Wicklow County Council ordered to pay Sinn Féin TD damages

Sinn Féin TD John Brady and his wife Gayle have been awarded €6,000 over an attempt by a local authority to evict them from their rented council home.

Wicklow County Council ordered to pay Sinn Féin TD damages

Mr Justice Max Barrett made the award to the Bradys, of Kilbride Grove in Bray, Co Wicklow, when he handed down his judgment in their action against Wicklow County Council over the March 2014 eviction notice. The notice to quit arose out of what the council said was the failure of the Bradys to regularise an attic extension, built in 2004.

The council claimed it was a fire hazard and the fact the conversion is now substantially in compliance proved work was required, the council said in opposing the Bradys’ application.

Mr Brady claimed the notice was issued because of his criticism of the council on other matters in the past, including over the deaths of two Wicklow firemen.

He told the court there had been a lot of tension between him and officials in the immediate run-up to what he said were “so-called random inspections” of council houses where extensions had been carried out. The council denied this.

Mr Justice Barrett, who had previously indicated he was prepared to quash the eviction notice, said in his written judgment yesterday he did not find with them in their claim of misfeasance in public office by the council.

However, he did find “a significant breach” of their constitutional and European Convention rights which “has significantly impacted upon the home life of the Bradys”.

In those circumstances, it was appropriate to order the council to pay €3,000 each to Mr and Mrs Brady, he said.

Declarations sought by the Bradys that the notice to quit their home was unlawful by reason of bad faith or not made for a bona fide purpose were refused by the judge.

Earlier in his judgment, Mr Justice Barrett noted the Bradys’ home was pre-designed to facilitate an attic conversion and many of their neighbours have done such conversions.

The Bradys, who have five children, built the extension when Ms Brady was pregnant with her fourth child.

He said the Bradys, who “have never been flush with money”, asked the council in 2004 if it would finance the extension and it was indicated to Ms Brady that “we could carry out the conversion from our own finances”.

Convinced this was the “green light” to proceed, the Bradys saved some money and borrowed from the credit union to finance the conversion. Mr Brady, a carpenter by trade, did a lot of the work, aided by friends.

The court was satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, Ms Brady’s account of her visit to the council offices in 2004 was true.

Having consented to the attic extension, “the entirety of the council’s case would seem to fall at this very first hurdle”, he said.

“One cannot approve a particular course of action and then disapprove when the approved course of action is taken,” he said.

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