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

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

Fianna Fáil has called for clarity after reports that a hospital steering group flagged concerns about the rising cost of the national children’s hospital but that no alarm bells were sounded in government.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

Earlier his party’s Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said 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?"

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he did not know about cost implications for the children's hospital during the lead up to the Budget process last year.

He has confirmed to the Health Committee this morning that there was a request for an extra €60m back in August 2017. But he said there was no other information given to him about excessive costs for almost a year after that.

This comes after leaked meetings of a hospital board this morning, which include a suggestion among members that concerns should be flagged with Government, particularly ahead of the budget last year.

Mr Harris maintains that the first time he became aware of an overrun of huge money for the national children's hospital was in August last year.

However, he was not aware of the board meetings where HSE and health officials among others were being told of cost concerns.

He said the government did not know about the impact of costs for spending and government until November 9, after the Budget process last year. The government ultimately signed off on the project in December last. It is now estimated that it will cost at least €1.5bn and potentially as much as €1.7b.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O'Reilly said this morning that the minister was acting like he wished he could have gone "back in a time machine" and made corrections.

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