Did you ever see twenty nuns tearing their hair out, grinding their teeth and dismembering kittens?
No? Well maybe if you wandered up to Eccles Street in Dublin tonight you might get a first-hand look at the Mercy Sisters performing an aerobatic display on their broomsticks as they impale effigies of Frank Dolphin made out of unleavened bread which, as the old joke goes, is made with no ingredients, much like Bertie Ahern’s political principles. Not a newt, toad, bat or frog safe in all of north Dublin.
Ah now. Why are we back to Bertie? Why are we raking up the past?
Simple. I’ve explained this many times and it breaks my heart, Fredo, that you weren’t listening, but let me reiterate for the latecomers.
Da Bert was once a book-keeper (though not an accountant as he claimed). And Bert’s employers were the Mercy order in Eccles Street, proprietors of the Mater Misericordiae hospital which is bounded by Eccles Street, the North Circular Road, Berkeley Road and Dorset Street. In the mid-eighties, the sisters built a vastly-profitable private hospital on part of the site, demolishing in the process number 7 Eccles Street, fictional home of Leopold Bloom.
Now, when Bert went into politics, he clearly retained his affection for the old birds as events were to prove.
First, when the scandal of abuse in religious-run institutions blew up, it was clear that victims would have to be financially compensated. Michael Woods, doctor of tomatoes, was the man delegated by Ahern to negotiate with the religious orders, who were represented by Sr Helena O Donoghue, of the Mercy order in Eccles Street. Helena, a cunning old girl, backed Doctor Tomato into a corner, eventually nailing the State for almost the entire cost of the compensation bill which is currently nudging €1.5 billion. Who had the final say on the deal? Da Bert, of course. And who was the go-between scurrying from Bert to Helena and back? Why, none other than our dear friend, Michael FIngers Fingleton, former seminarian.
What happened then?
Well, the nuns needed money, so Bert bought the hospital from them for €30 billion and promptly put them back in charge by giving them control of certain vital committees.
Am I finished? No.
When the National Children’s hospital was mooted, there were many proposals, ranging from greenfield sites to established hospital campuses, and all were dismissed in favour of a landlocked site with no room to expand, no parking, difficult access, poor air, and no grounds for children to play in but with one overarching positive : the site belonged to the nuns, Bert’s former employers.
Various reports were commissioned and all sorts of contortions happened until it eventually got the nod, and what celebrations there must have been. Double apple-tart and custard for everyone. Here’s my assessment of what happened in selecting the site, for anyone interested in seeing the background.
But then the design got the knock when Bórd Pleanála decided the proposal was out of scale with the site they were trying to squeeze it into and that was that. Back to the drawing board, unless you happen to be the architect who drew up the Mater proposal, although to be honest, Sean O Laoire has little enough to complain about. He’ll still be collecting his sizeable cheque for design to date, and who’s to say he won’t get the new job as well? It would be only fair.
So what have we now? A report prepared by Dr Frank Dolphin’s review group went before Cabinet today. The report is comprehensive and workmanlike, presenting the pros and cons of the various alternative sites, including a recognition of the Mater’s advantages, and in the end, the government opted for St James’s hospital.
It was a bit of a surprise, given the many advantages of JCM in Blanchardstown and the interesting idea of bilocating Tallaght hospital with the greenfield site at Newlands Cross, but there you have it. We finally have a decision on where to build the national children’s hospital. after years of wrangling and political interference.
There are many things wrong with the chosen site, but as the closely-argued Dolphin report makes clear, all the proposals have drawbacks. At least the thing is now ready to proceed, but where does that leave Bert the Builder?
Bertiebowl : dead.
Mater hospital : dead.
National aquatic centre : leaking.
Isn’t it a pity they couldn’t have announced this on Halloween and we could have enjoyed the Mercy nuns’ synchronised broomstick team doing a fly-by past government buildings.