Sunday 17 November 2019

Children first

• Horror does not begin to describe my feelings in reaction to your story (Irish Independent, October 23) that the children's hospital has become a bone of 'divergence' between the unhappy partners in this threadbare Coalition.

Since the project first saw the light of day, I have always been an advocate of the Tallaght campus.

However, like everybody else seriously interested in this absolutely essential endeavour for the children of our nation, I have always been willing to accept the ultimate assessment of a truly independent expert review.

We were promised that during the last general election campaign. In due course, the new Health Minister flew in two groups of experts to provide just that.

One, chosen by the Department of Health, examined the issue of location -- and, to nobody's surprise, rubber-stamped the Mater site. The other consisted of the CEOs (ie, 'on the ground', day-by-day managers) of four of the top children's hospitals in the world.

This group had no function with regard to the geographical location but it identified no fewer than 14 very serious issues, some major and some not so major, in the inadequate design and likely malfunctioning of the hospital -- as planned. These, they said, needed to be addressed immediately.

The common-sense action would then have been to tell the Development Board to address these fundamental issues (which your readers can find on the Department of Health or the HSE websites).

Instead, within days, when the four CEOs had hardly re-boarded their planes, James Reilly ordered the Development Board to lodge a planning application -- based on the 'old', totally un-amended plans and design.

After six months delaying the project still further, and the expenditure of considerable sums, this application was refused by An Bord Pleanala.

Eventually, the minister appointed the Dolphin group to make a recommendation -- within weeks. Now, seven months later, we find that regardless of the intrinsic merits of any of the tabled bids or proposals, the project has become a battleground in the internecine domestic war within the Coalition.

Children will suffer all their lives -- or even die -- because this project has again and again been postponed.

They, their parents, relatives and friends can hardly be expected easily to forgive those politically responsible. Or should that be 'irresponsible'?

Maurice O'Connell
Tralee, Co Kerry

Irish Independent

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