Tuesday 21 January 2020

Jonathan Irwin: It's never too late to say 'No' to something wrong

When it comes to the location of the children's hospital, Jonathan Irwin is certain St James' will fail on planning grounds

Leo Varadkar, who took over the Health portfolio from James Reilly, should reopen the file on the Blanchardstown site for the children’s hospital
Leo Varadkar, who took over the Health portfolio from James Reilly, should reopen the file on the Blanchardstown site for the children’s hospital

Jonathan Irwin

It's ironic that coinciding with Jack & Jill's announcement that we face a €200,000 shortfall in donations this year, which is largely down to the damaging fat-cat mentality once prevalent in CRC and Rehab, the Mater Parking Meter has clocked up €40m for its failed attempt to park the new children's hospital there.

And not an eyelid batted. Our body politic is asleep on this issue.

That's €40m and nothing. Absolutely nothing to show for it. There were some faint political rumblings about clawing back some of the money but that drum is silent now.

€40m would keep Jack & Jill going for 20 years.

But where is that money gone? Who is accountable? If you or I, Citizen Cat, creamed off a €40m bill with nothing to show for it, it's would be P45 time. Not so for the civil servants in control of the purse strings. "The Spokesmen", the top cats. Invisible. And saved by their nine lives. They simply lick their paws and move onto their next Cat-astrophe. "Oh I know, let's build the children's hospital in St James's car park instead."

What is wrong with these people? Have they bumped their little heads and got concussion? They could write the book on the best approach to failure. 100pc guaranteed.

The St James' site is not the one. Our children deserve better. Much better.

Someone said to me recently that I'm like John the Baptist in the Wilderness. A lone voice, fighting St. James. And I certainly lose my head every time I think about the millions being wasted, going from one disastrous site to another down the road. St James is too congested. Too small. No room for development. Some would like me to shush and not rock the boat, for fear that the whole development will be scrapped if we protest too much. Let them get on with building the hospital, Jonathan. Something is better than nothing.

I don't agree. It's never too late to say 'No' when something is totally wrong.

Thankfully, there's a bit of an echo building up (Prof Jimmy Sheehan is my Marshal von Blucher) and I'm no longer the only voice urging Minister Varadkar to watch the new meter on the proposed St. James's location for the new children's hospital. Also parked in the wrong spot and waiting for a ticket from Bord Pleanala. Some well-known developers have stepped up to the microphone and I applaud that. Indeed, the families supported by Jack & Jill are letting their voice be heard on Facebook, asking why parents weren't consulted.

And I get regular approaches from people within the medical profession too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their funding or losing their head.

I am 100pc certain that St. James' will fail on planning grounds at Bord Pleanala. But why wait until then before looking at other options? It's back to school season and back to business for our political masters. I hope the new Minister for Health is well rested and ready for a fight on this issue come September. They didn't listen on the medical card issue and look where that got them.

The Taoiseach was not too pleased recently when Keith Kissane - a father whose little boy, supported by Jack & Jill - happened to be in Galway University Hospital when the Taoiseach visited, and took the opportunity to say: "Taoiseach. On behalf of the children in the beds of this hospital and all the other hospitals across the country, on behalf of all their parents, on behalf of the consultants, doctors, nurses that work with these children I would like to make the point that the current plan to build the 'New Children's hospital' on the James's hospital site is a farce of a situation and should not be allowed to go ahead when there is a far superior site in Blanchardstown that will get the maximum benefit of the tax funds that are about to be spent to do so.

"We Taoiseach, as the adults of this country, with all our greed as a whole have created what can only be described as a mess of a nation to hand down to the generations that are to follow. The very least we can do for them is to build a children's hospital in a location that will indeed make it the very best that this country can build and give your Government and we, the Irish people, a true legacy to be proud of for decades to come."

Enda Kenny's reaction was swift and negative. So much for approachability.

The good news is that there is a real alternative in Connolly, which is rich in space and expansion room (46 hectares). Just what our sick children need and deserve. The reality at Connolly, which is beside the M50, is that it offers a health campus that can include a modern maternity hospital, a children's hospital and eventually an adult hospital upgraded to a tertiary capability, with unlimited car parking and room to grow and to breathe. And the landlord for this site is the State, and it's right in Minister Varadkar's back yard. So he knows all of this. Our new Minister must not soldier on with the St. James's Reilly site until it is blocked by Bord Pleanala. Just reopen the file on Blanchardstown, Minister. It even provides a helicopter landing option for emergency cases, once you've taken a 
helicopter view of all that it offers.

I would prefer not to continue my role as John the Baptist, but we need more Apostles to speak up and speak out on this issue.

Meanwhile, I must dream up more fundraising opportunities to fill this €200,000 shortfall we face in Jack & Jill, as lobbying about the new hospital doesn't pay the bills.

Our latest fundraiser is our Gala Up the Hill for Jack & Jill in September. People are invited to climb a big hill, small hill, ant hill, treadmill, emotional hill, the choice is theirs for Jack & Jill, and every €16 registration fee funds one hour of Jack & Jill home nursing care for families nationwide.

I would urge Minister Varadkar to tackle his hill of filing waiting for him on the new children's hospital and to re-open the one marked Blanchardstown, please.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss