McGrath calls for probe into children's hospital cost

The independent TD says government politicians are reluctant to take responsibility for what has become a “political and economic nightmare”

A Tipperary TD is calling for an independent examination into the spiralling costs associated with the new National Childrens' Hospital.

Independent deputy Mattie McGrath said there is there is a "growing and visible reluctance" amongst government TDs to take responsibility for the project.

He said what was supposed to be a dream project for the children of Ireland has descended into a “political and economic nightmare.”

“It is now absolutely clear that a tragedy of generational significance is unfolding before our eyes with respect to the National Children’s Hospital,” said deputy McGrath.

“Oireachtas members have been really awakened here to the spiralling costs here,” he said. “It is out of control.”

He said the planned site at St James’s Hospital is unsuitable and claimed a green-field site in Blanchardstown could be used, “for nearly half the cost and build the hospital at least 18 months quicker because of the accessibility and the ease of access.”

Mattie McGrath TD arrives at Leinster House for government formation talks, 20-04-2016. Image: RollingNews

It emerged last week that the planned facility at St James’s - now expected to cost the taxpayer €1bn - will be the most expensive of its kind built anywhere in the world.

The price-tag will also place the facility among the world's 20 most expensive buildings.

The cost of the construction has more than doubled since 2012 when it was expected to cost €404m.

Deputy McGrath said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had distanced itself from the issue and claimed there is no political accountability for a project which, “the dogs on the street can see is going to lead to extremely adverse medical outcomes and totally avoidable deaths.”

“I decided to put down an oral question to the Minister for Public Expenditure because he ultimately is calling the shots on all public spending projects but he has refused to take it,” he said. “He has passed the buck to the Minster for Health,” he said.

“We need accountability. We need the government and the cabinet to pause this project until there is an independent evaluation from outside as to the spiralling costs.”

He said the attitude around the project has become one of, “just get it done and be damned with the costs, we can always put it down to inflation increases plucked from thin air.”

Speaking in the Dáil last week, the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the original cost of the project was estimated when construction inflation was thought to be at 3% adding that “it is now running at higher than 9%.”

She insisted the project will go ahead as planned.

“We absolutely need to have our children’s hospital,” she said. “Of course we will go ahead; it has already begun and will be delivered in the near future and will work according to plan.”