National children’s hospital development stretches back 13 years

Development marked by missed deadlines and ballooning costs

2011: A planning application is submitted by then minister for health James Reilly for the new children’s hospital to be built on the Mater hospital site.

2012: An Bord Pleanála refuses planning permission for the health facility. Reilly establishes the Dolphin group to review the issue, which recommends St James’s Hospital as the new site – but there is criticism that the site is too small, with poor traffic access.

2015: An application for planning permission is lodged for a new national children’s hospital (NCH) at the St James’s Hospital campus. The project has an estimated price of €650 million and a completion date of 2020.

2016: Following a tendering process, BAM wins the contract for the NCH. Then minister for health Leo Varadkar says “short of an asteroid hitting the planet” the NCH will be built by 2020.


2017: Concerns begin to emerge about the costs of the project. A construction budget of €983 million is approved, but this is quickly exceeded. The Irish Times reveals the cost of construction will reach €1.43 billion with overall costs heading to €1.73 billion.

2019: Two Oireachtas committees conduct investigations into the overspend and consultancy firm PwC is commissioned to review the issue. The review found there were a “series of weaknesses” involving initial planning, budget oversight and execution of the project.

2020: Covid-19 lockdowns stall progress on the project. Over the following two years, BAM submits revised programmes to the development board, consistently pushing forward the date of substantial completion.

2022: In August 2022, the hospital was due for completion. This is pushed to November due to the pandemic and an agreement with a conciliator.

2023: Substantial completion is planned for the end of March 2024, before this is revised to May 2024 and then October 29th, 2024.

February 2024: The Government confirmed the cost of the NCH had risen again. The total capital and current budget sanctioned for the project is now €2.24 billion. Prior to this, the last publicly available estimate for the total cost was €1.7 billion.

May 2024: A robust meeting of the Public Accounts Committee hears there are further delays to the completion of the hospital. The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) blames the delays on resourcing by the contractor. BAM, the contractor, blames design changes by the board. Tánaiste Michéal Martin told the Dáil BAM “has not resourced this project sufficiently for quite some time”.

February 2025: This has been flagged as the new “substantial completion” date, which is the point at which building works are finished. However, the board behind the project have been unable to express certainty around the contractor meeting that date as BAM have not provided them with a programme.

August 2025: Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which will be the operator of the new children’s hospital, has said an operational commissioning period of six-nine months will be required before the facility can open. This means it would be August 2025 at the earliest before the facility could accept patients, though it could also be much closer to the end of the year.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times