Heated exchanges on hospital site decision

 

THE TAOISEACH asked the Fianna Fáil leader if he was calling him a liar when Micheál Martin claimed Enda Kenny had misled the Dáil in the ongoing row about the national children’s hospital.

Heated exchanges from Leaders’ Questions spilled over into the Order of Business when Mr Martin asked Mr Kenny to admit he “got it wrong” about the involvement of former Dublin city council manager John Fitzgerald in discussions on the location of the long-awaited hospital.

Mr Martin said he had asked on Tuesday whether an independent person had been approached by the Government or any Minister to assess the hospital’s location, separate from the report prepared by the Dolphin group for Minister for Health James Reilly.

He had claimed Mr Kenny had either deliberately misled the Dáil on Tuesday or was unaware Mr Fitzgerald had been approached for advice on the hospital location.

The Taoiseach told the House on Tuesday no outside advice was being considered, but yesterday said it was right and proper that the Department of Health, with the Minister, should ask questions about aspects of the Dolphin report. “That was in an informal way, as Mr Fitzgerald himself has commented.”

But when Mr Martin said to him, “there is never anything wrong with saying ‘I got it wrong yesterday’”, about Mr Fitzgerald’s involvement, Mr Kenny asked him “are you calling me a liar?”

Mr Martin replied: “I am saying you misled the House yesterday, deliberately or otherwise”. The Taoiseach asked him “can you prove it?”

The row erupted in the wake of reports claiming Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had bypassed Dr Reilly to investigate for himself the best site for the new hospital. The Government denied any breakdown in trust between the Coalition partners and Mr Gilmore said it was not unusual for him to seek such information to be fully briefed.

When Mr Martin initially asked the Taoiseach about reports on Tuesday night suggesting Mr Fitzgerald had been approached for advice, Mr Kenny said he had no interest “in the speculation or the rumour or the innuendo that goes on”.

He told Mr Martin not to be “running away with the illusion” that Dr Reilly “or any other Minister or the Government went off and commissioned an individual or individuals to do other independent assessments of the sites and locations that were mentioned in the Dolphin report.”

Dr Reilly commisioned the Dolphin report after An Bord Pleanála rejected plans for the hospital on the grounds of the Mater.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Government had been in office for 18 months but there had been two reports, a failed planning application and still no decision.