Statement from Jonathan Irwin in relation to Family Forum in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park on Wednesday 12th February RE National Children’s Hospital

“How can the Children’s Hospital Group refer to the St. James’ location for the National Children’s Hospital as a ‘done deal’ as they did over and over again this evening?

I was under the impression that this project has yet to receive planning permission and presenting this project as a ‘done deal’ shows a real arrogance and indifference towards the residents and parents with huge concerns regarding access, lack of car parking, no space to expand to include a maternity hospital and lack of green space for children to enjoy.

Questions in relation to location and costs were quickly closed down at the meeting tonight. They simply didn’t want to hear about cost comparisons per bed.

We were quickly separated into small groups headed by facilitators who acted as manipulators in terms of how concerns were presented back to the group. I’m glad to say however that regardless of their attempts to ignore all questions in relation to location, traffic and access, the questions just kept coming from the parents.

All the meeting organisers wanted to talk about was the beautiful design, the garden, the colour scheme and square footage of rooms etc. which would be fine if we had the location right, but how can we talk design when the design space is all wrong?

Granted this is a beautiful piece of architecture, but we can’t and won’t be distracted by gloss over substance and the big issues were not addressed this evening in Farmleigh. Not by a long shot.

I must say that it was good to see so many parents there, eventually being given a platform to express their views. However, this is too little too late and these parents should have been consulted on the location, not just the design.

We noted that media were not invited and one local councillor was refused admission, which is not what we expect from a collaborative approach.

They had a smooth answer for everything, saying, for example, that constructing such a building alongside a working hospital wouldn’t be a problem as ‘they’ve been building on that site for the last 19 years’. I’m sure local residents will have something to say about that when they meet later this week.

This sentiment that we’ve just got to get on with now is not good enough. This project must go through due procedure in terms of consultation with the various communities and addressing the key issues, and there are many. They give the impression that everyone across the medical world is happy with this location which we know to be untrue. Unfortunately, many in the medical world feel too intimidated to voice their concern in public, similar to the dampening down of concerns regarding the overheating of the property market which were quickly hushed up too not so long ago.

It’s never too late to ask the right questions and we shouldn’t have to wait until this project fails at planning before Minister Varadkar orders a full review of alternatives, especially when there is a real alternative Greenfield site in Blanchardstown which is well worth a second look.

We won’t stop asking the tough questions because our children deserve better than what we have on the table at the moment.”

J.I.

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