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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Kenny and Gilmore divided on children's hospital as former city chief approached for help

Six-year-old Ella Hendron-Kilcommons, from Dublin, with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Labour TDs Aodhan O Riordain and Ciara Conway at the launch of the party's ad for the children's referendum, in which Ella stars.
Six-year-old Ella Hendron-Kilcommons, from Dublin, with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Labour TDs Aodhan O Riordain and Ciara Conway at the launch of the party's ad for the children's referendum, in which Ella stars.

Fionnan Sheahan, Paul Melia and Fiach Kelly

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are divided over how to make the decision on the children's hospital.

The Government is also understood to still have doubts over the prospects of some of the locations getting planning permission.

A respected former city manager has been approached by officials to advise on planning.

Former Dublin City manager John Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent last night he was not involved in the project "at the moment" but did not rule out advising the Government on the matter.

"If somebody comes to me and asks for advice or guidance, it's something I would have to think about," he said.

However, it is understood an informal approach was made to him by officials close to the project, given Mr Fitzgerald's planning and transportation experience during his time as Dublin City manager and as head of the Limerick Regeneration project.

In a show of strength from the Labour Party leader, the Tanaiste had made no secret within government circles that he was compiling his own research on the locations.

Fine Gael ministers were aware Mr Gilmore was doing his own homework, rather then relying solely on Health Minister Dr James Reilly.

Following the Irish Independent's revelations on Mr Gilmore bypassing the Health Minister on the children's hospital, Mr Kenny is standing by Dr Reilly's process of working off an expert report for selecting a location for the project.

But Mr Gilmore said he wants to have the "best advice" from his own officials, who are taking private soundings on the various locations.

He said it was normal for him to be fully informed on any major decision. "He wants to make an informed decision.

"He wants to go in with the best advice," his spokesperson said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Mr Gilmore's decision to bypass Dr Reilly on the children's hospital decision showed a "fundamental lack of trust" between the pair.

Fortnight

Mr Kenny said the children's hospital decision would be taken in the next fortnight.

However, the work on evaluating the sites is still ongoing. It is understood the expert group evaluating the sites, the Dolphin Group, is still carrying out analysis of the sites.

The group reported to the Health Minister in June but is still carrying out further verification exercises.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore got a briefing on the Dolphin Group report.

The race for the facility is neck and neck between St James's Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, with the Coombe in third place as an "alternative" and the original site at the Mater Hospital in fourth.

But there are still question marks over some of the locations.

The Mater Hospital project was rejected by An Bord Pleanala, and Mr Fitzgerald would be able to offer advice on the issues which might arise during a planning application.

Irish Independent

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