Capital projects will not be cut or delayed to save €100m for hospital, says Donohoe

Harris describes protest at his house as ‘plain and simple intimidation’

A view of the construction site of The National Children’s Hospital. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

A view of the construction site of The National Children’s Hospital. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has said that other capital projects will not be cut back or delayed in order to save €100 million this year to make up for the overrun on the national children’s hospital.

The Cabinet will on Tuesday discuss how it intends to find the savings from across government departments as part of an effort to cover off the escalating price of the hospital, which is being built on a site on the St James’s Hospital campus in Dublin, and could ultimately cost more than €2 billion.

It is understood that about €50 million of the saving will come from the Department of Health, with the rest being sought from across the other departments.

“We are looking at the profiling of payments across a number of different government departments,” Mr Donohoe told reporters at a press conference in Dublin on Monday night. “There will be absolutely be no cutbacks or any material effects in any projects as a result of this decision.”

Mr Donohoe was repeatedly asked but declined to give any information about the effect of the overrun on the capital budgets of other government departments and that capital projects Ministers were committed to “will be happening” this year.

A protest took place on Sunday outside the home of Mr Harris, who has come under pressure as a result of the overrun and is set to face a confidence motion in the Dáil. About a dozen anti-austerity protesters held banners outside his house in Co Wicklow.

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe outside Government Buildings on Monday night. Photograph: Tom Honan
Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe outside Government Buildings on Monday night. Photograph: Tom Honan

Political debate

Mr Harris said the protest was “plain and simple intimidation of my family, intimidation of my neighbours and intimidation of my community”.

“A legitimate protest is something that has a very important role in a democratic society. What happened yesterday to myself, to my wife, to my young baby and to our neighbours was absolutely not protest. And I really think it raises a very important question about the tone of political debate and discourse and perhaps media discourse in this country as well.”

The protest has been widely condemned, and Mr Harris said he welcomed the support he had received.

“I think it’s about all of us recognising as politicians and perhaps as a media as well that there’s a way to scrutinise and there’s a way to hold to account, not forgetting that at the end of the day that people who do step up to serve the public are just human beings with families.”