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ahead of themselves

US hospital tried to speak to the Children's Hospital Group before launch of abandoned Phoenix name

Last month Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the name Phoenix Children’s Health would not be used on foot of a threatened legal action from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona.

0124 Phoenix Children Urgent Care Centre copy_90527368 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris at the launch of the name Phoenix Children's Health during an official sod-turning ceremony at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, on 23 October 2017

THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL (CHG) group spent over €40,000 on a process designed to name the new National Children’s Hospital, but was aware in advance of the launch that a hospital in the US with the same name was trying to get in contact.

The name decided upon from a shortlist of 300, Phoenix Children’s Health, was last month officially abandoned as an option after the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona threatened to proceed with a legal action should the naming go ahead as planned.

However, new records released to under freedom of information (FOI) suggest that initial contact between the American hospital and the CHG had taken place at least three weeks prior to the launch of the new name at a sod-turning ceremony in Blanchardstown on 23 October last year.

The proposed location of the new hospital, on the campus of the existing St James’s Hospital in Dublin, itself caused much controversy when announced because of the purported inaccessibility of its position in the city centre.

The name Phoenix Children’s Health, meanwhile, would also have applied to the paediatric outpatient and urgent care centres at Connolly and Tallaght Hospitals in Dublin, together with regional paediatric services available at hospitals in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

In emails sent, on 3 and 9 October 2017, to and from representatives of the CHG’s chief executive Eilish Hardiman and an executive assistant to Craig McKnight, the American hospital’s chief strategy officer, it is made clear that McKnight had been attempting to get in touch with Hardiman.

A further email from Hardiman’s office to the same assistant in Arizona was sent to an incorrect email address (which saw Phoenix misspelled as ‘pheonix’) leading to a delivery error.

“We would very much appreciate a telephone call on this,” the mail sent from Dublin to Phoenix on 9 October reads.

90201572_90201572 Eilish Hardiman, CEO of the Children's Hospital Group Leon Farrell / Leon Farrell / /


All correspondence regarding the renaming of the group was requested – assuming the FOI return was comprehensive, no further emails concerning the American hospital involving Hardiman were sent in the two weeks prior to the launch.

Access to the 300-word shortlist compiled for the naming process was refused to due to the possibility of ‘prejudicing the effectiveness’ of the ongoing deliberation regarding the new name.

All told, €40,401 was spent on the process used to come up with the ‘Phoenix’ name, including €20,000 for the initial public tender, and €12,846 on ‘other costs’, including the design of materials for the various ‘roadshows’ carried out prior to the choosing of the name, and the ‘translation services’ required for the shortlisted names.

‘Screening for domain names as part of legal requirement’ is also budgeted for. Whether or not this particular process identified the American hospital as being an issue is unknown. However, its website address is, and contact had been established prior to the name’s launch last October.

Overall, the process to choose the name took just under two years, from inception in December 2015 until launch in October 2017.

In a statement at the time of the launch, the Department of Health said that the name “symbolises the birth of new opportunities”.

“The Phoenix is a mythological symbol of renewal, community regeneration, vision, hope and inspiration,” it said.

It is a fitting and apt name for a service which will have a profound impact on the lives of children and their families in Ireland for generations to come.


In December, the European Investment Bank announced its largest ever loan in Ireland, worth €490 million, to finance the new National Children’s Hospital on the campus of St James’s Hospital.

Construction began on the new hospital in 2017. It is expected to cost over €1 billion and be open for 2021.

0060 Children's hospital billboard_90531577 Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Also in December, however, the American hospital made clear that it would feel compelled to take legal action should the word ‘Phoenix’ indeed be used in the new group’s name.

In a letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris, the hospital said it would “pursue all available legal remedies” in order to ensure that the Irish group would “refrain from leveraging our name, goodwill and earned reputation”.

Three months later, Harris wrote to Dublin City Council to say that “following consideration of the matter” he had decided to abandon the name ‘Phoenix Children’s Health’.

“The department is liaising with the Children’s Hospital Group in relation to developing a process to propose a name,” he said.


0068 Phoenix Children Urgent Care Centre copy_90527346 Harris and Varadkar, pictured at the October launch

In the lead up to the launch, the CHG contended in a number of position papers that the new ‘Phoenix’ name would “reflect and very much stay true” to its original brief – in that it was short, easy to pronounce, ‘original’, memorable, and reflected the group’s values.

A number of diverting issues occurred in the lead up to the launch.

There was a deal of concern on the part of clinical director at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Sean Walsh, that the launch would be inadvisably linked to a large fire that took place in a vacant flat complex the day before.

“I assured him that the (board) has this covered with the fire story addressed but he is concerned the name launch will be tarnished by the association between fire, ashes and the name,” Hardiman wrote to the group’s PR representatives on the morning of 23 October.

This followed on from the news, also reported on 22 October, that the CHG was challenging three fire safety conditions placed upon it by Dublin City Council in order for the new children’s hospital to gain a fire certificate, something which the group claimed exceeded existing regulations and standards.

Meanwhile, in the run up to the launch, Hardiman asked whether or not the group should reach out to the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for Dublin’s Phoenix Park, or the satirical fortnightly magazine The Phoenix, given the nominal similarities.

“I would do nothing with OPW or the magazine,” a PR executive replied.

It suggests there is a connection when there is none.

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