Project Ireland 2040 ‘is not built on a hill of beans’, Tánaiste says

Coveney rejects claim the Government is ‘asleep at the wheel’ over children’s hospital

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has rejected allegations that the Government was ‘asleep at the wheel’ over the spiralling costs of the new children’s hospital. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has rejected allegations that the Government was ‘asleep at the wheel’ over the spiralling costs of the new children’s hospital. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The Tánaiste has rejected allegations that the Government was “asleep at the wheel” over the spiralling costs of the new children’s hospital.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Simon Coveney also dismissed a Fianna Fáil claim that the national development plan Project Ireland 2040 “was to be a panacea for all our ills but now turns out to be built on a hill of beans”.

He was responding to allegations made in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary following comments by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to the Oireachtas budgetary oversight committee that some capital projects in the 2040 plan would face delays and possible changes in scale because of rising costs and a shortage of skilled workers.

The 2040 plan outlines proposals for major infrastructural projects and balanced regional development in the next 20 years. The new national children’s hospital, which is due to open in 2022, is included in the plan.

Mr Calleary said that the huge rise in cost for the new children’s hospital, from €650 million to a projected €1.7 billion, raised concerns about how taxpayers’ money was protected for the other major capital plans in Project Ireland 2040.

“This plan was published with great fanfare, a roadshow and spin, spin, spin,” he said, expressing concern about the future of other key 2040 projects, including Metro Dublin and the National Broadband Plan.

The Mayo TD said that they were only in year one of Project Ireland 2040 and already its first major project had run into major financial problems and was now likely to be the most expensive hospital constructed in the world.

Forward planning

Mr Coveney condemned Mr Calleary’s remarks, saying that Project Ireland 2040 was forward planning for the medium- and longer-term and could not be dismissed like that “because of expected challenges and difficulties in one project”.

He said the children’s hospital was being planned long before the Project Ireland 2040 plan was signed off.

The hospital got the green light in April 2017, after its projected cost had aleady risen to €1 billion.

Mr Coveney said that “it is very clear that the Government is not happy” with the cost of the hospital, and he attributed overruns to factors including staff, consultants, planning, design team fees, risk and contingency planning.

But he stressed that Project Ireland 2040 should not be dismissed as a whole because of problems with one project.

“There are many other projects that are being achieved on time and under budget,” he insisted.