The Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Brendan Carr has accused the Minister for Health of "living on another planet" over the new maternity hospital.
Cllr Carr, who is a member of the National Maternity Hospital board in his role as mayor, said he was "infuriated" by the announcement made by the Religious Sisters of Charity that the replacement maternity hospital will remain in private hands.
In a statement on Monday, the sisters announced they will end their involvement in the St Vincent's Healthcare Group (SVHG) and will have no involvement in the new National Maternity Hospital on its campus.
Instead, ownership of the group is being transferred to a newly-formed company with charitable status to be called St Vincent’s. It will own the hospital.
Cllr Carr, a Labour Party councillor, said Simon Harris had missed the point about the hospital. "This isn't about the Sisters of Charity. This was about a charity running the hospital rather than the State."
He reiterated his call that the Minister seek a compulsory purchase order for the land on which the National Maternity Hospital is to be built – or obtain a 999-year lease on the site.
Cllr Carr said it was important to acknowledge that the sisters had responded to public concern by ceding control of the new maternity hospital.
However, he added: “The fact that the minister hasn’t got that message about public ownership by now is infuriating. The public concern is not being addressed. It is transferring from one charity to another. The public want public ownership. The State are investing €300 million in it. They want the public to determine how the hospital is going to be run. They cannot do that if another charity takes it over.
“The public have made it clear time and time again that they are paying for it and they want to own it, no one else. The Minister is really out of touch when he claims that public concerns about the future of our publicly funded hospital have been allayed by the handing over of its ownership from one private organisation to another, whether they have charitable status or not.”
Dublin City Council passed a motion at their May meeting calling on the hospital to be operated by the State.
The councillors also supported the motion by Green Party Cllr Ciarán Cuffe that An Bord Pleanála would make State control a condition of planning permission.
Cllr Cuffe said the issue of public ownership was “one for another day” as there were complications because the land on which the maternity hospital will be built is privately owned.
“The issue is more complex than a debate between a religious institution and the State,” he said. “The third leg of the stool is the private hospital. I assume it would be difficult to separate out the National Maternity Hospital from the private hospital.”