Asserting your core values is grand but Varadkar can’t afford a bad local election

It was a subtle enough dig, all the same. The current Minister for Health was pointing out the contract for the new children’s hospital wasn’t written on his watch. He’s just cleaning up the mess.

“I don’t think this was set up properly. I don’t think it was contracted properly and I think that’s partly responsible for some of the overruns that we are seeing,” he said.

“I don’t believe this was set up in the right way and I think as a result of that, the final price will be more than it needed to be,” he added to Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1.

The children’s hospital was supposed to cost just under €1bn, €983m to be exact, when the development was approved in 2017. Now the bill is heading for €2bn and beyond, give or take the odd billion, really.

And who, pray tell, was the Minister for Health when this dastardly deal was signed off on?

It’s hard to tell who Stephen Donnelly was specifically pointing the finger at but it was firmly in the direction of Fine Gael. In the wake of Fine Gael’s decision to undercut Fianna Fáil on budget negotiations with their tax plan, it seems to be fair game for ministers to take a pop at their Coalition partners. Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue is also criticising a lack of leadership from Fine Gael on environmental issues.

Leo Varadkar was Minister for Health when the St James’s Hospital campus was selected and Simon Harris was Minister for Health when the sod was turned on the new hospital. Harris was certainly the minister when the costs started to spiral out of control as the initial €1bn figure hit €1.3bn by 2018. And that was well before the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns, shortages of goods after the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal, construction inflation, energy costs and rainy days in October or whatever else can be randomly blamed.

When the children’s hospital finally opens, allegedly next year, but you can take that time with a pinch of salt, it will be the end of a 30-year process to build a health facility that is worthy of treating the nation’s children. It’s crass to call it a vanity project. Anyone who’s made the panicked dash to Crumlin Children’s Hospital will tell you the jaw-drops when you witness the antiquated state of that building. It is, however, a legacy project for the Taoiseach and therefore vital for him to have it open before his time runs out.

After a dozen years in power, Fine Gael will point to the economic transformation from basketcase to recovery to prosperity, overflowing surpluses that could never be dreamed of, and a rate of full employment that eclipses even the best days of the Celtic Tiger. The previous boom did leave behind a motorway network that shrunk the country, the Luas and airport terminals, but this time around the development of infrastructure has been that bit more laboured.

However, the manifestation of the housing crisis as the country’s greatest social, political and logistical challenge was also on their watch. A large chunk of bricks and mortar helps to illustrate there’s something to leave for generations to come. We’re still a sucker for the old line about cherishing the children of the nation equally, even if we have fallen down as a society on multiple occasions.

Heading into the next general election, Fine Gael has realised that merely promising competent management of the economy is not enough. The party tried that in 2016 and 2020 and got a solid kicking from the voters, who want tangible results on the society front.

The reiteration of some of its core values points to a change of tack for Fine Gael as the party asserts its authority. Varadkar followed up the rolling out of his three junior minister to talk about tax cuts with a statement from the mount about home ownership.

The facts got in the way of the rhetoric as the Census 2022 figures showed home ownership falling, with the proportion of owner-occupied dwellings has continued to fall between 2011 and 2022, down from almost 70pc to 66pc. And over the previous six years, the number of households who rented their accommodation from a private landlord rose by seven percent.

The aspiration is noble. Over the coming 18 months, expect to hear plenty more about income tax, property ownership, inheritance tax, farm succession and a bit about law and order, but the latter seems to have dropped down the priority list. From the almost catch-all party days of Garret Fitzgerald and Enda Kenny, Fine Gael is morphing into a niche party, hoping to target one in four of the electorate – and that 25pc would be on a good day.

The sudden realisation that the party needs to tell people what they stand for doesn’t seem to be based on a plan for a snap election after the budget in October. But after the redrawing of the electoral map in the summer, the state of play for the next outing will be known. Languishing in the opinion polls in a time of plenty – economically – is not where the party leading the Government expects to be.

Yesterday’s Ireland Thinks poll in the Sunday Independent put Fine Gael remained on a fairly lousy 20pc. Hitting next June’s local elections in that territory would result in significant losses of Fine Gael councillors and a probably drop in the the number of MEPs. Varadkar will have gone through another election campaign where he has failed to show any semblance of an electoral benefit. Sections of the party are already less than enamoured with his leadership. There will be a question mark over whether those remaining backbenchers and even ministers will want to go into a general election campaign staring defeat in the face.

