Children's hospital decision by three weeks, says Kenny

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said the Government is considering one report only in deciding the location of the new national children’s hospital as the Coalition denied there were any divisions over the issue.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil this afternoon he did not deal in “anonymous” reports and said a decision on the preferred location would be made within the next three weeks.

His comments follows a newspaper report today that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had bypassed Minister for Health James Reilly to investigate for himself the best site for the new hospital. Mr Gilmore’s advisers met bidders to discuss the best location for the new children’s hospital.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin claimed there was a breakdown in trust between the coalition partners over the controversy.

But Mr Kenny said there was only one project and one report commissioned on the site for the hospital.

Outside advice on the issue would not be considered he said. The Minister for Health would brief both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on the Dolphin report and its recommendations on the preferred site, which would then be brought to Cabinet for a decision.

Mr Gilmore this afternoon insisted “there is no question of any lack of trust” between the Labour Party and the Minister for Health. The Tánaiste denied it was unusual for him to commission his own report into the location of a new children’s hospital or any other Government decision.

The Opposition has claimed the confirmation that Mr Gilmore had separate research carried out demonstrated the Tánaiste no longer trusted Dr Reilly

“There’s trust. There’s no question of any lack of trust. This is about making sure we make the best decision in the interests of the public. I’m not approaching this issue any different to any other major decision,” the Tánaiste said.

A Labour source this morning confirmed Mr Gilmore had had the research carried out and there had been contacts with the hospital involved. The Irish Independent today reported the Tánaiste had conducted his own research on hospital location.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said he did not think there was a rift. “I think James Reilly has a very difficult job. The health services are in a very distressed state as we all know. . . . We’re trying to get it back on track.”

Mr Quinn said he was not aware of a report commissioned by Mr Gilmore.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the issue was not causing a division. “As far as I understand it, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister Reilly are due to meet to discuss the report and then the Minister will make his recommendation to Cabinet,” he said.

“I am not aware of any ill-feeling between the parties - there has been no discussion in the Cabinet yet.”

It is not known whether Dr Reilly or the Department of Health were aware Mr Gilmore was having his own research conducted. Sources in the department, speaking on a preliminary basis, said the first they knew of it was this morning.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on health, Billy Kelleher, contended the development had painted a “very grave picture” of the state of affairs in the Department of Health.

“The Tánaiste has conducted his own research into possible sites for the new Children’s Hospital without reference to the Minister for Health and it proves there has been a fundamental break down of trust within the Government.

“It is obvious that the Tánaiste is no longer willing to take the Minister for Health at his word. Quite simply, the Tánaiste no longer has confidence in him.

“This situation is simply untenable. There is no way that Dr Reilly can be an effective Minister if his colleagues at Cabinet don't trust him. He is clearly isolated and fatally undermined following the series of crises that have characterised his tenure. If the Tánaiste and the Labour Party don't trust him, why should anybody else?"

An independent expert group was set up to find a site for the facility when planning permission was refused for a site next to the Mater Hospital in Dublin’s north inner city.

The Dolphin Report did not rank the different locations but left it up to Dr Reilly to make a recommendation to Cabinet.

The favourites are said to be St James’s Hospital in the south inner city and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, although the site chosen originally, at the Mater hospital, remains in consideration.

The matter cannot be considered by Cabinet until a meeting takes place between Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Tánaiste and Dr Reilly. It was scheduled to take place last week but was deferred on the basis of the Taoiseach’s foreign travel over the past five days. That meeting is now expected to take place later this week.

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