Friday 19 July 2019

Varadkar: Children's Hospital cost overrun due to experts underestimating budget needed

An artist’s impression of the new National Children’s Hospital to be built beside St James’s Hospital in Dublin
An artist’s impression of the new National Children’s Hospital to be built beside St James’s Hospital in Dublin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has claimed the overrun in costs for the National Children’s Hospital is as a result of experts underestimating the budget needed.

During heated scenes in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar and opposition leaders accused each other of engaging in spin over the controversy.

He said TDs are going around the country falsely claiming that other projects have delayed or axed because of the need to funnel money to the Children’s Hospital.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said ministers are trying to pin the problems on civil servants and others but they were “in all the photographs”.

“You said ‘to hell with the costs, let’s get the good story and get it out fast’,” Mr Martin said, adding: “People are quite frankly fed up of yarns, fed up of spin.”

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald rounded on Health Minister Simon Harris, arguing that he should be stand down.

She listed an array of issues facing the health sector including the trolley crisis, waiting lists, CervicalCheck and industrial action.

“On your watch Minister Simon Harris has led our health service into a state of absolute crisis,” she said.

Mr Varadkar launched a defence of his government’s performance, arguing that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were using the Children Hospital controversy for political gain.

“It is probably that what has happened here is that the cost of building this project was underestimated. It’s not a case of taxpayers money being wasted.

“This is a case of the real cost of the project being underestimated. We have seen examples of that in the past with other projects although not in the last decade,” he said.

The Taoiseach added that it was part of Sinn Féin’s “spin” to go claim that projects have been delayed because of the €450m overspend at the hospital. He cited a radio interview Ms McDonald did in Wexford during which she claimed the Enniscorthy flood scheme was delayed.

“I’m going to call it out again: is pure, cynical spin from the opposition,” he said.

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