Longboat Quay: ‘To say we’re horrified is an understatement’

Maria O’Callaghan was waiting for the call yesterday.

Longboat Quay: ‘To say we’re horrified is an understatement’

They were saying on the radio that Dublin Fire Brigade might move to issue its Fire Safety Notice.

She rang a few people to receive assurance that even if events were put in train, there was no question of having to vacate her home, certainly not before a long process was gone through.

Still, she didn’t need the stress, not with all that she has already been through.

“If I could turn back time I certainly would never have bought this apartment,” she says.

Maria O’Callaghan lives in Longboat Quay, the development which has been in the headlines since it was publicly acknowledged earlier this week that the fire brigade may move to have it evacuated if remedial works are not undertaken.

She was at the residents’ meeting on Tuesday evening at which the whole situation was crystallised. That itself brought to an end at least a year of rumours, titbits of information and strange sightings in the development. At least now she knows the full truth, even if it’s worse than she had imagined.

“To say that we were horrified would be an understatement,” she says of the news received at the meeting. “I was speechless. Disgusted. Annoyed. To be told that we had to fork out this money which I don’t have or, otherwise, we could end up homeless. It was unbelievable.”

The gathering was provided with a chart which showed what kind of liability each owner might have if the €4m cost was divided up proportionately.

In Maria’s case, her two- bedroom apartment would attract a penalty of €12,000, money she just doesn’t have.

“I don’t have any chance of getting it,” she says. “It’s bad enough having to pay a mortgage and bills and about €3,000 of a management fee, which most people can’t pay.

“Now they want you to pay for work on your apartment that was not your fault.”

It wasn’t as if she didn’t have enough grief to be going on with in her home. The realisation of fire concerns are only the latest blow she has suffered since she bought what she hoped was her dream home in 2011.

Within a year of moving in, she began to notice a discolouring on some of the walls and the ceiling. Since then, the dampness has spread like blotting paper across the walls of her ground-floor apartment.

Some of the damp in Maria O’Callaghan two-bedroom apartment which began to appear within a year of her moving in
Some of the damp in Maria O’Callaghan two-bedroom apartment which began to appear within a year of her moving in

Investigations uncovered the fact there is little venting in the apartment, an appalling deficit in construction. A succession of people have now been through her apartment from engineers to legal advisers to insurance agents examining the damage.

Even some of these who work in the area of construction have been appalled.

“That’s the other big problem I have,” she says. “My problems with the dampness won’t even be covered by what we have to pay up. I’m still left with that.”

The damp is being blamed on the fact that there is little venting in the apartment, a serious construction deficit
The damp is being blamed on the fact that there is little venting in the apartment, a serious construction deficit

She had hoped that homebond, which covered the block of apartments, may assist but there has been no positive response on that yet.

While dealing with all she had to put up with, was the growing realisation there was an even bigger problem.

A company came to work on the fire alarm system but for the six months their people were in place there was also the round-the-clock presence of fire wardens who had to patrol the whole block, acting effectively as human fire alarms.

Maria wasn’t told at the time why they were there. An inquiry brought the response that they were security which she found unbelievable. And through it all the rumours and a small stream of communication hinted that something big was wrong.

“We didn’t realise it until we started getting notices that fire alarms had to be installed,” she says.

“Nobody knew anything about what was going on until they started issuing letters saying that new fire alarms had to be paid for. Since then, everything has started coming out.”

Right now, she is just hoping for a change of fortunes, long overdue in her travails with a home that has only given up dark secrets so far.

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