Yesterday, honeymoon cut short, she was back at her apartment in Priory Hall removing the last bits and pieces before the complex was declared off limits to everyone except keyholders who, from today, can only access their homes under escort by security staff.
“We were in the jungle and had no phone signal and it was only when we got back to the hotel I found messages from the tenants saying they were being evacuated,” Emma said. “We didn’t have much choice except to come back and try and sort things out.”
Emma, a midwife, bought her apartment six years ago, before her engagement, and lived there for three years before she and fiance Graham set up home together.
“I held on to my apartment and rented it out but I’m sorry now. Even if it can be made safe — and I’m not convinced it can be — the publicity means I’ll never be able to rent it out or sell it.
“At the moment it’s worth zero and I’m not sure if it will ever be worth anything but I still have the mortgage to pay. This was my nest egg, but now it’s a noose around my neck.”
Only a handful of residents remained at the 160-unit complex yesterday, using the final hours before the evacuation order came into effect to remove the last of their belongings.
Stephen Quigley, who bought with his girlfriend in 2008, was fending off jokes that he was taking even the floorboards with him. But the truth was grimmer: he was ripping them up, and dumping them and the sodden smelly underlay beneath them.
“The overflow pipe was put in at the wrong angle and instead of running into the gully, the water was coming back in under the balcony and soaking in through the wall and under the floor. I don’t know when we’ll get back in here but I know the dampness and smell will be 10 times worse if I don’t get rid of it now,” Stephen said.
Since the court action that led to the evacuations, residents realised they have much more in common than just an address — the dampness, rusting, flooding, faulty boilers and structural defects many believed were unique to them are known to be rife throughout the complex.
“To be honest I don’t want to come back, especially not if the same guys who built it are in charge of the remedial works,” said Stephen, who has been allocated a room in the Regency Hotel. “But I don’t know what my options are. I still have to pay the mortgage.”
In another block, Stephen Kelly, a separated father of three, was trying to work out how he would manage to have the children come on their regular visits if he was staying in a hotel.
“The council have told me they’ll get me a family room in Bewley’s Hotel but I’ve only got a single room in the Regency for tonight so I hope they’re true to their word.”
Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely is due back before the High Court today to submit a statement of means and proposal for funding remedial works.
In tomorrow’s Irish Examiner, Mick Clifford looks at the light-touch regulations that led to the Priory Hall scandal.