Resignation of senior official from children’s hospital a ‘personal decision’

Taoiseach insists progress being made amid claims of further spiralling costs

The Taoiseach said Paul Quinn had been appointed to the project board in a personal capacity and had resigned in a personal capacity but remained the State’s chief procurement officer. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The Taoiseach said Paul Quinn had been appointed to the project board in a personal capacity and had resigned in a personal capacity but remained the State’s chief procurement officer. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The resignation of a senior official from the national children’s hospital project was a “personal decision”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil as he defended the project and insisted that progress was being made.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who challenged him to explain why the State’s chief procurement officer Paul Quinn had resigned suddenly from the project, at a time when spiralling costs were increasing even further.

The Taoiseach said Mr Quinn had been appointed to the project board in a personal capacity and had resigned in a personal capacity but remained the State’s chief procurement officer.

“That is his decision – it’s a personal decision,” Mr Varadkar insisted.

Mr Martin said the costs spiralled from €650million to €1.4billion in just over two years and these costs did not include other significant spending.

The Fianna Fáil leader asked “why is the State’s chief procurement officer getting off the bus early? Does he know something we don’t know?”

Mr Martin said a report by consultants PwC was a “shocking indictment” because it highlighted a lack of planning, “missed red flags” and poor coordination on spending controls.

He said the latest price of €1.43 billion was only a “best estimate”.

Demand for debate

Mr Varadkar insisted that progress was continuing on the project and scaffolding was now at roof level while the linked services at Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital were developing.

The Taoiseach took a swipe at Fianna Fáil when he said increased estimated on costs included a number a number of ancillary payments for works done on the originally planned site of the Mater Hospital when Fianna Fáil was in government.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett demanded a Dáil debate on the massive over-runs

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it was not good enough for “the Taoiseach to say that it’s ‘not my business’ ”. There had to be greater clarity on the State’s biggest public infrastructure project.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said it was really important that there be a debate this week.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghaíl said “I’d love to know where the time can be found to have the debate”.

The Taoiseach said they would have no difficulty having a debate but the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure and Reform should be given time to “briefed up” on the issue.

He said if there was an interest in genuine accountability or was it merely part of the “political circus”.

Mr Varadkar insisted that Mr Quinn’s resignation happened three months ago and that the Oireachtas health committee had been told of additional claims as happens on projects.

An attempt to have a debate on Thursday on the issue foundered when a vote was called but the Government did not appoint tellers and the count could not go ahead.

The Ceann Comhairle said the business committee would have to look at alternative means to deal with the issue.