History of hospital marked by much drama and passionate debate
Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30
The history of the national children's hospital, which has been dragging on for decades, has been littered with enough drama for a soap opera - complete with feuds over the site, dramatic rejection of locations, political intrigue and shock resignations.
The proposal for a new children's hospital, first mooted in 1993, gained momentum in 2005 when former health minister Mary Harney reviewed paediatric services.
A 2006 report recommended one hospital. The general aim was to have it in place by 2012.
At that stage it was conceded the existing children's hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght were not fit for purpose.
The Mater was earmarked as the site by a task force but it sparked allegations of favouritism because it was in the constituency of the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He had worked as an accountant there in an earlier life.
The opening date was put back to 2014 and then 2016.
It was hit by a bombshell in 2010 when the chairman of the hospital development board Philip Lynch resigned, saying he no longer had faith in the Mater site.
The following year, the next chairman John Gallagher resigned, saying there was a risk of incurring further ongoing costs in the project without full government support.
The biggest setback came in 2012 when the Mater site was rejected by An Bord Pleanala. Former health minister James Reilly said he was asking a review group to look again at the Mater site. It was then decided to ask a group of experts, chaired by Frank Dolphin, looked at various sites.
This led to St James's site being chosen. It did not stop the passionate debate about the location and calls for greenfield and brownfield sites.
The development board overseeing was revamped. It included two heavyweights from the construction industry, including Tom Costello a former managing director of John Sisk and John Pollock, who had more than 30 years' experience of the Irish and international building industry. Their stewardship is behind much of the success in getting the eventual planning permission to build it St James'.
The new timeline for opening the hospital is 2020.
In the meantime, children will be treated in the existing outdated facilities, a delay that might well have been avoided.