Editorial: Children’s hospital debacle

The idiocy of what sometimes passes as planning in this country has been laid bare by An Bord Pleanala’s rejection of the Mater site for the proposed children’s hospital.

The idiocy of what sometimes passes as planning in this country has been laid bare by An Bord Pleanala’s rejection of the Mater site for the proposed children’s hospital.

The refusal is extremely unfortunate for the project in general and the country’s children, but it is really no great surprise and is the logical outcome to a project that has been ill conceived and mishandled from the start.

Much time, money and energy has been expended in pursuing this blatantly unsuitable location.

However, by calling time on the Mater site An Bord Pleanala has clearly indicated that enough is enough. The unsuitability of the Mater location should be all too apparent to anyone who has any experience of that part of Dublin.

Go up there any day of the week and contend with the traffic congestion and parking difficulties. Imagine the chaos of an emergency situation. Leaving aside the aesthetics of the issue completely, the idea of locating a major new hospital in that area was barmy.

Yet it was championed by the Bertie Ahern government, was located in his constituency, making it in effect another Bertie bauble.

When the chairman of the development board Philip Lynch argued against it, in favour of a greenfield site in 2010, he was carpeted by the then Minister for Health, Mary Harney.

Never has there been a more naked example of the subjugation of the common good to sectoral, political and petty interests.

No wonder politics and politicans have been brought into the disrepute they are in. It was further illustrated by Eamon O’Cuiv’s absurd proposal in the Dail that a process should be put in place to bypass the planning board. Talk about Ballymagash!

And then consider the aesthetics. Look at the images of the proposed building and it looks as if the Titanic has been dropped into the centre of Dublin, such is the bulk and size of the building.

We will be living with the ramifications of bad planning in this country for years - be it ghost estates or one off housing in clearly unsuitable areas.

When it comes to planning little or no heed has ever been given to the long term, or the broader picture. It is now incumbent on the government not to panic, and to put in place a proper process of site selection and take the time to get this right. Much guff has been promulgated since last week’s decision by vested interests and people who should know better.

The An Bord Pleanala decision has finally jolted this country awake on a planning process which all too often has been susceptible to cronyism and poor or no judgement.

That is has happened in such a sensitive and serious area is unfortunate. A national children’s hospital personfiies the common good and it should not have been a victim of parochial politics. Had it been planned effectively, it would now be nearing reality.

The Mater location should be discarded completely and a greenfield site secured. Newlands would serve both the needs of the city and the rest of the country well, given its position and easy accessibility.