Arson fires at new Children’s National Hospital site raise ‘serious concerns’

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The board of the new National Children’s Hospital has expressed “serious concern” over the continuing arson attacks at the site, calling the incidents “unacceptable”.

The National Children’s Hospital Development Board has expressed concern at the increased frequency and nature of the attacks, which first emerged last summer at the Dublin site.

In order to solve the problem, cameras have been installed on the site, reinforced identification measures for workers and flammable objects are immediately eliminated.

At a December board meeting, members were told that two more arson attacks had been reported at the scene. The council discussed the measures the contractor had implemented to “mitigate the risk of further such incidents”. The main contractor on site is the construction company BAM.

At a previous board meeting in November, another incident of arson at the site was discussed. Council heard that the contractor had implemented many of the recommendations. The installation of cameras and “enhanced identification measures for workers had a positive impact in reducing incidents,” the minutes said.

The council had also heard of instances of a number of on-site arson attacks at an earlier meeting in October last year.

“The board expressed deep concern over the incidents, finding them unacceptable,” the minutes read. She notes that the immediate removal of flammable items was part of the changes made by the contractor as part of a health and safety improvement plan. The council also discussed other improvements that could be made on the basis of a Garda information note.

Third party audits

Board members had “expressed concern” at the September meeting “about the increased frequency and nature of incidents”.

The National Children’s Hospital Development Board was at this point in “daily and weekly contact” with the builder in a bid to root out the arson attacks. At this meeting, it was said that three third-party audits had been commissioned on the matter.

A council spokesman said a Garda investigation was ongoing. He said BAM was “responsible for all operational matters on site… There have been a number of arson attacks on the site of the new Children’s Hospital on a campus shared with St James’s Hospital. In all cases, these incidents were immediately reported to An Garda Síochána by BAM. The company said it was unable to comment as it is an ongoing Garda investigation.

There has been controversy over the hospital project for years amid spiraling costs as well as delays that mean it won’t open again until the second half of 2024 at the earliest.

It is feared that the cost of construction could be much higher than the last official estimate of 1.433 billion euros when delays – some caused by the pandemic – and other problems such as inflation in the costs of building materials and Brexit are taken into account.

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