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No more reviews on children's hospital, insist health bosses

THE Department of Health was today forced to deny that any further review would be carried out on proposed locations for the new children's hospital.

The statement came after earlier reports officials were carrying out yet another review of sites in the capital.

It had been speculated that former Dublin City Manager John Fitzgerald has been approached to provide advice on planning matters.

The claims followed 24 hours of widespread confusion which culminated in Enda Kenny pledging that a decision will be made on the location of the new hospital within "two-three weeks".

But a spokesman for Health Minister James Reilly today categorically ruled out any further review.



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"The reports that we are carrying out a review are incorrect. There are no further reviews either planned or being carried out," he told the Herald.

"The statement in the Dail by Taoiseach Enda Kenny -- that a decision will be made within two-three weeks -- still stands," he added.

And the spokesman also rejected a claim that officials behind the project had approached John Fitzgerald in order to gauge his views on planning aspects relating to the sites in question.

"John Fitzgerald has not been approached and I understand that he too has come out and denied that he has been asked to be part of any review," the spokesman said.

However Mr Fitzgerald, who was previously head of the Limerick regeneration project, did however indicate that he would be willing to assist the Government if asked to do so.

"If somebody comes to me and asks for advice or guidance, it's something I would have to think about," he said.

The denials from the Government come following 24 hours of widespread confusion and controversy surrounding the future of the hospital.

It's now emerged that Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore were briefed on the optimum sites by the expert group as far back as June.

And it comes a day after it emerged that Mr Gilmore and his own officials held meetings with a number of bidders.

The news has been seen in Government circles as an attempt by the Labour leader to "reassert his authority" after Roisin Shortall's resignation.

But it is also seen as an attempt to undermine Dr Reilly, who was blamed by Labour figures for Ms Shortall's decision to quit.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Mr Gilmore's moves showed that there is a "fundamental lack of trust" between the pair.

However a spokesperson for Mr Gilmore said there was nothing wrong with taking private soundings in order to be "fully informed".

"He wants to make an informed decision. He wants to go in with the best advice," he said.

There have been a number of delays in the long-running saga to build the badly-needed new children's hospital.

Dr Reilly stated in early June that he would bring a recommendation to the Cabinet within weeks.

However this deadline has been constantly put back and Cabinet will now not formally meet to discuss the proposed options until next week.

The entire project was thrown into disarray in March when An Bord Pleanala rejected the Mater site -- forcing the Government to go back to the drawing board.

hnews@herald.ie


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