Prop­erty housed 52 at the height of its oc­cu­pancy

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Jake Hur­furt

A ‘FIRETRAP’ rental prop­erty that was evac­u­ated by court or­der this week would have been earn­ing up to €13,000 a month at the height of its oc­cu­pancy.

The Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day vis­ited the prop­erty in Crum­lin in Dublin this week, and the shock­ing pic­tures of the cramped and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions are pub­lished for the first time in­side. At one time, 52

peo­ple lived in the rooms be­hind two shopfronts on Old County Road, Crum­lin, the High Court heard, and more than 20 were still liv­ing there this week – de­spite there be­ing no fire es­cape or fire alarms. Ques­tions were be­ing asked last night about how thor­ough an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been car­ried out when the prop­erty was first re­ported to Dublin City Coun­cil for a po­ten­tial plan­ning vi­o­la­tion by a TD based next door.

A coun­cil spokes­woman said it first heard about the premises – com­pris­ing two semi-de­tached houses – at the start of Septem­ber. How­ever, the MoS has seen an en­force­ment file that proves the prop­erty was first brought to the coun­cil’s at­ten­tion in De­cem­ber by Deputy Joan Collins, whose con­stituency of­fice is next door.

The fire of­fi­cers who in­ves­ti­gated the prop­erty – af­ter an RTÉ re­port about the dan­ger­ous build­ing – found the rear en­trance bricked up, ac­cord­ing to Ms Collins.

A Face­book ad­ver­tise­ment – posted in April – de­tails that spots in the prop­erty were be­ing rented at €250 per berth.

In the sec­tion of the house the MoS ac­cessed this week there were five bed­rooms. In each of the two bed­rooms we saw, there were four beds – mean­ing up to 20 peo­ple could likely have lived in that part of the house. At €250 per month, some­body was col­lect­ing €1,000 per room and €5,000 for just one part of the house ev­ery month, if all the rooms had four beds.

The house was seem­ingly ar­ranged into four units – with two up­stairs rooms blocked by a locked door – which would al­low more beds to be rented and house the 52 peo­ple that, the court heard, were present at one stage. That many peo­ple, at €250 a bed, would re­sult in rev­enue of €13,000 a month.

The semi-de­tached houses are linked by a labyrinth of cor­ri­dors in an ex­ten­sion to the orig­i­nal build­ings, which ap­pear to be dis­used shops. Bed­rooms with barely enough space to stand with arms out­stretched and fit­ted with bunk beds, were off net­works of cor­ri­dors that felt like a rab­bit’s war­ren.

One of the rooms of the orig­i­nal shop was a liv­ing space strewn with rub­bish and a floor that looked like an old shop store­room. The other con­tained at least seven bikes and five mat­tresses.

Le­gal wran­gles started on Wed­nes­day as the coun­cil ap­plied for a court or­der for the build­ing to be va­cated af­ter an in­spec­tion found no fire es­capes and no fire alarms in­side. Coun­cil fire of­fi­cers in­spected the ad­dress af­ter an RTÉ doc­u­men­tary team flagged it up.

One of the young women liv­ing there told RTÉ that she did not know where she or the other ten­ants, mostly Brazil­ian stu­dents, would go and added that houses like this are com­mon in Dublin.

Judge Sea­mus Noo­nan or­dered that the peo­ple liv­ing there va­cate the premises by 10.30am on Fri­day. He also ex­pressed con­cern about his or­der leav­ing a num­ber of peo­ple home­less.

When the MoS vis­ited the ad­dress, fire pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers were putting up copies of the court or­der and telling ten­ants what was go­ing on. None of the ten­ants, in­clud­ing the

‘First brought to coun­cil’s at­ten­tion in De­cem­ber’

two Brazil­ians who al­lowed the MoS in­side the build­ing, wanted to an­swer any ques­tions. How­ever, one man said that ‘around 20 peo­ple’ were fac­ing evic­tion.

Doc­u­ments pre­sented to the court hear­ing on Wed­nes­day named the own­ers as step-sib­lings John and Yvonne McEleney. A man called Alex, the court heard, col­lected the rent on be­half of some­one with the same name as the McEleneys. But on Fri­day, in a sec­ond court sit­ting, the McEleney’s lawyer, Bren­dan Brady, said they only legally owned 12 Old County Road and did not have a ben­e­fi­cial in­ter­est in the prop­erty. The court heard that two men were also linked to the prop­erty, Ed­die and John McEleney. Both were added as named re­spon­dents for the next hear­ing. Con­leth Bradley for the coun­cil, said he be­lieved the two John McEleneys to be un­cle and nephew.

In an email to the coun­cil that was pre­sented in court on Fri­day, John McEleney claimed to have lived in Eng­land for a num­ber of years and was rarely back in Ire­land. He said he had heard about the court or­der in the me­dia and con­tacted his step­sis­ter Yvonne about it.

Mr Brady asked the court to ad­journ to al­low his clients to sub­mit ev­i­dence about who owns and con­trols the prop­erty. Judge Noo­nan agreed and ad­journed the case for two weeks. Our at­tempts to con­tact the McEleney fam­ily were un­suc­cess­ful but Ms McEleney’s part­ner Paul Doyle said she wouldn’t be com­ment­ing.

Speak­ing to the MoS, Ms Collins said she was ‘ab­so­lutely ap­palled’ when she heard de­tails of the dan­ger posed by the house and the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in­side.

Home­less cam­paigner Fr Peter McVerry, said: ‘I have no doubt that there are other houses and build­ings of equally un­safe fab­ric made avail­able to des­per­ate peo­ple who have no al­ter­na­tive, and some­one is mak­ing a lot of money off it.’

‘Col­lect­ing €13k a month from the 52 oc­cu­pants’

‘Barely enough room to stretch your arms’

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