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Rotunda chief calls for city centre site

SITES in Blanchardstown and Belcamp are not suitable for the new national children's hospital, a senior doctor warned today.

The master of Dublin's Rotunda Hospital has waded into the row over where the facility should be located.

Sam Coulter Smith believes that Connolly hospital is not the right location for the project and has called on the Government to situate the hospital in Dublin city centre.

"As time has gone by, rumours are rife, and no one really understands what is happening as part of the process and again, my feeling would be that clinical needs are paramount. Outcomes are the only things that are important in this situation," he said.

His comments came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to distance his embattled Health Minister James Reilly from the decision-making process by saying that a final selection would be made by the entire Cabinet.

In what is seen as a clear attempt to assert his authority, Mr Kenny insisted that the decision will be a "joint" Cabinet decision.

Dr Reilly will inform ministers in the coming days of the recommendations made by an expert group headed by Frank Dolphin. Mr Coulter believes a joint bid between the Rotunda and the Mater hospital represents the best option as it will ensure the hospital is located along with both maternity and adult facilities.


It's understood that the report -- which examined 40 sites -- favours a site at the Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown. There has also been speculation that the hospital will be located in Belcamp in Dublin North --James Reilly's own constituency base.

However, coalition sources told the Herald today that any such move would be a "PR disaster" as it would reopen the 'stroke politics' health fiasco that has embroiled Dr Reilly in recent weeks.

"With everything that has happened in relation to the primary care sites, Kenny knows locating the hospital in Reilly's constituency would be a disaster. But it all depends on what the expert group says. This will not be a James Reilly decision," a well-placed source explained.

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are due to meet Dr Reilly this week.

"The Minister for Health will bring his recommendations to myself as Taoiseach and to the Tanaiste in the next ten days, and the Government at Cabinet will make a decision," Mr Kenny said.

Connolly is located in the Dublin West constituency of Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

Its bid plans for the hospital being constructed within four years for less than €420m.

The children's hospital was due to be built at the Mater site in the North inner city until An Bord Pleanala rejected the plans earlier this year.

In the aftermath, Mr Dolphin and his team were appointed to carry out a review of dozens of locationst.

While the group did not favour any one site, Connolly, with its 50 acres of free land, is seen by many to tick all the boxes.