Jack & Jill founder takes ‘graceful’ exit from children’s hospital fight

The founder of the Jack & Jill Foundation said he is “withdrawing gracefully” from his public campaign opposing the location of the new children’s hospital at the St James’s Hospital site in Dublin.

Jack & Jill founder takes ‘graceful’ exit from children’s hospital fight

Jonathan Irwin said the foundation is not party to a move by another group, Connolly for Kids, which is examining the possibility of taking legal action against the Government’s decision to fund the new hospital at the St James’s site.

“We don’t have the funds for that. We need the money we have to continue to provide a service for sick children,” Mr Irwin said.

He described this week’s announcement of Government funding for the new hospital at St James’s as “appalling” and a “horror story”.

However, he said the foundation had “fought the good fight since 2012” and they will now “withdraw quietly”. “We put our case to Fine Gael and they didn’t support us,” Mr Irwin said.

He said the Government has “already spent more than €100m on trying to build a children’s hospital with not a brick in the ground”.

This includes €40m written off at the site originally chosen at the Mater Hospital which was shot down by planners in 2012 and another €62 million spent until the end of 2015 on preparing the St James’s site.

Mr Irwin said it is his belief that locating the hospital at St James’s will eventually become the subject of a Government inquiry given the amount of money spent and the estimated final cost of more than €1 billion — which will include two satellite centres at Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

He said the 2,500 parents of sick children associated with the foundation are gutted that the hospital isn’t being built on the 145-acre Connolly Hospital campus which has plenty of room to host a co-located maternity hospital, and which isn’t dogged by access and parking problems. But no-one has interviewed those parents, he said “even though they are among the most frequent users of children’s hospitals.

“I look after sick children in great numbers, why wouldn’t they talk to us?” he said.

The new hospital will have 1,000 car park spaces but less than one tenth (325) of those are reserved for its 3,600 staff.

Mr Irwin, who was at Hayfield Manor in Cork to take part in an afternoon tea party as part of the foundation’s 20th-anniversary celebrations, said building the new hospital at St James’s is like “throwing children right into the middle of the most congested city in Europe”.

Speaking at a vaccine information event at the RCPI in Dublin, Health Minister Simon Harris said: “The Government’s made a decision, this debate has been going on for so long, so many different sites, and all along children in this country are being deprived of the world class facility they deserve. I really want to see that happen, yesterday we gave it the green light, we’ve pressed go, the sod will be turned within the coming weeks, and we’re going to get on it and build this hospital.”

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