Varadkar knows this is business. He royally stuck the knife into Enda Kenny in the infamous 2010 leadership heave – eight months before Fine Gael won 76 seats.

“It’s not that I have lost confidence in him, it’s that the public doesn’t have confidence in him and, unfortunately, that’s the truth, and that’s something that we all know, that you know,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

Those words might yet come back to haunt him once again.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan’s exclusive take on the day’s news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

News Related


BBC's Panorama sparks frenzy after announcing sudden hour-long 'special' on mystery subject

The BBC will air a mysterious ‘special’ edition of Panorama on Monday The BBC have sparked a frenzy of curiosity by announcing an unexpected special edition of documentary series Panorama ... Read more »

'The children don't need 500 million to live will': Could Sir Mick Jagger leave his fortune to charity?

‘The children don’t need 500 million to live will’: Could Sir Mick Jagger leave his fortune to charity? Sir Mick Jagger has hinted he may leave his fortune to charity. ... Read more »

Gardaí may consider withdrawing frontline services on Budget Day as roster row deepens

A WITHDRAWAL of frontline services on Budget Day are among the measures which may be considered by gardaí over the deepening roster row. The association representing rank-and-file gardaí this evening ... Read more »

Tech CEO who made Forbes 30 under 30 list found dead in flat with blunt force trauma

A tech CEO who made it onto the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list has been found dead in her flat just a week before she had been due to ... Read more »

€4m revamp of Co Wexford street ‘must minimise disruption for business’

Esmonde Street and Lane’s €4m redevelopment needs to combine Uisce Éireann works with new public realm works at the same time to minimise disruption to businesses, heard the September meeting ... Read more »

‘Mothership’ believed to have supplied trawler stranded off Wexford with huge suspected cocaine haul is impounded

A container ship which gardai believe is the “mothership” that supplied a trawler with a huge suspected cocaine haul at the weekend has been impounded. Armed gardai along with members ... Read more »

Kenny Archer: Hitting the head to recall Tyrone’s All-Ireland SFC triumph in 2003

All-Ireland winning captain Peter Canavan is carried across the Croke Park pitch by Tyrone supporters after the 2003 final CHARLTON 3 Liverpool 2. Kevin Lisbie hat-trick. Yes, the 28th of ... Read more »

Sinn Féin officially confirm three candidates to run in the Wexford Borough District

Sinn Féin has officially announced its largest ever team to contest the local elections in the Wexford Borough District. While sitting councillors Tom Forde and Davy Hynes were always going ... Read more »

'Grateful I get the chance to rectify things' - Katie Taylor eager for Cameron rematch

Chantelle Cameron and Katie Taylor with promoter Eddie Hearn at the press conference in the Westin Hotel. KATIE TAYLOR SAYS she is grateful to have the opportunity to overturn the ... Read more »

'Hurt' Prince Harry tipped to spill more Royal Family secrets, warns expert

Prince Harry could “potentially” release more secrets on the Royal Family, an expert has warned. Former royal butler Grant Harrold claimed that, whilst the Duke of Sussex may have drawn ... Read more »

Huge increase in child spinal surgeries – yet waiting times have not fallen, Health Minister tells Dáil

Stephen Donnelly acknowledged the distress caused to patients (Brian Lawless/PA) A huge increase in spinal surgeries has not led to any fall in the waiting period, the Minister for Health ... Read more »

RTÉ’s TV licence woes continue as numbers continue to be down 25pc on last year

Deputy chairperson of the PAC, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy (Photo: Stephen Collins) TV licence woes continue for RTÉ as the numbers sold in recent weeks continue to be 25pc ... Read more »

Russian forces 'panic' as NATO source claims 'Ukraine will retake Crimea'

Russian leadership in Crimea is panicking following Ukraine’s precision strike on Moscow’s Black Sea headquarters, a former Ukrainian parliamentary advisor told Daily Express US. Mykola Volkivskyi claimed that the strike ... Read more »

IABA to investigate use of National Stadium for 'SPHE information evening' by Christian group

