The Minister for Health has apologised to the Dáil for an answer he gave to the House on 18 September 2018 about the National Children's Hospital project.

Simon Harris issued the apology over information he provided on the cost of the new hospital.

He was criticised by Fianna Fáil after an answer he gave to a parliamentary question failed to indicate that costs were escalating.

Mr Harris said that at the time of answering, he was not in a position to give commercially sensitive figures.

But today he said that he should have answered it more fully as it was never his intention to mislead the Dáil. 

"I should have added further detail to inform that a process was ongoing to finalise costs and that updated costs would be known when that process concluded. I apologise for not doing this".

He added that he would account for his actions and decisions, and would ensure others are held to account for theirs.

"We will not be found wanting when it comes to acting against any entity or any company if errors were made," he said. 

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The Taoiseach said the Government had underestimated the cost of the National Children's Hospital and must take responsibility for that.

Leo Varadkar said construction inflation was one of the reasons for this but it was not the only one.

He said the Government accepts too that lessons will have to be learned.

Mr Varadkar was responding to the Fianna Fáil leader during Leader's Questions this afternoon.

Micheál Martin said there has still been no explanation as to why Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was not informed of the danger of the escalating costs.

"Are we seriously to believe that the secretary generals of finance and health had no discussions about this between August and November last year, or indeed that the two ministers didn't, because if that is the case, then that raises fundamental issues in terms of the governance and management of budgetary process itself," he said.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on public expenditure and reform Barry Cowen has said he hopes to be in a position to accept Mr Harris' apology later.

The Minister was responding to a question from Mr Cowen last September, who asked him about the cost of the project.

The Sinn Féin leader said that sorry will not be sufficient in light of the €450m increase in spending on the project.

Mary Lou McDonald urged people in Fianna Fáil to break ranks with the party's leadership and to support the Sinn Féin no-confidence motion in the Minister for Health next week.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Ms McDonald said: "Fianna Fáil might be prepared to sit on its hands. We won't."

She said the Taoiseach should release Mr Harris of his duties.

Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty rejected Mr Harris's assertion that the information he was given in relation to escalating costs at the new hospital was "commercially sensitive".

"We have the Minister coming in here, making a  very feeble apology, still trying to suggest that he couldn't give the information because it was somehow how commercially sensitive," Mr Doherty said.

The Donegal TD called on the Mr Harris to answer further questions in the Dáil.

Mr Martin also asked that the Dáil set aside time for further questioning of the minister.

He compared Sinn Féin's approach to that of a Clint Eastwood film.

"When a cowboy arrives into town, the first thing they did is reach for the holster. Sinn Féin's first instinct in a controversy of this kind is to reach for the private member's motion of no confidence," Mr Martin said.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin called on Minister Paschal Donohoe to answer questions on the matter, saying it was "not credible that his department was unaware of this incredible escalation of costs".

Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger also said the Minister should made a political statement, rather than a personal apology.

Later in the Dáil Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke generally about the issue of low price tenders in relation to future Government contracts.

He said: "We do have a real concern that some companies are low balling, coming in with very low tender prices to get the contract, then coming back with claims thereafter".

He said the Government wanted to "particularly look at past form" in relation to contractors and using public service references.

"Because there are one or two contractors who quite frankly I would not like to see get a public contract again in this state," Mr Varadkar said.

However, he added that while EU procurement law did not allow for banning parties from tendering, the Government would examine working in to the scoring system a public service reference, or a past form clause, looking back at previous projects.