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Funds pledge for a Children's hospital in Blanchardstown

A CHARITY boss says a philanthropic group has offered to fund the construction of the new national children's hospital, but only if it's located in Blanchardstown.

Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation, said he was approached months ago by a group willing to put up hundreds of millions of euro for the project.

Developer

Mr Irwin and hospital developer Jimmy Sheehan have held meetings with an Irish representative of the organisation.

A site on the St James's Hospital campus has already been identified as the location for the new facility and the choice was approved by Cabinet.

However, Mr Irwin believes land beside Connolly Hospital in Dublin 15 is the better option. He had his first meeting with representatives of the European-based group in January.

When he told them the total cost of developing a new facility beside Connolly, they replied they could do that, Mr Irwin told the Herald.

While not knowing the identity of the organisation, he said "their idea is to build children's hospitals around the world wherever they feel there is a need for it".

"Quite obviously there is a serious need here. Ireland might be a pilot for their construction plans. (St James's) is absolutely not the right place," he added.

He admitted the pledge of funding is no more than a "promising situation" at the moment.

Mr Irwin, whose charity cares for very sick children, is aware there would be a perception of "parish pump politics" if Health Minister Leo Varadkar - whose constituency is in Dublin 15 - sought to review the Cabinet decision.

Blanchardstown is also in the constituency of the Tanaiste, Joan Burton.

Mr Irwin believes the site for a centralised paediatric unit at St James's is will prove "a minefield". His criticism came as it emerged the nearly €40m spent on the failed bid to build the hospital at the Mater has been being written-off.

The sum was revealed in a report by Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy into the development board set up to oversee the long-delayed project.

Promises

The costs included almost €25m on business services, €6m on design and €3m on project management.

An application for permission to build the hospital at St James's won't be ready until next year, prompting doubts over whether it can be completed by the 2018 target.

comurphy@herald.ie


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