Children’s Hospital saga proves we just repeat same mistakes

Spiralling costs...an artist's impression of the National Children's Hospital.
Spiralling costs...an artist's impression of the National Children's Hospital.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Wasn’t it George Santayana who once said those who don’t learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it? The brutal truth is it goes so far against the instinct of the human mind to avoid such mistakes, their repeat is inevitable.

If so, what lessons have we learned from the last crash in 2008? A few, but clearly not enough.

When property goes into an upward spiral it’s very hard to resist not getting caught in all the excitement, assuming the temporary peak is a measure of your great wealth.

Such hubris has been a feature of every bubble and every crash since the Tulip bubble in the 1630s. We have seen it most recently with the inflation and rapid deflation of bitcoin.

We’re not talking about bubbles here today; rather about extravagant projects initiated on behalf of the tax payer.

Just before I starting writing about politics on a full-time basis it was the Bertie Bowl.

That was the grandiose plan of then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to build a new national stadium out in Abbotstown in North West Dublin. It would be the home for many sports events and would hold as many as 80,000 people – perfect for international and, even, some GAA fixtures.

Originally it was to cost €280 million but by the time it was abandoned in 2002 the projected cost was €888 million. We did get a new national aquatic centre out of it but €50 million had already been spent on the site.

Does the pattern sound familiar?

Back in 2014, the cost of the National Children’s Hospital was going to be €450 million and the location was going to be the Mater on the northside of the Liffey.

Two years later – and following an adverse decision from An Bord Pleanála – it had moved south to a six-acre site on St James’s Hospital with a price tag of about €650 million.

When then-Health Minister Leo Varadkar signed the contract he said an asteroid would have to hit the planet to prevent the hospital from being completed by 2020.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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