Donnelly: Harris misled the Dáil about escalating cost of children's hospital

Donnelly: Harris misled the Dáil about escalating cost of children's hospital

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly claims that the Dáil was misled by the Minister for Health about the escalating cost of the national children’s hospital.

He told RTE’s News at One that surely at some stage during budget negotiations the Minister for Health could have said there was an over-run even if he didn’t know the exact amount.

Mr Donnelly said that the Minister knew from August that the over run was “several hundred million,” but when asked in a parliamentary question by Barry Cowen in the autumn had said that the project was still on budget at €983million.

The over run was “catastrophic” he said as each bed in the new hospital is going to cost €3.7m. He dismissed Government contention that the “cost per metre was ok”.

There is a very small window of opportunity to get costs for the project down, he added. If Fianna Fáil were to withdraw its support for the Government because of the issue, and a general election was called, the opportunity to negotiate a reduction in costs would be lost.

He said he does not accept that costs cannot be reduced. He claimed that in any building project when costs spiral there is always an opportunity to “design the costs back down again.”

Labour: Taoiseach must tell the truth on children's hospital

By Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent

Calls have been made on Leo Varadkar to "tell the truth" about when he was first told about the spiralling cost of the National Children's Hospital.

The Labour party have dismissed the claim that Health Minister Simon Harris, who was made aware of increasing costs in August, first told the Taoiseach and Finance Minister about the overspend in November as "entirely incredible".

Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan said: "I have been a minister, I have sat across from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and his officials with my officials and you have to discuss every item when you are coming up to budget time, you discuss all of your capital and current budget with the Department of Public Expenditure.

"It is not credible that this discussion would have not taken place in the context of the budget between August and when the Taoiseach and Minister for Public Expenditure are saying they got the information, that's not credible."

She said the public now deserve the truth and called on Leo Varadkar to come clean.

"I think they need to tell the exact truth."

The Limerick TD added: "We absolutely need to get to the truth because this is money, it's a huge amount of public money that could be spent on so many things that we are all talking about whether that be in my own constituency a 60-bed unit that we are waiting on for the most overcrowded hospital in the country, whether that be building houses in Dublin.

"There are so many other areas that are crying out for public expenditure in this country," she said.

Martin: Government needs to come clean on costs of children's hospital

By Vivienne Clarke

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says the Government needs to “come clean” about the details of the escalating cost of the national children’s hospital.

Donnelly: Harris misled the Dáil about escalating cost of children's hospital

"I think the Government needs to come clean with the people, we're learning about this again in a drip-drip way, just like with CervicalCheck," he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.

"No one's against a children's hospital - in fact, in some respects, the rush to have a children's hospital probably has led to where we are in the sense that people were despairing that we'd never get it after the planning application was refused.

"My understanding is over €200 million has gone into this - the contracts were signed by the Government is December.

"And again, they did it with great haste - I don't understand that part of it.

Simon Harris announced yesterday... 'I had three choices: I had to either pause, re-tender or go ahead.

"Nobody knew that in December that he had three choices, he didn't share that with anybody.

"What we're reading in the Irish Times now (is) he was told in August, why didn't he share it then with the general public and with the Government, and say 'we have an issue here'?

"And then we now knew a year earlier the steering group ... were asking serious questions about overruns.”

Earlier his party’s Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath told Newstalk Breakfast that it was extraordinary and “not believable” that senior officials from the Department of Health “would be sitting on a steering committee, managing the largest capital project in the history of that department, that they would be aware for up to a year that the cost of the children's hospital was spiralling - and they did not bring that to the attention of the minister?"

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