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Editorial: New children's hospital must be fast-tracked

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Health minister Leo Varadkar; Ireland's cancer services are set to be scrutinised this week. Photo: Conor McCabe

Health minister Leo Varadkar; Ireland's cancer services are set to be scrutinised this week. Photo: Conor McCabe

Health minister Leo Varadkar; Ireland's cancer services are set to be scrutinised this week. Photo: Conor McCabe

It is surely time to get on with building the National Children's Hospital.

This is an issue which we have been agonising over for the last 30 years, and while St James's Hospital, Dublin has been selected, there are still those who argue for a 'greenfield' site in Blanchardstown. Health Minister Leo Varadkar has ruled that out, even if it is in his own constituency.

But the news that the Children's Hospital will not be ready until 2019 is surely unwelcome, especially for those who have to grin and bear the facilities currently available in the three children's hospitals in Dublin.

It is no reflection on the staff and supporters of these hospitals, who have worked tirelessly, sometimes in Dickensian conditions, to deal with sick children, many of them suffering from long-term illnesses.

Getting a new hospital up and running is a national priority. Yet we now hear that the proposal still has to go through the labyrinthine planning process.

In the case of the Mater site, planning permission was refused, after a great deal of time, effort and taxpayers' money was spent on a variety of consultants.

Now we are told that the Children's Hospital at its new location in St James's Hospital must go through the same process.

Surely, in the interests of sick children and their parents, this project must be deemed a project of "critical infrastructure" and once plans are drawn up and approved it should be fast-tracked through the planning process?

We are already planning to celebrate the centenary of 1916 in two years' time. Is it too much to ask that a hospital of vital importance should be designated a national priority?

Of course, the job needs to be done, and done properly, as this hospital may have to serve the children of Ireland for the next half century. But accepting that it may not come on stream until the latter half of 2019 - five years' time - is asking a bit much.

Surely the children deserve better and surely some way can be to found to speed up this long-standing project now that the site has finally been agreed?

It is time to stop talking and start building.

 

Plan to part-sell AIB is mixed bag for taxpayer

That the State is preparing to divest itself of a portion of its 99pc stake in AIB is both good and bad news for the taxpayer.

The good news is that as the economy begins to get back on its feet, one of the biggest banks in the country has become a more valuable asset. The bad news is that the taxpayer will be left to foot a bill of €12bn, which is the difference between the cost of the State injection into AIB and what the State is likely to get from the sale.

While the argument over the Bank Guarantee will rage for many years to come, there are few who would argue that AIB should not have been saved. It was the State's leading financial institution and to have let it fail would have resulted in financial chaos for depositors and businesses.

Apart from the taxpayer, the other victims in this affair are not the bankers - many of whom walked away with payouts and pensions - but the shareholders.

Many of the shareholders were not speculators, but invested in bank shares for the dividend.

They will now only recover a tiny fraction of their investment.

Irish Independent