Sinn Féin to table no-confidence motion in Simon Harris

Minister for Health under pressure over delay in telling Cabinet about children’s hospital cost escalation

Minister for Health, Simon Harris  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Health, Simon Harris Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin will table a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Health Simon Harris next week.

The party said Mr Harris’s offer to correct the Dáil record over statements he made about the national children’s hospital in September “is all very well, but it is no substitute for political accountability”.

Mr Harris has been under pressure after memos released by the Department of Health showed he knew about a €391 million cost overrun in the hospital as early as August but did not tell his Cabinet colleagues until November.

As a consequence the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe did not factor in the cost overrun into his 2019 budget and €100 million of savings will have to be found elsewhere from other capital projects.

In a statement issued through Twitter on Monday, Sinn Féin said: “We have to have political accountability for this gross mismanagement of our public finances, which will have a knock on effect on other capital projects across the state.”

The cost overrun on the national children’s hospital has become an embarrassment for the Government rising from €670 million in 2016 to €1.7 billion currently, and it could go above €2 billion before the hospital is built in 2022.

Sinn Féin added: “Simon Harris misled the Dáil, his misled his government colleagues during crucial budget negotiations, he misled Fianna Fáil during negotiations on the renewal of confidence and supply and, most seriously, he misled the public.

“His position is untenable and Sinn Féin will table a motion of no confidence in him”.

Fianna Fáil is unlikely to support a motion of no-confidence as it could lead to a general election at a time when the country is preparing for Brexit.

Sinn Féin is expected to table the no confidence motion on Wednesday, February 20th.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the issue was the “competence of the Mnister”.

“In any other walk of life if a person in a position of senior responsibility messed up on such a scale would we be having a debate about that person staying in their post? There has to be accountability,” she said.

“The public deserve full and clear accountability. Simon Harris has to go.”

Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland if something goes “catastrophically wrong,” people need to be held to account.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Sinn Féin motion had no chance of passing and was “a stunt”.

“People sometimes ask the question: ‘Why does nobody want to share Government with Sinn Féin?’ This is a good example of why,” he added.

“We are just over 45 days to go to Brexit, we are trying to resolve with nursing unions the real concerns that they have with the government through the Labour Court and hopefully we will make progress on that. We have big things that we need to resolve as a country and what do Sinn Féin do? They try to pull the whole thing down with an election stunt which is what this is and which is not going to be successful.

“Ironically, if they thought that Fianna Fáil would support them they probably wouldn’t go ahead with this. I don’t think anybody - even Sinn Féin - thinks we should have an election right now,” he said.

“But they are looking for attention and they are playing politics with important issues which, unfortunately, this is another example of Sinn Féin trying to play the man rather than the ball.

“I think most people see this as a stunt which is what it is.”