Minutes from the board of the National Children's Hospital showed the Government's focus was on controlling the message, not the cost, the Dáil has heard.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin highlighted the lead story in yesterday's Irish Examiner which referenced minutes which showed members discussing the need to defend cost increases with the project and the need for confidentiality around the numbers.
Mr Martin said minutes of the joint construction and finance subcommittee of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on August 30 last were particularly revealing, showing significant unease and concern about escalating costs and also reveal significant efforts to keeps the news under wraps, “including approximately 25 members signing confidentiality clauses”.
That meeting took place three days after the Minister for Health was told of a potential overspend of €391 million, he said.
In tetchy exchanges during Leaders' Questions, Mr Varadkar accused Mr Martin and the Opposition of “spinning yarns”.
“Once again, this sounds like one of the Deputy's conspiracy theories. There are no politicians or political advisers on this board or any of those committees.
"If the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board had a PR or communications plan to explain the increased costs of the children's hospital, it did not do a very good job of it, quite frankly," the Taoiseach said.
With reports of a PR firm being hired very early on in the National Children's Hospital debacle, it's clear that this Government is more concerned with protecting its image than giving citizens value for money. pic.twitter.com/Ac8SgRcwPL— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) February 19, 2019
One of the reports from the meetings indicates the increased costs were inevitable, the Taoiseach said.
“I think it is probable that what has happened here is that the cost of building this project, this massive hospital, this very complex development, was underestimated. This is not a case of taxpayers' money being wasted,” he added.
The Dáil also heard of a case of a young mother refused a termination despite being given a tragic diagnosis in recent weeks.
Named as 'Mary' she and her partner had to make the difficult decision to go to England to have an abortion.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said despite the referendum last May and legislation through the Oireachtas, women are still being denied the care to which they are legally entitled.
A number of women contacted her including 'Mary' who was denied a termination for medical reasons as she was over 12 weeks.
I just raised the case of a woman who had to travel for a termination following a diagnosis of Edward's syndrome despite #repealthe8th. Culture in the hospitals & inadequacy in the law causing this. Taoiseach evaded it by raising disability! #dubw #LQs— Ruth Coppinger (@RuthCoppingerSP) February 19, 2019
“There are worrying signs that women are still being forced abroad. Three had to go to England to obtain an abortion for medical reasons."
The woman presented at Portiuncula Hospital, Co Galway for a scan where complications were discovered.
Doctors said they could do nothing for her.
'Mary' was handed the name of three hospitals in the UK and claimed she was “treated like a leper”.
She contacted the HSE who referred her to University Hospital Galway but was again told an abortion was not possible.