Children’s Hospital Contractor Last Seen Headed To Hardware Shop For Few Bits
THE committee overseeing the construction of the National Children’s Hospital has been revealed to be a married couple in their mid-eighties who were assured by the builder that he could get the job on time and under budget, and who hasn’t been seen for weeks since ‘nipping out to Woodies for screws’.
Diarmuid and Agnes O’Connell, 89 and 87 respectively, brought us on a tour of the as-yet-uncompleted project, which has brought the entire government into disrepute amid spiraling costs and accusations of malfeasance and corruption.
“Well, see, now, we’re old” said Diarmuid, picking his way through the 12-acre construction site located behind his Dublin 8 home.
“So when they came to us and asked us if we wanted a Children’s Hospital, well, we didn’t know what to say, so we just went along with it. There was a government fella and he seemed nice enough, and he introduced us to his builder pal and they said it wouldn’t cost too much… this was 2012 or so, then the building started in 2016”.
We inquire if the O’Connell’s, given that they were the committee overseeing the project, had any say in the choice of builder for the project, then budgeted at around €1bn.
“Like I said, we’re old, we weren’t asked to do much other than sign papers and give them to okay to get underway”.
The O’Connell’s took us further into the construction area, where large amounts of workmen appeared to be standing around doing nothing.
“These lads are Polish or something, they don’t have much English so we sort of leave them be” said Mrs. O’Connell, whispering to us.
“They haven’t been up to much since the boss headed off to get parts and materials, so they just show up each day”.
Were they still getting paid despite not working? We asked.
“Well I don’t know, look, I suppose they are, but they can’t work until the head man comes back from the shop with parts, can’t they not?” replied Mrs. O’Connell, timidly.
“Look, there’s been a lot of that kind of thing, but it’s the same with all builders isn’t it? Once you let them into the house to do the decking, or onto the 12 acres of ground behind you to construct a world-class children’s hospital, you just have to take their word for it”.
Frailly stepping over discarded breakfast roll wrappings, the committee members took us through to their home, where we were offered tea and bourbon biscuits. We inquired about the rising costs of the project, and if they saw any light at the end of the tunnel.
“Look, the money end of the thing… they told us it would be this price, and then they came back and said they’d found something wrong with the ground so it’d have to go up by 60 million. This is June of 2017, now” said Mr. O’Connell, before his wife cut across him.
“And then that went up to 180 million by the end do the year, and sure look, then there was something wrong with the piping or whatever and that put it up by another 320 million the following year” she told us, pouring us a second mug.
“And sure look, they change the government fella every six months or so, so we can never get talking to the same lad twice. The builder… look, when he’s not out in the van talking on his mobile phone, he’s heading off to the shop and then you don’t see him for weeks at a time. We’ve tried calling, but it’s straight to voicemail”.
The O’Connell’s made their way through to their living room, as The Chase was starting soon.
“We’d really just love if the whole thing was over by now” said a weary Agnes O’Connell.
“It’s costing a fortune, and there’s dust everywhere. We’re sick of it. We’ve damn all money left, we were supposed to use it for ourselves for heating and food and the like, and it’s all fallen into this big hole in the back yard. But if it means being shot of this lot, then we’ll just sign over whatever they want”.
Not knowing whether or not to be angry at their overly-trusting nature or annoyed at their resignation to defeat, we left them to it.