herald

Monday 18 February 2019

Ministers asked to cut back for hospital

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

Government departments are scrambling this weekend to find savings to fund the National Children's Hospital.

Ministers have been told to draw up lists of projects that can be scaled back or delayed in order to divert €100m to the increasingly expensive health centre this year.

The black hole has been described as "manageable" by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar - but is likely to cause a frantic battle among ministers to protect their own resources.

Apology

The Herald has learned that a memo will be brought before the Cabinet by the Department of Finance next week, which will make significant changes to capital budget allocations due to the hospital's rising costs.

Fine Gael has decided to stand by Health Minister Simon Harris, despite calls for him to resign over his handling of the costly landmark construction.

It appears he will likely be saved from losing his position at Cabinet if he makes a public apology.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has called for the embattled minister to make an apology to the Dail, claiming he misled it.

This has been rejected by a spokesperson for Mr Harris.

But the Taoiseach appeared to leave the option of an apology on the table while defending the situation yesterday.

He added that he had "total confidence" in Mr Harris.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said he has been "upfront and transparent" about the overrun, noting his hours before committee and his release of all documents sent to him.

"The minister has never shirked from his duties to the Oireachtas," a spokeswoman said.

Sinn Fein has said it will consider tabling a motion of no confidence if it can get the backing of Fianna Fail TDs, but with Brexit looming Fianna Fail believe that it must keep propping up the Fine Gael-led Government despite the current controversy.

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