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16.00 10 Feb 2019


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A number of protesters gathered outside the home of Health Minister Simon Harris earlier today.

The demonstration happened at the minister's home in Co Wicklow, where he lives with his wife and three-week-old daughter.

Gardaí were called to the scene.

In a statement, the force said demonstrators left the scene peacefully and enquiries will now be carried out.

A spokesperson for Minister Harris said: "The incident has now concluded.

"The Minister would like to thank An Garda Síochana for their assistance and in ensuring his wife and daughter's safety."

Minister Harris' Fine Gael colleague Noel Rock criticised the demonstration, insisting everyone is entitled to a private life.

Deputy Rock claimed: "This isn’t on and should be condemned by all who favour democracy."

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter: "Targeting the minister's private family home is wrong... hope he & his family are safe".

Overspend

Recent weeks have seen the minister face increasing political pressure over both the ongoing nurses' disputes and the spiralling costs of the new National Children's Hospital.

The Irish Times today reports that Minister Harris will apologise in the Dáil in the coming days for not providing additional information about the hospital budget when asked in September.

Answering a parliamentary question, Minister Harris told Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen on September 18th that spending to that date was "in line with the expected expenditure profile" and the budget for the project remained just over €1 billion.

Deputy Cowen had asked whether there had been an overspend on the project.

On Thursday, newly-published memos revealed Minister Harris knew of a likely €191m overrun in August last year - as well as a possible additional €200 million claim from a construction company.

Minister Harris ultimately informed the Government of a €450 million overspend in November.

It's now believed the project will cost at least €1.7bn.

The Taoiseach has insisted he still has 'absolute confidence' in the Health Minister, and defended the minister's approach of not alerting the Government until full details became clear.

Leo Varadkar said on Friday: “If Simon Harris had told the Government earlier about the emerging overrun, I would have told him to do exactly what he did."


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