Children’s hospital contractor delaying project, claims Tánaiste

Micheál Martin says Government will not ‘roll over’ and warns SF not to be ‘pawn’ in contractor’s game

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the “bottom line” for delays and increased costs on the National Children’s Hospital is that contractor Bam “has not resourced this project sufficiently for quite some time”.

Speaking in the Dáil, he said the contractor had delayed the project and called on Bam “to resource the site adequately and comprehensively to enable this hospital to be completed as fast as we possibly can.”

He said the deadlines set by Bam were “likely to be part of a commercial strategy by Bam to try and extract more money and funding from the Irish people”.

He said the Government is dealing with the contractor “in a fair manner” but was “not going to say finish at any cost” and would not “roll over” on funding.

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He also warned Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty to be careful that he was not “being used as a pawn” by the contractor following the disclosures at the Public Accounts Committee of further delays and higher costs.

Mr Doherty had described the current situation as “an absolute farce”, adding that the project to build the hospital “has been a slow moving car crash from day one” as costs “continue to spiral for the taxpayer” with “billions and billions of euro being squandered”.

The Government promises continue to be broken “and the safe bet now is that the hospital will not be open for patients until 2026″, he said. Every single target and financial cost has been “broken and surpassed”.

The initial cost of the hospital was supposed to be €650 million but had now increased to more than €2.2 billion and the board overseeing the project “can’t guarantee that it wouldn’t go higher”.

He described the situation as “crazy stuff” and accused the Government over losing all control over the cost and delivery of the project.

“In any other walk of life people would be held to account. But there’s nobody being held to account,” he said. “Not one penalty has been lodged against the contractor because of the delays”.

But Mr Martin said all the deadlines Mr Doherty mentioned were deadlines set by Bam.

There was a “very strong and robust engagement between the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, the Government and Bam” over the costs and delays in the construction.

He said “it’s likely to be a part of the commercial strategy to try and exert the strike more funding and more money from the Irish people”.

Bam had submitted about 2,782 claims, of which 2,182 have been substantiated at a cost of up to €85 million, he said. But he said that 1,890 had been determined with the net result of a €22 million increase.

“For the last number of years has been a very robust engagement through dispute resolution mechanisms. You will cite hundreds of billions that have been submitted in respect of claims but when you actually look at the net outcome of those claims it’s a fraction of the overall cost of the hospital,” he said.

“In other words, there has been a very robust and tenacious engagement between the contractor company in this case, the development board through the various arbitration methods.”

The company had not resourced the site adequately, he said.

Mr Doherty claimed Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly “is asleep at wheel”. He said Mr Donnelly had “not once” met the board of the hospital last year. “That’s how incompetent this Government is.”

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