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Sunday 22 October 2017

Chairman steps down as minister orders children's hospital review

Eilish O'Regan and Paul Melia

THE National Children's Hospital was plunged into further controversy yesterday after the chairman of its development board dramatically resigned.

Businessman John Gallagher is the second chairman to resign in six months, and his departure follows the angry exit of his predecessor Philip Lynch last October.

The latest row is over the review ordered by Health Minister James Reilly of the planned €650m hospital to be built on the Mater site in Dublin's north inner city. Mr Gallagher says he "no longer feels he has the mandate to continue with his original remit" to build the hospital on the Mater site.

There was a risk of "incurring further material ongoing costs in the project" without full government support, he warned.

He recently met with the new minister and presented him with a report supporting the building of the hospital on the Mater site "in a cost-effective manner". But the minister insisted last night he would continue with his review and said: "I want to make sure we can afford what is proposed."

He wants to satisfy himself that the project will deliver the best quality service for children "within the resources available to the Government".

Strategic

Mr Reilly said on RTE's 'Prime Time' that Mr Gallagher's resignation came "like a bolt from the blue".

He confirmed that his review would take several months and added that "we don't want to start a hospital that we don't have the money to finish".

An Bord Pleanala is expected to decide in the coming weeks if the project is strategic infrastructure -- or a project of national importance -- which would fast-track the planning process.

Around €30m has already been spent on the project. About €100m of the €650m will have to be raised from charitable sources. Mr Reilly was under renewed pressure last night after the board said it was committed to building the hospital on the Mater campus.

A statement from the board said it deeply regretted Mr Gallagher's resignation.

It added: "The project is ready to apply for planning permission through An Bord Pleanala and is on track to be completed by 2015."

Following his review, the minister may look for external consultants to examine the plans before giving it the final green light.

The selection of the Mater site in 2006 provoked strong objections. The previous chairman Philip Lynch resigned after disagreeing with former Health Minister Mary Harney, saying he believed the Mater site was the wrong location.

Irish Independent

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