Several years ago I was asked by a property developer to project manage the development of a number of sites for him in the Dorset Street area of north Dublin, the Aurora Café Bar, Student Accommodation, hotel extensions and so forth. I knew this developer well and he knew me well and that is why he trusted me with the work. However, at that time I could not understand why anyone would be pumping millions of Euro into Dorset Street; it was hardly an investment area at that time.
I asked the developer why he was investing so much money in the area and he told me that because of his friendship with certain politicians (including his neighbour Berty Ahern) he had been given the knod that there was going to be a super hospital built on the site of the Mater hospital. I would later discover that this developer was also a non-executive Director of Temple Street Children’s Hospital. I was often directed to the homes of some of the most senior members of that board to carry-out renovation and repairs at no cost to those board members.
Sometime after I had begun work on a number of the Dorset Street sites, my boss (the developer) asked me to give him a lift over to Stephens Green as his car was in the garage. On our return from Stephens Green the news on the radio reported that then Minister for Health Mary Harney was looking at a green field site for the location of the new children hospital. Upon hearing this news and concerned for his investments my boss used his mobile phone to contact a senior member of the Fianna Fail lead Government. When my boss had completed his phone call it was clear that Mary Harney would not be making any decisions about the location of the children’s hospital, in fact my boss was even more focused about completion of the various projects in Dorset Street, projects that were being developed to cater for the many thousands of construction and medical staff that would work on the new Children’s Hospital. I had disclosed this information to RTE’s Charlie Bird at the time, but I guess Charlie like most state funded journalists was unwilling to take the matter further.
An Bord Pleanála has done a good day’s work by refusing permission for children’s hospital plan at Mater hospital, this is not just a matter of planning aesthetics, but is about all that is rotten in Fianna Fail and their bagmen who have dictated public sector construction in this country to facilitate their bank accounts with the people being a secondary consideration. We need a full public inquiry in relation to the role played by Berty Ahern and his bagmen in relation to the now cancelled Children’s Hospital at the Dorset Street/Eccles Street site. Tom McFeely was not the only corrupt property developer in Dublin who bought and paid for politicians and officials.
THE MOST amazing aspect of the children’s hospital of Ireland saga is that it doesn’t seem to have impinged on the imaginations of anyone involved in this ill-fated project that the restricted nature of the Mater site in Dublin would inevitably result in an incredible hulk.
Even after a devastating series of photomontages had been prepared, showing it in both local and citywide contexts, politicians such as Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin continued to stick by this €650 million project.
Were they and others so visually illiterate that they couldn’t see its overwhelming impact?
Or were they expecting that An Bord Pleanála would dutifully rubber-stamp the scheme as proposed, simply because the Government seemed so determined to go ahead with it?
The appeals board, which dealt directly with the scheme under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, has done a good day’s work to uphold its independence from political control by refusing permission for the Mater project and, in effect, sending everyone back to the drawing boards.
Its grounds for saying no are unambiguous – that the height, bulk, scale and mass of the proposed children’s hospital “would have a profound negative impact on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline” and “seriously detract” from the character of streetscapes.
And despite the board’s view that it would also “constitute over-development of the site”, Dr Reilly persisted yesterday in saying that this didn’t mean the original decision to choose the Mater location was wrong. He may even believe that they can have another go at it.
Such muddled thinking is pure folly. For it was a decision in 2006 to opt for the Mater site that has led us to this impasse. The fact is that the site is too small to accommodate a children’s hospital with 425 individual beds and all the top-class clinical facilities planned.
That’s precisely why the building had to be of such enormous bulk and height, rising to 74 metres (243ft) above ground and extending to a length of 164 metres; there was not enough of a “footprint” on the Mater site to accommodate the 100,000-plus square metres of floorspace needed.
The murky depths out of which this behemoth emerged were alluded to by former National Paediatric Hospital Development Board chairman Philip Lynch, when he resigned in October 2010, describing the choice of the Mater site as a “northside job” – an oblique reference to Bertie Ahern.
Ahern’s close relationship with the Mater is longstanding. He once worked as an accountant for the hospital and remained assiduous in looking after its needs throughout his political career.
Lynch came to the view that Ahern was the mastermind behind the 2006 location decision.
It was not as if no alternatives were – and still are – available. It’s just that they were not seriously examined then, or since, by the various “independent experts” who gave advice, including those who produced yet another report last year at the behest of Dr Reilly. St James’s Hospital occupies a much larger site than the Mater and could accommodate a “co-located” children’s hospital (ie adjoining an adult tertiary-care facility). Another site at Heuston Station, close to St James’s, is publicly-owned and available for redevelopment.
Alternatively, the review body being appointed by the Minister to look at what happens now in the wake of An Bord Pleanála’s decision might look at Tallaght hospital, where a substantial bank of land alongside it is effectively in the hands of Nama through loans that it now owns.
A third option would be to revisit modest plans to extend and upgrade Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, which could be done for an affordable €104 million – albeit leaving it as a standalone facility, without the claimed benefits of “co-location” with an adult hospital.
Waiting in the wings is solicitor-developer Noel Smyth, who offered a site at Newlands Cross for a new children’s hospital.
As with Tallaght, this would have the benefit of easy access to the M50 and the national road network, without the entanglement issues created by inner-city traffic.
Whatever site the review group recommends, it should be a site that would make it possible to design a hospital with no more than five or six floors – not only to avoid adverse visual impact on the skyline, but also to make it easier to run without ferrying patients in multiple lifts.
But the review body, to be chaired by Dr Frank Dolphin – former chairman of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and (briefly) of the Health Service Executive – must include architects, or others with visual awareness, so that we don’t walk up yet another blind alley.
And if the new children’s hospital is such a high priority for the Government, consideration could be given to designating it as an “emergency” project, thereby circumventing protracted EU procurement procedures, so that a new design team could be appointed quickly.
Fianna Fáil deputy leader Eamon Ó Cuív would even have us override the Strategic Infrastructure Act by amending it so that the existing scheme could proceed, even though it has been rejected. Such contempt for due process and planning law leaves one breathless.
The last thing we need is for Dr Reilly to adopt a “hit me now with the child in my arms” approach by insisting that the Mater site must be salvaged by, for example, lopping off a couple of floors; this would reduce the number of beds and fail to address the issue of visual impact.
Even if the current design by O’Connell Mahon Architects was amended in this way, it would still be vastly out of scale with its surroundings and the wider city skyline. Indeed, An Bord Pleanála’s senior planning inspector, Una Crosse, said as much in her report.
The board has done the State some service by upholding “proper planning and sustainable development” in refusing permission for the project as proposed.
The Government must now face up to the unpalatable fact that the Mater is the wrong horse for this course.
Hi! I enjoy reading your stories. Angie
I am sickened by your continued interest in children considering that you are in fact convicted paedophile Vincent Mckenna.
Remember when back in the year 2000 when you were convicted of 31 counts of sexually abusing your own daughter Sorcha, from the age of FOUR!
Here are some news links: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/PAEDOPHIL … 0104630540
And by your own admission:
http://theirishobserver.blogspot.co.uk/ … th_21.html
Why did you refuse treatment in Wheatfield Prison, Ireland?
Will you be facing new charges for re-offending?
How did you feel about the Sunday People exposing you as one of Ireland's 12 most dangerous sexual predators?
I await you answers, Vincent?
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