There can be no semblance or even perception of religious influence in the new national maternity hospital, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin says he still has concerns around the governance of the new hospital, which is due to relocate from Holles Street to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. The project has been mired in political controversy after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there were a number of problems in proceeding with the relocation.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said talks will be held with the board of St Vincent’s and Holles Street.
“I do have an issue with the governance, and I do think the public interest has to be represented more on the board. They are very fundamental issues, the taxpayer is paying for this, that needs to that needs to be reflected in terms of governance structures.
“The Minister is going to engage with the stakeholders, the board of St Vincent’s and of Holles Street as well on that issue, and also in terms of the ownership issue, and related issues.”
The Government has also said it wants to own the site that the hospital will be built on, but St Vincent’s has said it must retain ownership.
Mr Martin said there has been a “historic evolution of health where voluntary hospitals have received substantial grants from the State”. He said while “liens” can be put on the property to enable the State to recover its investments, nothing has been agreed.
“There is a lease agreement, that’s being looked at now by Government, nothing has been signed off on.
“I don’t believe a new site is on the cards. And I don’t believe in compulsory purchase orders, because that could take another five or six years.”
Government sources previously said a plan B would be needed if the deal falls through.
Campaigners have also raised concerns about a religious influence or ethos. The Religious Sisters of Charity own the site, which they plan to transfer to a new entity. That entity will lease the land to the State.
“I’m being honest and straight about this in respect of the Government’s perspective. I think other stakeholders need to be as well, and need to get real to in terms of the realities of the modern era. What’s clear and what’s critical is that again people have concerns… but there can be no semblance, or even perception, that other influences, religious influences or whatever, can override what’s legally available in the state,” Mr Martin said.
“The women of Ireland are entitled to all legal available services and will be, we can provide for that through the Government if necessary.” He said that a memo for decision has not yet come to Government.
“There have been negotiations over the last two years between the HSE and legal representatives, but there’s issues to be dealt with in respect of the ownership issue that we’ll be following through, and the Minister will be meeting with the board now in respect of that.”