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Taoiseach’s dismissal of Children’s Hospital impact on Budget 2019 ‘reflects reckless attitude towards taxpayers’ money’ – O’Brien

8 February, 2019 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform Jonathan O’Brien TD has criticised the Taoiseach’s comments this morning on the mismanagement and incompetence surrounding the National Children’s Hospital.

Speaking this morning, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“This morning, Leo Varadkar asserted his total confidence in the Minister for Health. While that is a confidence Sinn Féin do not share, he also said that the gross mismanagement of the construction budget of the National Children’s Hospital, and its impact on Budget 2019 was a ‘red herring’.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Minister Simon Harris became aware on August 27 of an overrun of at least €191 million at the hospital, which could rise to nearly €400 million. This was 6 weeks before the publication of Budget 2019. Despite this, Minister Harris failed to inform the Government, the Minister for Public Expenditure, and the parties of the Dáil.

“To say this information had no impact on the budgetary process in incomprehensible. While the multi-annual framework for capital spending is determined in the first half of the year, the projects that spending delivers is not set in stone.

“Communities do not experience capital spending as a figure on a page but in the bricks and mortar of hospitals, schools and roads. Many of those projects are now in jeopardy of being delayed, stalled or called to a halt.

“Budget 2019 put forward the projects that would be delivered this year, with much fanfare by the Taoiseach and the government. The overrun at the hospital, over which Minister Harris presided, will affect the delivery of those projects, with €50 million cut from health projects and another €50 million across other departments.

“Minister Harris was aware of this before the Budget process began, and during Budget negotiations between Fine Gael and their partners Fianna Fáil.

“The Taoiseach’s dismissal of the overrun’s impact on the Budget reflects a reckless attitude towards taxpayers’ money, and a disregard for the opposition’s involvement in a transparent Budgetary process.” 

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