Simon Harris to face no confidence motion over rising hospital cost

Minister for Health expected to survive vote due to abstention of Fianna Fáil TDs

Minister for Health Simon Harris will on Wednesday face a motion of no confidence, primarily over the failure to control the escalating costs of the new national children’s hospital. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will on Wednesday face a motion of no confidence, primarily over the failure to control the escalating costs of the new national children’s hospital. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris will on Wednesday face a motion of no confidence, primarily over the failure to control the escalating costs of the new national children’s hospital.

The Sinn Féin motion is expected to be well supported in the Dáil but is not likely to be carried due to the abstention of Fianna Fáil, which is propping up the minority Government through a confidence and supply deal.

Fianna Fáil argued that supporting such a motion would lead to a general election at a time when minds need to be focused on resolving Brexit. However, the party has been to the forefront in criticising Mr Harris over his handling of the overspend on the hospital project.

Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, criticised Fianna Fáil’s claim that supporting the motion would cause a general election. The motion is to be debated at about 4pm on Wednesday.

Speaking in advance of the Dáíl debate, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “Fianna Fail can’t have it both ways. They can’t on the one hand occupy the airwaves with a long ochón about Fine Gael and on the other hand say in the next breath we are not going to do anything about it.

‘Game is up’

“On the issue of the election, let us be clear about this. There can only be an election if Leo Varadkar takes a trip to the Phoenix Park. There can only be an election if Micheál Martin decides that the game is up.

“Ministers have already left this administration. It already happened and the Government did not collapse.”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also accused Fianna Fáil of double standards on the issue and contended it was “hiding behind a fig leaf”.

“Why do Fianna Fáil think it would lead to an election?” he asked. “They held the minister for justice to account last year and it did not cause a general election. Parliament holds ministers to account.

“The only person who can call a general election is the Taoiseach. If he thinks it is not the right time for a general election he can (change the minister).”

However, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath strongly rejected the charge, saying the inevitable consequence of his party supporting the no confidence motion would be an immediate general election.

“It’s an act of national sabotage of us as a country if we were to thrust our people into a general election in the middle of March which would be the outcome, let’s be frank, of us supporting a motion of no confidence,” said Mr McGrath.

Reckless

Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil had given a commitment last December it would see the Brexit through at a time of chaos and it would be reckless now for it to do otherwise.

“The party is doing that notwithstanding the Government making life very difficult for us and others to sustain that.”

The cost of the hospital project has risen from an estimated €800 million in 2014, to €983 million in 2017, and €1.43 billion now. Equipping the building and providing IT pushes this bill up to €1.73 billion, but this does not include the cost of family accommodation, a research centre, excess construction inflation and any other changes to clinical standards.