Monday 27 January 2020

Children deserve better

Madam -- The political chicanery, for that's what it was, to build the new national children's hospital on an inappropriate site in the Dublin Central constituency (ie in you-know-who's backyard) has spectacularly misfired (Sunday Independent, February 26).

It is the most important hospital construction in the history of the State, and yet successive governments didn't have the will to overturn the original flawed decision to shoehorn this major development into a cramped Mater site. What does Minister Reilly say now to the ham-fisted effort by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board to unduly influence An Bord Pleanala by issuing a call for tenders on December 23, 2011, exactly two months prior to a planning decision being made.

While I wholeheartedly agree that the process to build the new Children's Hospital has taken far too long and that the children of Ireland deserve a world-class centre of excellence, the series of delays and setbacks that occurred, including the resignations of not one, but two, respected chairpersons, must force one to conclude that on many levels, the thinking and planning in relation to this site were fundamentally flawed and -- as one former chairperson has stated -- choosing the Mater site was "a political decision".

In spite of what has been claimed in the media, the recent review by a panel of international experts did not examine other sites in any detail in terms of suitability, so the statement that "an international expert group unanimously had backed the Mater site as best for the facility" is erroneous.

Unlike successive governments, An Bord Pleanala have made the correct and not the convenient decision. Shooting the messenger, as many are seeking to do, rather than placing the blame firmly at the door of those who have presided over this ill-conceived debacle is unfair and unwarranted. The news that this week a group chaired by a former chairperson of Temple Street Hospital, who is also a former member of the Mater Hospital board, will meet to make recommendations to a minister who is now making noises about a scaled-down version of the National Children's Hospital on the Mater site does not inspire confidence that lessons have been learned.

Minister, as a matter of extreme urgency you need to reverse the decision of the previous government and move swiftly to give the children of Ireland a centre of excellence that we can all be proud of, not some slimmed-down version for political expediency. Our children deserve better than what this interminable process has been to date.

Prof Mark Lawler,


Dublin 8

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