Legal documents on new maternity hospital to be adjusted

Government to add codicil clarifying contentious phrase ‘clinically appropriate’

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, a barrister and former solicitor, is understood to be involved in efforts to formulate the new document. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, a barrister and former solicitor, is understood to be involved in efforts to formulate the new document. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

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The Government is to move to clarify a contentious phrase in legal documents surrounding the relocation of the new National Maternity Hospital.

Senior sources on Thursday night confirmed that work was under way on a legal codicil which would clarify the statement that procedures will be available in the hospital where “clinically appropriate and legally permissible”.

A number of Coalition TDs on Thursday called for the phrase to be clarified amid concerns that it creates ambiguity around who decides what may or not be clinically appropriate in the hospital.

These included Fine Gael TDs Neale Richmond, Richard Bruton and Emer Higgins and Green Party deputy Neasa Hourigan. A senior Government source said they believed adding a codicil or addendum to legal documents related to the move from Holles Street to a site at St Vincent’s Hospital was now “doable”.

Another source said this would not involve opening up the existing agreement or changing the current legal documents that have been published.

Terminations

It would, instead, likely involve attaching a codicil which would provide a “non-exhaustive list” of what procedures will be available at the new hospital, including terminations, for example.

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, a barrister and former solicitor, is understood to be involved in efforts to formulate the new document. Opposition politicians have described the “clinically appropriate” phrase as a key stumbling block to approving the move.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated on Thursday that the Cabinet would proceed with plans to approve a memo on the relocation when it meets on Tuesday.

Dáil motion

The row is likely to continue, however, as Sinn Féin intends to bring forward a Dáil motion next week calling on the Government to ensure the hospital is built on land owned by the State.

The Government had hoped to allay concerns about the move which centred around governance, ownership and ethos given the new hospital is to be built on land which will be leased to the State for 299 years by a new company, St Vincent’s Holdings.

The Religious Sisters of Charity recently transferred their shareholding in St Vincent’s to the company and said they would have no further involvement in healthcare on the campus.

Former master of the NMH Peter Boylan has called for the publication of all correspondence between the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Vatican around the decision to transfer their shareholdings.

Current master of the NMH Shane Higgins appeared before an Oireachtas health committee last night and said he was “alarmed by the combination of emotive misinformation and misunderstanding that prevails” about the move.

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