCC inspectors to do their job? Why can’t we accuse them of something untoward, considering the pile of shite the Priority Hall turned out to be? What responsibility lies with the professionals? The situation we have with Priory Hall has certainly turned out unfavourable toward them in any event.

    There’s nothing altruist in living in a Country where people buying homes are protected from shysters like McFeely..if they are not protected, we can’t have the attitude of tough luck.
    They are the last people who should be made responsible here. Why should you pay a mortgage for the rest of your life, for somewhere you will never live, even if you could muster the funds to do so? I don’t think altruism comes into it at all. We owe it to people, to operate a properly functioning system, where the professionals are held accountable. Where the state enforces regulations and where builders are certified.

    Excellent comment from The Gimp previously on this –
    To quote a little of it.

    “To be fair in regard to the Building regs, Planning regs and supervision during construction, the current system borders on the ridiculous….

    The system depends totally on the Builder knowing what he is doing, yet this is the one area where there is absolutely no requirement or legislation to determine who is allowed to build anything”

  28. Sheskin, that phrase has been going around in my head too about lying down with dogs and getting fleas.

    I think anybody involved with this project was complicit. They may not have colluded and there may not have been bad intent but nevertheless they were involved.

    Why was someone with a background like McFeely enabled to execute such a large project?

    I have worked on both public and private jobs where a clerk of works has been appointed. I have also worked on large scale private jobs where a site architect has been employed to oversee construction. It is well worth paying this one salary to ensure everything in built according to plan.

    While it’s not compulsory, it’s good practice and well worth the expense.

  29. Whilst the professionals duty is to oversee the actions and practices of the builder in providing a safe, sound and usuable structure in accordance with the planning and building control regulations on behalf of the Client / Developer, this relationship can become seriously undermined when the Client / Developer is also the builder. The roles of the professionals have been removed save for what is minimally necessary, obtaing planning permissions, fire certs and the visual compliace certs.

  30. A Little Cynical it’s an old saying you lie down with the dogs you get up with fleas ie.Banks involved with McFeely and there you have it.But there again I don’t know which one is less trustworthy.It’s all very relevant to me at the moment because I am selling my house at the moment,and the people who are buying are having a survey done by the lenders surveyor,and if it doesn’t pass muster then they will have to start again.They have already been refused a loan on the first house they looked at.The days are gone when somebody pulled up outside the house and said yep that’s a house and said give the man his money.
    About the clerk of works they were generally employed on public housing and that is why most people agree that public is generally better quality because it’s built to a standard not a price.McFeely has been endowed with superpowers but he could not have done this on his own,all the rest are just as complicit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.