Taoiseach: There are 'one or two companies' I'd like to ban from public service contracts

The Taoiseach has said there are "one or two companies" that he would like to ban from ever getting a public service contract again.

The spiralling costs of building the national children's hospital has dominated questions to Leo Varadkar this afternoon with more pressure being piled on Simon Harris and the Government as a whole from across the opposition.

But Leo Varadkar said accountability does not mean "giving in to the baying mob" after calls were made by Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil for the Health Minister's resignation.

Under questioning on the tendering process for the children's hospital which is currently running €450m over budget, Mr Varadkar said: "Lessons have to be learned by Government and will be learned and among the things we decided to examine at Cabinet this morning was whether in future we should avoid two-phase tenders, there are definitely advantages to it but there are disadvantages too because you don't know the full cost of a project until the second tender comes in."

Mr Varadkar said the issue of low-price tenders will now be looked at and whether projects should be awarded based on median price instead.

"We do have a real concern that some companies are low balling - coming in with very low tender prices to get the contract and then coming back with claims thereafter.

"We also particularly want to look at past form of contractors and public service references because there are one or two contractors who quite frankly I would not like see get a public contract again in this State," Mr Varadkar told the Dail in response to questions from Independent TD Michael Lowry.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed the Government were "paralysed" in relation to addressing the overspend as the project became "too big to fail".

Ms McDonald said the overrun is "not simply about incompetence and bad management... it's also about concealing and failure to reveal the full facts".

She said an apology from Mr Harris is "insufficient".

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