Children's hospital 'will go ahead'
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Health Minister Mary Harney have stressed that controversial plans for a new National Children's Hospital in Dublin will proceed.
Ms Harney revealed it was a major priority of hers to build the world-class facility, but revealed she had lost confidence in Philip Lynch's capacity to chair the hospital's development board.
Mr Lynch dramatically revealed he stepped down over significant and fundamental differences with Ms Harney, particularly over funding, planning and design.
The minister maintained she requested the resignation as the respected businessman who wanted to revisit the Government decision on the location of the facility. "The mandate of this board was to build a children's hospital on this site," she said.
Opponents have warned of difficulties with access, traffic and limited space at the planned site, in the grounds of the Mater Hospital in Dublin's north inner city.
Mr Cowen said the project was not in doubt. He said: "Those who are closest to paediatrics, to the provision of necessary services for children, are supportive. As I've explained 24 of the last 25 such projects world wide have been integrated in to adult hospital situations."
Mr Lynch, who resigned on October 5, revealed he had major issues over a substantial funding gap, planning and design challenges, developments at Tallaght and an absence of governance proposals. "It is my opinion that if the above issues are not addressed, the successful delivery of the new hospital, wherever it is located, is at serious risk," he added.
Construction on the new facility, which will merge the three children's hospitals - Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght - on Eccles Street, could start as early as next year. The new hospital is due to be built by late 2014. The board has insisted funding is secure for the 650 million euro project, despite 110m euro still needed from philanthropy and fundraising. Ms Harney insisted the Board, now headed by businessman John Gallagher, was never given the power to revisit the location of the hospital.
Meanwhile Donal Walsh, the head of Temple Street Children's Hospital, said Ms Harney was correct to ask Mr Lynch to resign. He maintained the chairmen of the three national children's hospitals continue to work together to advance the new hospital project.
"The new hospital is hugely important and a necessary initiative for Ireland and the healthcare of Irish children," said Mr Walsh. "It is imperative to combine the services of the three existing national paediatric hospitals."