Hospital shell in Cowen town 'an eyesore'
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen's adopted hometown of Tullamore has its own relic of the Celtic Tiger -- the shell of a planned private hospital.
The unfinished structure is clearly visible to passing motorists on the outskirts of the town, where it has lain idle for the past two years.
It had attracted backing from the Mater Private, which intended to promote the 70-bed private hospital as a centre of expertise for various specialities.
But talks between the developer, John Flanagan Developments, and the Mater Private broke down and building work ground to a halt.
Local Fine Gael councillor Thomas McKeigue described it as a relic of the Celtic Tiger.
"It's a horrid-looking site on the bypass. It would have been brilliant for Tullamore if went ahead and we were assured it would have led to 300 jobs," he said.
The Wellwood health campus project in Co Offaly attracted cross-party support when it sought planning permission in 2007 -- with local councillors approving a material contravention of the development plan.
They rezoned the 22-acre residential and leisure site beside the Midlands Regional Hospital so that it could be used for healthcare.
On completion of of the private hospital, the plan was to build a hospice, a nursing home and a convalescent unit in the second phase.
The project was the brainchild of John Flanagan Developments, which was founded by former Fianna Fail councillor John Flanagan. It is now run by his son John.
The company owns 62.5pc of Tullamore Court Hotel, which was opened in 1996.
It had to go through a complex process to assemble the 22-acre site. It bought land from the local council for around €2m and it had to relocate both the Tullamore soccer club and the Glenwood factory to other sites in the area.
But this was seen as a boon to Tullamore soccer club in particular -- which now possesses a €7m facility with three pitches (two of international standard) and a modern clubhouse.
One local source said it was an "unbelievable" facility which would be the envy of any football club in the country.
When construction work began on the private hospital, generous tax breaks were still available.
But Finance Minister Brian Lenihan ended the tax breaks for private hospitals in his supplementary Budget in April last year. It is not known if the Wellwood health park plan qualified for tax breaks.
John Flanagan Developments could not be contacted for comment about the future of the half-built hospital.
But the company has told the 'Tullamore Tribune' newspaper that talks were taking place which could rescue the project.
However, no details of a new investor have yet emerged.