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'I'm happy for the project to continue': Simon Harris rules out re-tendering children's hospital

The Minister was responding to a statement by BAM that suggested it would pull out of the contract if the Government wanted.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (file photo)
Minister for Health Simon Harris (file photo)
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has said that the Government will not re-tender the National Children’s Hospital project.

The Minister was responding to a statement issued yesterday by the contractor behind the hospital, BAM, saying it would co-operate with the hospital board if they wanted it to opt out of the contract.

That followed comments by in the Dáil this week, when the Taoiseach said there were “one or two contractors” that he would not like to see ever get a public State contract again.

Appearing on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane Show, Harris said he already considered re-tendering the project last year, but decided to proceed with BAM as changing the contractor would delay the project and see costs rise further.

“BAM say in their statement last night that they’re getting on with the job and remain committed to the contract,” he said.

“They made a point that if the government or the State … wanted to walk away, they’d be happy to have that conversation.

I’m happy for the project to continue. I want everybody to continue what we want to do: build the hospital.

Harris also clarified Varadkar’s comments, saying the Taoiseach was expressing “a frustration that a hell of a lot of us are feeling”.

Commenting on the interview, Sinn Féin’s spokeswoman on health Louise O’Reilly said the Minister was “out of his depth” and incapable of managing the project.

“We didn’t hear any rational explanation from him as to why he knew about a massive overrun on a capital project and deliberately kept that information from the Minister for Finance during the budgetary process,” she said.

“He has said nothing that would change our opinion of this Minister. He is not able to manage a project of this size, he is out of his depth and Minister Harris needs to go.”

The party intends to table a motion of no confidence in Harris in the Dáil next week, although Fianna Fáil are expected to abstain, which would see the Minister continue in his role.

It follows weeks of scrutiny into the construction of the hospital and cost overruns associated with it.

This month, the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee heard that the total cost of the project is “highly unlikely” to come in under €2 billion.

A figure of €983 million for the development was approved by government in 2017.

The Department of Health has retained PWC, the expert accountancy and consultancy firm, to carry out an analysis of the situation, with its report due to be published next month.

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