Mater alternatives ‘to get rid of boom-era land’

A key member of a team tasked with developing the new National Children’s Hospital has claimed some alternative sites to the Mater are only being put forward simply to get rid of costly Celtic Tiger-era land.

Norah Casey, a member of the National Paediatric Hospital development board, made the comment at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s annual delegates conference yesterday.

The Mater location is being reviewed in light of An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of the structure.

Ms Casey, a qualified nurse, who features as an investor on Dragons’ Den, said she still believed the Mater site was the best option.

She described a clutter of recent additions to the alternative site list as just an attempt to pass off costly land initially bought up during the boom but which was now effectively worthless.

“We’re a country that has a lot of sites available at the moment and there are a lot of people with sites they can’t do anything with,” said Ms Casey.

“The statutory instrument [the board] was set up after the site was chosen and our job was to build the hospital, so we inherited the Mater site. But the first thing we did was we went up and had a look at it, we talked to everybody, we read all of the previous reports done by experts — who are better than me, by the way — that said it was the best site.”

Ms Casey said that, in her view, An Bord Pleanála made a mistake in not seeking an input into the Mater site plans before they were finalised.

“Do I wish that An Bord Pleanála had engaged with us? Yes, I do, but that’s not the process. People said ‘oh its terrible, you can see the children’s hospital from O’Connell St’. I have to tell you that’s not a bad thing for a city to be showcasing instead of a rugby stadium.”

The conclusion of the site location review is due to be sent to the Cabinet at the end of this month.

Ms Casey also revealed her heartache at the sudden loss of her husband, Richard Hannaford, to cancer last year at the age of 49.

Ms Casey publicly thanked Blackrock Hospice in Dublin for caring for her husband in his final days and offering support to her and her son, Dara, 13.

Despite her nursing background, she was not prepared for the fatal condition, which struck in just a matter of months. “He died in less than two weeks. Even though you look at me now and say you must have known, I didn’t. I honestly didn’t,” she said.


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