We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The emergency department in the hospital as seen during a visit by The Journal last November.
Public Accounts Committee

Tánaiste accuses NCH builders of engaging in strategy 'to try and extract more money from the Irish people'

BAM said in a statement this afternoon that suggestions it has not adequately resourced the project were “completely untrue”.


TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has hit out against BAM, contractors of the National Children’s Hospital, telling the Dáil that the company is likely engaging in a commercial strategy “to try and extract more funding and more money from the Irish people”.

His comments come after the the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told today that patients will not be seen in the new hospital until August 2025 at the earliest.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) told TDs that the hospital will not meet its scheduled completion date of 29 October.

The committee was told that February 2025 is now a more realistic completion date for the hospital according to the contractor. 

David Gunning, CEO of the NPHDB said the board is using “all possible contractual levers” to pressure contractors BAM into completing the project as soon as possible.

Gunning said he believes it is possible to deliver the hospital in February – but he also added that he could not give 100% certainty in that date. 

He queried the resources on site, such as workers, stating that more needs to be done on site to meet that date. 

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty asked Martin about the delays during Leaders’ Questions today, with Doherty describing it as a “slow moving car crash”.

“This hospital is urgent for the children of Ireland,” said the Tánaiste.

Martin told Doherty in the Dáil that he should not to become a “pawn” in a commercial strategy by BAM “to try and extract more money from the Irish people”.

The Tánaiste said the contractor has been delaying the project by “not been resourcing the contract adequately”, a claim that BAM said was “completely untrue”.

“You are playing that game,” he told Doherty, stating that the new deadlines are not government deadlines, but timelines being set by BAM alone.

Martin called on the opposition to “back the government and not fall for the game of this commercial strategy”. 

Screenshot - 2024-05-30T135534.368 Tánaiste speaking in the Dáil this afternoon. Oireachtas Oireachtas

“I am not going to take the bait and I suggest you don’t take the bait either,” he told Doherty. 

“The bottom line is BAM has not resourced this project sufficiently for quite some time 

“I would call on BAM to resource the site adequately and comprehensively to enable this hospital to be completed as fast as we possibly can,” said Martin. 

He said the government has been dealing with the project “in fair manner”, but added: 

We are not going to say finish this at any cost.

Martin said the each of the 785 claims from BAM have been arbitrated to make sure the taxpayer gets value for money but “we are not going to roll over on the contractual engagements with BAM”. 

The PAC heard today that once the hospital is completed, it will take another several months until the hospital can treat patients as it will need to be commissioned.

BAM said in a statement this afternoon that suggestions it has not adequately resourced the project were “completely untrue”. 

In fact, the construction company said it had resourced the building of the hospital “beyond the level required for the original programmed works”. It said this was “largely to cope with the high level of design change and disruption”. 

“To accommodate the level of ongoing design change and the implications this has on the delivery of our agreed work programme, the project is currently resourced at 54% above the anticipated levels for this stage,” the company said.

The statement added that the company has been receiving “weekly” design change orders throughout this year and that this has been the main reason behind delays.

Patients being seen

Under questioning by Labour’s Alan Kelly, Gunning said “we don’t have a programme, we have a date” from the contractors, BAM.

He said he did not have the detail from the contractor on when the hospital will be open.

A principal officer in Department of Health, Eamonn Quinn told PAC that it would take six to nine months to commission the hospital after its completion, stating that it will be August 2025 before patients are admitted.

The board told politicians that the “primary driver” for the cost increase on the project has been the ongoing delay to the completion of the project.

Gunning said he did not believe the project will reach €3bn – it current stands at €2.24b.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked the board today why it wouldn’t “crack the whip” and get the contractors to complete the project by using sanctions and penalty clauses contained in the contract. 

Gunning said “all options are on the table”.

As reported by The Journal earlier this week, the National Office of Clinical Audit has warned that more staff need to be recruited to work in the critical care unit of the hospital in order to “safely” maintain the current number of beds, and to achieve the planned increase in beds.

It is understood that Children’s Health Ireland have carried out recruitment trips outside of Europe in locations including India and Dubai in order to find staff to work at the new hospital when it finally opens.

Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh said “God Almighty, if you’re a parent looking in here and you had a child with complex needs” you would not be hopeful.

To see the dates slipping away and be attending meeting after meeting, it is very dispiriting, said Ó Cathasaigh.

Gunning said the original deadline for completion was August 2022, which was then pushed out to November 2022 due to Covid-19. 

The November 2022 date is the one that stands, and any penalties within the contract, is counted from that date. He said there is a process that will take place after the completion of the hospital in terms of the disputes over the completion date, which Gunning said he had not doubt would be contested by BAM. 

“I can guarantee it will be a contested process,” he said. Ó Cathasaigh said such a process will again cost time and money.

Future Contracts

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Micheál Martin was asked today about BAM receiving future Government contracts. 

The company has recently been given the cross-border contract for the €60m Narrow Water Bridge project in Co. Louth and the tendering process for the National Maternity Hospital is currently underway. 

Martin said it would not be possible to disallow contractors who have previously not delivered on budget or on time, from receiving future government contracts because of the existing European public procurement framework.

“I’m not commenting on any other contracts. There are set rules for the awarding of contracts. It is not appropriate for politicians to get involved with the awarding of contracts,” he added.

With reporting from Jane Matthews.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.