Friday 19 January 2018

Alternative plan for 'super-morgue' after €4m loss to taxpayer

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE Government is revisiting plans for a state-of-the-art laboratory for the state pathologist and the Dublin coroner.

Three years ago, former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern turned the sod on a €14m office for the state pathologist and vowed it would be "a world-class facility that will serve the operational needs" of the capital's pathologists and coroners for decades to come.

Instead, the taxpayer has been left nursing losses of almost €4m on the super-morgue – which was to be built on the site of the O'Brien Institute in Marino – after bust developer Bernard McNamara was placed into receivership by toxic loans agency NAMA in 2010.

Earlier this month, senior justice officials were grilled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Dail over a series of costly building projects, including the now-demolished Marino site and €2m which was spent by the Department of Justice to lease and fit out a building that cannot be used because it has no planning permission.

During the hearing, secretary general Brian Purcell denied that the department was "cavalier" in its handling of properties after PAC chair John McGuinness TD remarked that there appeared to be a "loose history" in relation to its management of properties.

The Department of Justice was 70pc owner of the state laboratory project and had spent €2.8m on the planned site when Mr McNamara was placed into receivership.

Axed

Its junior joint-venture partner, Dublin City Council (DCC), was hit for €1m, costing the taxpayer a total of some €4m.

By the time the department got around to completing a new tendering process, the project had to be axed because its capital budget was cut.

Now the department has told the PAC that an alternative proposal is being pursued for the new state laboratory – the former Whitehall garda station.

"Subject to further assessment of the suitability of the site and a full analysis of the likely costs involved, this option may be the best way to ensure that the current highly unsatisfactory State Pathology and Coroner's facilities are replaced at the least costs to the State in the shortest time period," the department has told the PAC.

DCC retains some €792,730 from funding allocated to the original project including the remainder of a security bond paid by the Project Bonds Man, the department added.

DCC has already demolished the Marino site, whose early stage structure was partially completed when Mr McNamara's business empire collapsed.

Due to weathering, the site was a health and safety risk.

Irish Independent

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