Simon Harris told to admit he ‘misled’ public

Health Minister Simon Harris is facing growing calls to fully correct the Dáil record and admit to opposition claims he misled the public over the children’s hospital costs crisis in an escalating three-way game of cat and mouse among rival parties.

Fianna Fáil insisted the full apology is needed after Mr Harris said he will accept he did not provide extra information and “context” in response to a Dáil question over surging costs last September — but will stop short of agreeing to fully correct the Dáil record.

Speaking as Sinn Féin continues to threaten a no confidence motion in Mr Harris which would force Fianna Fáil to either back or effectively sack the health minister, Mr Harris accepted yesterday he did not tell TDs the full story when asked four months ago.

However, in a statement through a spokesperson in which Mr Harris said he will apologise for the situation tomorrow, he made no mention of fully correcting the Dáil record as demanded by Fianna Fáil.

“The minister made it clear at the Oireachtas health committee that whilst he couldn’t have provided figures that were commercially sensitive and far from definitive in a parliamentary question more than two months before final figures were known, he wishes he had inserted some initial information.

“Specifically, referencing the fact that there was a process underway to finalise pricing for phase b [of the project].

“So, whilst the parliamentary question was answered factually correctly, the minister will be happy to apologise for not providing such context,” the statement read.

The position was rubbished by Fianna Fáil yesterday, with health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said it fails to go far enough.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Mr Donnelly said “the Dáil has been misled in a meaningful and substantive way” and that the opposition “want the Dáil record fully corrected”.

However, Fianna Fáil’s position was itself attacked by Sinn Féin, with its health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly insisting Fianna Fáil back a potential no confidence motion in Mr Harris if they are serious about their concerns.

The call, and further Sinn Féin demands for renegade Fianna Fáil TDs to break ranks against Micheál Martin, was dismissed as “posturing” by Mr Donnelly, who said such a move crash the Government on the eve of Brexit.

The Dáil game of cat and mouse will occur as Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe prepares to outline €100m of capital projects funding which will have to be either delayed or cut for vital measures this year as a direct result of the hospital costs crisis.

Mr Donohoe is expected to tell Cabinet tomorrow €50m will have to be found from other health projects, with a further €50m coming from other departments — with housing, education, transport and the office of public works most at risk.

As reported in Saturday’s Irish Examiner, the Office of Public Works face a €3m capital project budget cut, an issue which will be placed under the spotlight during a finance committee meeting tomorrow.

Separately, the national paediatric hospital development board is expected to release more memos outlining who knew what about the costs scandal and when this evening, placing yet another potential landmine in front of the Government.

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