The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that the senior civil servant on the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board was satisfied that the cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital were being addressed, and therefore did not have an obligation to inform the Minister for Health.

Earlier this month, Simon Harris released a memo from last August that flagged the cost overruns in the construction of the hospital.

The memo brought the total possible spending overrun to €391m.

Leo Varadkar was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said the government's Chief Procurement Officer and appointment to the board was obliged under the protocol to inform the minister about "serious weaknesses in controls that have not been addressed despite being drawn to the board or chairperson".

Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin that the civil servant in question, who is also the Government's Chief Procurement Officer, was appointed by Mr Harris, but had a duty to the board and was bound by confidentiality to the board.

However, Mr Martin said it was not tenable that the senior civil servant was "somehow prevented from telling his line minister", who was the Minister for Finance.

Mr Varadkar insisted that the civil servant "was and is satisfied that the cost issues which developed over the summer and autumn in 2018 were being appropriately addressed by the board and the chairman communicated to both the HSE and the Department of Health in a timely fashion". 

During heated exchanges in the Dáil, Mr Martin said the Government's focus at the time was on "controlling the message, not the cost".

Mr Martin said it was "to hell with the costs, let's get the good story and get it out fast".

Mr Varadkar said had the Government known about the projected overrun, they would have accounted for it, given the announcement of the National Development Plan Ireland 2040, published this time last year.

He said: "Of course if we had known this project was going to cost more, we would have accounted for it, and accounted for it a year ago."