07 February 2017

Today at Leader’s Questions, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach where the extra €350 million for the Children’s Hospital would come from.

The Taoiseach was unable to say where this extra money would come from and referred to the €1 billion sum as speculation. It will have a serious impact on our ability to fund other capital building projects if the shortfall has to be met from other budgets.

Yesterday, Labour Finance spokesperson Joan Burton asked the Budgetary Oversight Committee to examine this issue.

Today Deputy Howlin asked the Taoiseach:

“We learned from media reports over the weekend that the cost of the national children’s hospital has spiralled by almost 50%. As we know, when the planning application for this facility was lodged in 2015 we were told the cost would be €650 million.

“Less than two years later, and after much continued controversy about the location of the hospital, we now have a successful bidder but with a significantly higher cost. That is without taking into account the more than €200 million cost of the fitting out of the hospital. Some serious questions arise. Why have costs escalated to such an extent in less than two years?

“Where will this extra money come from?

“Where will the Taoiseach find the additional €300 million base cost or €500 million, including the outfit cost, for the national children’s hospital?

In response, all the Taoiseach could say was:

“The original costs were €450 million…That rose to €650 million and we now have speculation that it is somewhere under €1 billion.

“It is true to say there are few firms that actually have the competence to build a hospital as complicated and as major as this. It is also true that during the recession, many construction firms tendered under price and many of them went bust as a consequence. I am not suggesting that is the reason for the inflation now but there is an element of construction inflation here. It may well be that in order for the health services to get Government on board they will say they could build for a particular amount. In any event, once we get on that treadmill, things can rise. My understanding is that planning permission has been issued.

“The group involved is appointing a committee of experienced personnel to constantly monitor what will be a fixed contract.
This is a building that will not be finished until 2021. Last year’s estimate of its cost was €650 million. It will be four years hence before that building will be finished. My understanding is that a very significant experienced committee will meet and carefully monitor that fixed price contract. We hope it will serve the children of the island of Ireland for the next 50 years.”

In response to this non-answer Deputy Howlin has said:

“It is not good enough for the Taoiseach not to know how one of the major health project’s in this State will be funded and refer to the projected bill of €1 billion as speculation. The extra costs will create huge uncertainty around budgets and future financial planning for the State.”

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