THE taxpayer will have shelled out over €76m to try to make the ill-fated national children's hospital a reality - even before planning permission is lodged next June, it emerged yesterday.
The long-running saga of the hospital, first announced in 2005, reached another stage yesterday when a team led by UK firm BDP Architects was announced to design the €650m building on the site of St James's Hospital in Dublin.
The first patient will not be treated in the 384-bed hospital before spring 2019 - but even that hinges on whether it will get planning permission and the decision will not come through until the end of 2015.
Project director John Pollock said around €37m will have been spent, mostly on the design team, by next June.
It comes on top of the €39m invested in the failed plan to build it on the Mater site before it was rejected by An Bord Pleanala.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar - now the third minister to announce the hospital - told an advisory panel of young patients yesterday they will have the final say on its design after they spelt out their priorities including privacy for older children, wifi, a play area and parking for their parents.
Mr Pollock said he had huge confidence that the hospital will get the go-ahead this time.The board overseeing the hospital has expertise on planning, construction and procurement, he said.
"The Mater plan failed for one reason only - the site was too small. The St James's site has 12 acres. It has been stress- tested by ourselves and independent architects."
Commenting on recent criticisms about the site, he said it will have 1,000 parking spaces for families which they can book in advance of arrival. However, it will mean fewer spaces for staff although those working overnight will be accommodated.
The hospital will be confined to seven storeys, he said. It will be necessary to "get access to the site right" before applying for planning.
"It is only a mile from the dual carriageway," he added.Two satellite centres for children needing outpatient care will be built in around two years. Mr Varadkar said it now "full steam ahead". He could not pre-emept An Bord Pleanala's decision but a lot of pre-planning discussions had already taken place. Work on the site should start at the end of 2015.
The design will be for all children to be in single en-suite rooms with accommodation for parents. The transition from the existing children's hospitals in Crumlin, Temple St and Tallaght should begin at the end of 2018.