Priory Hall developer awaits court judgement today

Ireland's top judges will rule today if a former Sinn Féin hunger striker-turned-property tycoon should go back behind bars for breaking court orders.

Priory Hall developer awaits court judgement today

Ireland's top judges will rule today if a former republican hunger striker-turned-property tycoon should go back behind bars for breaking court orders.

Thomas McFeely, who was declared bankrupt in Dublin yesterday, has appealed against a contempt of court judgment, a three-month sentence and a one million euro fine to the Supreme Court.

The ruling will be delivered by the five-judge court this morning.

The case centres on McFeely's Priory Hall development in Donaghmede, north Dublin.

About 300 people were left homeless and had to be rehoused when they were evacuated from the complex last October amid warnings that it was a fire hazard.

The developer was ordered by the High Court in Dublin to carry out remedial works, but was jailed and fined when he did not.

He was freed later that day when he lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Barristers for McFeely argued that it had not been possible for their client to comply with orders because he had been evicted from the site almost two weeks earlier.

But Dublin City Council, which ordered the evacuation of 65 families on safety grounds, has objected.

McFeely, who served 12 years in the Maze Prison for shooting an RUC officer in Londonderry, spent 53 days without food during the 1980 hunger strikes.

On his release in 1989 he went to Dublin and worked on building sites, where he made his fortune in land deals and property developments - eventually buying a former embassy on Dublin's leafy Ailsbury Road.

The Derry-born builder was made bankrupt in London earlier this year, but it was challenged by Theresa McGuinness, from Rush, Co Dublin, who told the court that proceedings were already active against him in Ireland.

McFeely claimed the legal challenge to his UK bankruptcy breached his rights as a British citizen - and maintained he was not a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

"As a British citizen, I have always objected to being forced into bankruptcy in a foreign jurisdiction purely on the basis that I have a judgment liability in that state," said the former republican hunger striker.

The High Court in London recently overturned the bankruptcy order issued in January and the action in Dublin continued.

McFeely argued he would be 76 by the time he could get back into business if declared bankrupt in Ireland because of stricter rules, while it would be just a year before he could be back in business in the UK.

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