The National Stadium in Dublin file photo THE IRISH ATHLETIC Boxing Association (IABA) says it will investigate the use of the National Stadium in Dublin for an event which will ... Read more »

Deirbhile Nic a Bháird misses out on Ireland's WXV3 campaign

Deirbhile Nic a Bhaaird. DERIBHILE NIC A BHÁIRD will miss out on Ireland’s WXV3 campaign after she picked up a knock in training game at the weekend. Nic a Bháird, ... Read more »

US food service giant Sysco to add 50 jobs at Limerick plant

The Irish arm of US food giant Sysco intends to create 50 full-time jobs in its new Limerick distribution and support centre. The firm, which is Ireland’s largest food service ... Read more »

Canada’s House speaker resigns after inviting man who fought for a Nazi unit

The speaker of Canada’s House of Commons has resigned after inviting a man who fought for a Nazi military unit during the Second World War to Parliament to attend a ... Read more »

Planning regulator urges tough stance on one-off homes and urban sprawl

The planning regulator has called for a tougher stance to be taken on one-off rural homes and urban sprawl. Despite a national policy of ‘compact development’, 50-70pc of new housing ... Read more »

Carjacker kills woman by zip-tying her throat - before leaving eerie note

A carjacker killed a woman by zip-tying her throat – before leaving behind an eerie note apologising for the horrific killing. Suspect Reese Miller, 24, was caught driving a blue ... Read more »

Susanna Reid replaced on GMB again as she continues to struggle after the NTAs

Susanna Reid has apologised to her followers as she revealed that she would not be presenting Good Morning Britain again on Monday as she continues to recover from an illness. ... Read more »

Meghan Markle's unprecedented pre-royal interview 'left Palace furious'

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have always done things their way when it comes to their relationship, ripping up the royal rule book at every twist and turn. While many ... Read more »

Thousands of local authority workers begin industrial action today

FÓRSA TRADE UNION members working in local authorities are beginning industrial action today. The union, which represents over 12,000 local authority workers, said that the decision to take action comes ... Read more »

Mother-of-one (48) is jailed for 506th conviction after stealing handbag from coffee shop

A serial thief with 505 prior convictions who stole from a woman’s handbag in a coffee shop has been jailed for four months. Mother-of-one Catherine Lambert (48) clocked up her ... Read more »

Tony Ward: If Johnny Sexton stays in this form and injury-free, Ireland will give World Cup one hell of a rattle

Johnny Sexton holds his hand after picking up a knock when scoring his first-half try Think back to those schooldays, to that dreaded final public exam, and this in a ... Read more »

Postcard from the TGV: An odyssey of a World Cup weekend

THE SUN IS rising to the right of the train as we speed past Lyon and on towards Paris. Another lovely day is upon France although, mercifully, it’s set to ... Read more »

Kingspan said to make rebuffed proposal for tie-up with Carlisle

Kingspan Group Plc made an informal approach to combine with American firm Carlisle Cos., which rebuffed the move to build a global building materials giant, people familiar with the matter ... Read more »

Americans look back on 9/11 and remember the victims on 22nd anniversary

A man leans on parapet surrounding the South reflecting pool of World Trade Center 9 11 Memorial. AMERICANS ARE LOOKING back on the horror and legacy of September 11, gathering ... Read more »

Ukraine LIVE: Russia to send ‘thousands of zombies' to fight in Putin's war of ‘madness'

Putin is increasing its professional soldier pool, according to the British MoD Russia intends to recruit more than a hundred thousand professional recruits and prisoners to “avoid further unpopular mobilisations”, ... Read more »

NFL Fans Are Praying For Family Of Legendary Giants Star

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – DECEMBER 14: Quarterback Phil Simms #11 of the New York Giants huddles with the offense, including wide receiver Stacy Robinson #81 and tight end Mark Bavaro ... Read more »

Jimmy Nesbitt reveals Late Late Show date with Patrick Kielty as he tips Irish rugby team for World Cup success

Jimmy Nesbitt has revealed he will appear on the Late Late Show this month — with the actor currently in Northern Ireland training for a gruelling endurance challenge in aid ... Read more »
Kênh kiến thức kỹ năng, phát triển bản thân, hướng nghiệp, blog nhân sự