Personal Explanation by Minister

That concludes Leaders' Questions. I call on the Minister for Health who has informed me that he wishes to make a personal explanation to the House pursuant to Standing Order 46.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to make this statement. My purpose in doing so is to place on the record of this House an apology regarding an answer I provided to a parliamentary question on the national children's hospital.

The past number of weeks in this Oireachtas, as we have seen again today, have been dominated by debate and discussion regarding the development of this major paediatric hospital. This hospital, as we all accept, is badly needed and will transform the delivery of children's healthcare in Ireland. It has been promised for decades. We will move from antiquated facilities to fit-for-purpose, single en suite rooms for every child. We will go from living in a country which has 14 theatres for our children to one which has 22.

The equipment at the new children's hospital is about so much more than beds. It will include five MRIs with space for two more; three CT scans; 30 ultrasounds; and seven X-ray rooms, all of which will be state-of-the-art.

We will provide outdoor recreational space and school facilities for some of Ireland’s sickest children, for many of whom this facility will not just be a hospital but will be a home for many weeks and for some, many months. New outpatient centres will be provided at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and Tallaght University Hospital, with the former opening later this year. All this major investment will transform our children’s health service and will be underpinned by a new model of care. It is true that the costs of this project have increased significantly and taxpayers want to be assured that their investment is being managed correctly. An inquiry has begun and will report back by the end of next month and the Government will act swiftly on all of its recommendations. We will not be found wanting when it comes to acting against any entity or any company if errors were made. Lessons must and will be learnt and the Cabinet took a number of decisions in that regard today.

I now want to specifically refer to a parliamentary question I answered on the record of this House on 18 September 2018 about the national children’s hospital project. The timeline of information available to me is well established because I have published relevant documents in order to be fully transparent. At the time of answering, I was not in a position to give commercially sensitive figures but, as I said at the Committee on Health-----

The horse has bolted.

The person concerned was refused disability allowance (DA) on 31 August 2018 on the grounds that they were not found to be habitually resident in the state. He was notified of this decision and advised of his right to seek a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. No such request was subsequently received.

It is open to this gentleman to make a new application for DA and his eligibility will be examined taking all available evidence into account.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Deputy, please resume your seat.

As I said at the Committee on Health last week, I should have answered it more fully as it would never be my intention to mislead Dáil Éireann. I should have added further detail to inform that a process was ongoing to finalise costs and that updated costs would be known when that process concluded. I sincerely apologise to the House for not doing this and I specifically apologise to Deputy Cowen, who tabled the question.

I have always tried to approach my work in this House, and especially as Minister for Health, in a collaborative way. I wish to acknowledge the ongoing constructive contribution of many on the Opposition benches on this issue. I take the need for accountability very seriously. I account for my actions and decisions and I will ensure that others are held to account for theirs. I hope we can find a way to unite around our common goal to complete this vital project, which has been so long promised and which will transform children’s healthcare. I want to work with Members on all sides of the House to bring about this aim.