Friday 18 January 2019

Charity boss builds €100k war chest to fight plan

Jonathan Irwin is concerned about access to the site
Jonathan Irwin is concerned about access to the site

Sam Griffin

One of the country's leading children's charities says it is building a €100,000 war chest as part of its battle against building the proposed new National Children's Hospital at the St James's Hospital site.

Local residents, children's rights groups and medical experts are all expected to file submissions objecting to the proposed location of the hospital and calling for it to be built further outside the city.

Jack and Jill founder Jonathan Irwin, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the planned development, said he was reluctantly building up a "fighting fund" to pay for planning experts and other costs associated with compiling an objection to the proposal.

"I've got the unanimous support of all my board. We have a fighting fund that will be there to pay for all the professionals," he told the Irish Independent.

"I reckon it will cost somewhere between €80,000 and €100,000. I don't want to have to spend it but I cannot stand here as the head of one of the biggest children's charities for sick children in this country and let this thing happen, which is going to be there for the next 100 years."

He said the money would not come from the charity's own funds but that he would be writing to friends, supporters and parents against the plan and asking for donations.

Mr Irwin's main concerns are the location and access to the site. Three out of every four families that the charity assists live outside the M50.

He said one of the most important issues for parents of sick children was parking and that the St James's site will have four times fewer spaces than a state-of-the-art children's hospital recently built in the UK.

The plan was also heavily criticised by Dr Róisín Healy, a member of the New Children's Hospital Alliance and a former consultant in emergency medicine at Crumlin Children's Hospital.

She said "children did not come first" in the plan and that there was "no evidence" that clinical outcomes are improved if a children's hospital is co-located with an adult hospital - an argument put forward by those supporting the development. Dr Healy added that it was a "no-brainer" to build it at Connolly Hospital, where the Rotunda maternity service is moving.

Residents' groups are also preparing objections.

Brenda Meehan (60), who lives on O'Reilly Avenue, said her home of 57 years would be "buried" by the new hospital.

"My initial reaction is shock and worry because we just don't know what is ahead of us," she said. She added that she was horrified that the sewer system for the new complex will run within 15 metres of her home.

Irish Independent

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