From hunger strikes in the Maze to courting legal battles over properties

THE Priory Hall scandal is not the first time property developer Thomas McFeely has been before the courts in recent years.

Originally from Derry, Mr McFeely spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in the 1980s before settling in Dublin, on his release, to build a property empire.

His house on Ailesbury Road in Dublin, once valued at €15 million, is believed to have been taken over by the banks.

The former IRA prisoner’s company Coalport Building Company, which he runs along with his business partner Larry O’Mahony, has been through the courts on numerous occasions relating to the standard of properties it built across the country.

In 2006, a Prime Time Investigates programme highlighted the company’s failure to complete housing estates to the relevant safety standards in counties Offaly and Donegal.

This was one year before Priory Hall was given the go-ahead on the basis that it would meet building regulations.

Coalport has been in and out of the courts on numerous occasions since then. In 2009, the company was ordered by the High Court to pay a woman €103,000 in damages after she was unable to move into her new home in Balrothery in Dublin as builders had failed to repair “serious structural defects”. In the two years since, the company has yet to pay these damages.

In October of the same year, Dundalk Town Council served an evacuation order to over 20 residents amid concerns over fire safety failures.

In February last year, the High Court ordered that some 200 apartments — Áras na Cluaine in Clondalkin in Dublin — be evacuated, unless Coalport carry out works to ensure the properties met fire safety regulations. The company later undertook remedial work at a cost of around €97,000.

In November 2009, ACC Bank obtained a judgment for over €6.2m against Mr McFeely which was registered against a number of properties.

The Revenue Commissioners also sought to have the Coalport wound up earlier this year over a demand for €144,000 in unpaid VAT and PRSI.

This was later lifted by the High Court after Mr McFeely paid the Revenue €140,000.

The latest undertaking by Mr McFeely to carry out necessary repair works in Priory Hall is not his first. The Priory Hall scandal has been rumbling along since 2009.

Within that period, Mr McFeely has given six separate undertakings to put right the building flaws uncovered. None of these were honoured.

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