Priory Hall a black hole for taxpayers’ money as well as a fire-trap

It now appears the taxpayer will be €40m out of pocket on a €10m job

The site of the national children’s hospital in Dublin’s city centre. The cost of the project has  mushroomed to €1.4bn.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The site of the national children’s hospital in Dublin’s city centre. The cost of the project has mushroomed to €1.4bn. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

You need to be talking billions, it appears, if you want to cause a fuss.

The rapidly escalating cost of Ireland’s new children’s hospital has rightly become a high profile cause of concern. When first awarded to St James’s the estimated cost of the project was €485 million. This has since mushroomed to €1.4 billion. Depressing, yes, but it is far from the most egregious escalation in construction costs.

Earlier this week it emerged that rebuilding the 187-unit fire-trap that was Priory Hall will cost over €50 million. That’s five times the original estimate – as against a factor of around three for the hospital.

More relevant it is a multiple of the €21 million the State expects to be able to make from selling the apartments – even in today’s property market where prices are higher than they were almost a decade ago when Priory Hall unravelled.

Who was keeping tabs on this project as the costs escalated?

Back in 2014, even as work was commencing, it became clear that far more extensive reconstruction was needed, including the removal of foundations. At that time the €10 million initial cost was raised to €27 million.

This was never going to be retrieved in apartment sales. Instead of just shrugging shoulders and ploughing on, would it not have been better to make a decision to demolish the lot and start again

In the end, with bank charges and other costs, it now appears the taxpayer will be €40 million out of pocket on a €10 million job.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that when it comes to infrastructure planning and construction we fall far short on rigorous project management and accountability.

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