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Leo Varadkar says it is 'scandalous' that the Children's Hospital cost estimations were so far off

Speaking about Brexit, the Taoiseach also said that he’s “not surprised” that he’s the “boogeyman” of the British media.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that it was “scandalous” that some government agents got the estimated cost for the National Children’s Hospital “so wrong”.

He was reacting to a statement made by Minister for Health Simon Harris last week, where he said that “the only scandal” would be if the project was cancelled.

“Our agents made some mistakes in calculating the costs,” Varadkar said, but added that “nobody would be sorry” when the hospital opens, which is scheduled for 2023.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he spoke about Brexit, the National Broadband Plan, and recounted his “disbelief” to hearing about the extent of the overspend on what he called the “ill-fated but much-needed” Children’s Hospital.

“I wasn’t entirely surprised that the costs had overrun, but I really couldn’t believe that it was €400-and-something million more than we thought it would.

Obviously the first thing was to say ‘No get lost, go back to the contractors, tell them we’re not paying, negotiate this down’.

He said that the government has tried to tackle the overspend, and said that one of the contractors for the Children’s Hospital had its fees renegotiated from €200 million down to €60 million.

He said that although there are things that could have been done better, such as informing the public quicker, it wouldn’t have made the hospital cheaper to build.

I don’t think if we’d been having meetings every week about it, that it would have been cheaper to build. There are lots of things that could have been done better… Would it have been cheaper if we did those things? No, I don’t think so.

“We can’t take credit for getting things right if we don’t take responsibility for this,” he added.

Speaking about Brexit, the Taoiseach said that he’s “not surprised at all” that he’s being portrayed as the “bogeyman” by elements of the British media.

There are elements of the British establishment that don’t like an Irish government or Taoiseach standing up for Ireland. That they don’t understand why we’re not leaving too. They don’t understand why, to use their language ‘fall in line’. 

“They don’t understand why we’re not helping them out instead of remaining with the European Union – I’m not apologising for that.

“We made a decision a hundred years ago to be independent … We’re going to travel a different road that the United Kingdom apparently, but it’s a better road.”

He said that a deal was better than an extension, and an extension was better than a no-deal Brexit. He also said that he would prefer that the UK would reverse its decision to leave the European Union, but when asked whether he would like to see a second referendum, the Taoiseach said “that’s not my business”:

I know how sensitive some British politicians and the British media can be so there is nothing they would like more than for me to call for a second referendum so they can then jump all over that, so I’m not going to walk into that one.

He said that no decision had been made about when there would be a reshuffle, and that although “the logical time” was to hold one after local elections in May, although that could be pushed back to June or July further if there’s an extension to Brexit day (which is currently 20 March).

He also said that the level of talent among Fine Gael backbenchers meant that he could “probably appoint a Cabinet of all new ministers”.

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