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St James's back in frame as hospital saga drags on

SENIOR government sources today indicated that recommendations in the Dolphin report supporting St James's Hospital will "hold the most weight" as the Cabinet prepares to decide on the National Children's Hospital site.

The location of the badly- needed facility topped the agenda at this morning's Cabinet meeting with a majority of ministers backing the St James's site.

Proponents of St James's were handed a major boost after it emerged a leaked copy of the Dolphin report has placed the city site as its preferred location.

The report suggests that the medical and research facilities at the Dublin 8 hospital provide "the best fit".

And in further good news for the bidder, Dublin City Council stated that it is satisfied the proposal will be given the green light by planners.

Senior Government sources have now admitted that St James's is "the clear favourite" but warned that a final decision would not be made until the middle of next week.

"The Dolphin report was commissioned for a reason. It clearly shows favouritism towards St James's on medical grounds and the range of specialities there. At this point, St James's holds the most weight," one Cabinet source said.



Fears

However the source was keen to point out that there are "always different views" among ministers and that the report is also favourable towards other locations.

"There has been no definitive decision and that won't be made until next week," another source said.

According to the leaked document, obtained by RTE news, other sites such as the Coombe and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown are better than James's on expansion grounds.

The report narrows the list down to five sites and also includes the Mater and Belcamp on the Northside.

While the matter is set to top the agenda today, a final memo will be brought by Health Minister James Reilly to Cabinet next Tuesday.

Dublin City Council yesterday appeared to allay fears that building the facility on the grounds of St James's could run into planning difficulties. The local authority said that it was satisfied the plans to construct the hospital "within the city boundaries can work from the planning and infrastructure perspective".

Dr John Kennedy, chairman of the medical board of St James's, stated that the best case was put forward by his hospital.

"We certainly think the case that we made in our presentation is an exceptionally strong one," he said."We would very much hope that a careful, considered examination of what is best for children will ultimately show that St James's is by far and away the best site."

However one of the main supporters of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown bid, Fianna Fail councillor David McGuinness, emphasised that favouring the West Dublin facility would result in no planning difficulties being encountered.

"It is clear that high-rise development in the city centre constantly comes under intense opposition. This is why the Mater has been ruled out and why St James's Hospital is risky.

"Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown has the full support of Fingal County Council and has no planning concerns whatsoever," he said.


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