Tuesday 21 November 2017

Elusive children's hospital site faces planning hurdle

Fionnan Sheahan and Eilish O'Regan

THE choice of a location for the national children's hospital continues to be shrouded in confusion amid ongoing concerns over planning problems with sites on the shortlist.

The Government still hasn't clarified the role of any new advisers in choosing the location, prompting angry ex-changes between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Mr Kenny accused Mr Martin of calling him a liar as the pair were involved in a spat over the process.

But there is growing speculation that a group of four consultants are now visiting each site on the shortlist.

There are still fears within the Coalition that the selected site for the children's hospital may not overcome the planning hurdle.

Demolished

The focus appears to be on St James's, where sources admit it faces "significant planning issues" if selected.

A planning application for a now abandoned private hospital facility on the same campus met with numerous objections from local residents and TDs.

Three buildings would have to be demolished on the site before construction can begin.

But a spokesman for St James's told the Irish Independent they were confident planning permission will be granted.

Mr Kenny confirmed that former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald was asked for advice on the location of the hospital -- but not by the Government.

The Taoiseach denied the Government or any individual minister has commissioned another report into the location of the children's hospital.

But Mr Kenny did say any contacts with Mr Fitzgerald were informal and within the terms of the Dolphin Group, which is compiling the expert report.

Mr Kenny's comments would suggest the approach to Mr Fitzgerald for help came from the group, although this is not clear. Mr Kenny told Mr Martin there was only one report into the children's hospital by the Dolphin Group.

"When you read the report when it's published, you will see it is right and proper that the Department of Health, with the minister, would ask questions about aspects of the Dolphin report," he said.

"That was in an informal way, as Mr Fitzgerald himself has commented."

The decision to seek more external advice on the location of the hospital is welcome as long as the process is transparent, said Dr Trevor Duffy of Connolly Hospital in Dublin.

Dr Duffy was speaking after Dr Paul McKeown, president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said the most important objective is to get the hospital built.

Dr McKeown said the issue of the best location was one for experts.

"The hospital has to last for 200 years and the decision cannot be made on short-term issues. My sense is that the Connolly proposal has received the most support," he said.

Irish Independent

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