Simon Harris says re-tendering children's hospital contract 'not an option'

By Marita Moloney

The Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that re-tendering the contract for the National Children's Hospital was not an option.

Mr Harris said he wanted the work to carry on and for "everyone to continue in what they have promised to do".

Speaking with Brendan O'Connor on today's Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio One, he said putting the contract out to tender would just lead to higher costs.

Yesterday, construction firm BAM said it would be willing to "opt out" of the contract if the hospital board wishes for it to re-tender for it.

"My priority as Health Minister is to see people build this hospital," he said.

We have paid people a hell of a lot of money to build this.

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused some firms of “low-balling” with false figures before driving up prices.

"We particularly want to look at past form of contractors and public service references because there are one or two contractors who quite frankly I would not like see get a public contract again in this State," he said.

Mr Harris denied that the Taoiseach was directing his comments at BAM or any particular firm.

"Leo said exactly what a number of people are thinking, we want to ensure there's a good value of money for taxpayers; he wasn't referring to any specific company at all.

"No one is blaming anyone here, what people are saying, including the Taoiseach, is there is an inquiry. Can we let it look into the issues and see where it brings us."

Commenting on a demonstration outside his home last weekend, Mr Harris described the gathering as "intimidation and thuggery".

Mr Harris, his wife Caoimhe and their three-week-old daughter were inside the house in Greystones, Co Wicklow at the time.

Gardaí were called and the congregation from the Fingal Battalion Direct Action Group, Wicklow Says No and the Anti-Eviction Flying Column, then dispersed.

Mr Harris said the incident last Sunday afternoon was "a violation".

"They didn't even know I was home," he said, as the group only saw his wife was bringing their daughter into the house.

He said they "effectively blocked our driveway", and the family was "trapped in the house for the best of two hours".

"We spent the afternoon in our house with the blinds down on the phone to the gardaí," he said.

"This wasn't a protest, it was a clear attempt to intimidate my family and neighbours."

It felt like such a violation. It was intimidation and thuggery.

He said his wife and child are not public figures, and that his first instinct was to protect his family and his home.

"I felt guilty, which is a horrible thing to feel, that my job brought these people to our home," he said.

"We can't allow this to become any way normal or acceptable. We need to make sure we're not legitimising this, that we're calling this a protest.

"I understand there's lots of issues, the people who stood outside my house had lots of signs," he said, including signs on issues such as the nurses' strike and CervicalCheck scandal.

However, Mr Harris said "these people hijack these causes in an effort to bring intimidation to a family".

Mr Harris said he believes he was targeted because of the "tone of our discourse because we dehumanise politicians".

He sais the way in which politicians are discussed and viewed dehumanises them, and that this needs to be reflected on.

On becoming a father for this first time, Mr Harris said he had hoped he would have a few days to enjoy being a new Dad, but this didn't happen.

"I knew I was never going to have two weeks, but I did have this notion I'd have two days.

"The Dáil still seems to operate on the assumption that everyone is in their 50s and has their children raised."

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