Government to renew effort to purchase National Maternity Hospital site

State to engage with St Vincent’s Hospital Group and Religious Sisters of Charity

Currently, the Sisters of Charity plan to transfer the site for the planned National Maternity Hospital to a charitable entity

Currently, the Sisters of Charity plan to transfer the site for the planned National Maternity Hospital to a charitable entity

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The Government is set to make renewed efforts to explore the acquisition of lands where the new National Maternity Hospital is to be built, The Irish Times has learned.

Talks over a potential sale could begin as soon as this week, with senior Government sources indicating their view that the matter should be resolved soon.

The ownership of the lands has been the source of fresh political controversy in recent days. The Government is unhappy with the terms of the deal under which the State would lease the land for the hospital, as well as aspects of the Governance of the project.

Well-placed sources said the State would engage with St Vincent’s Hospital Group and the Religious Sisters of Charity, which owns the Dublin 4 land, over its future ownership.

Over the weekend, the Government reiterated its desire for a deal that would see the hospital built on lands owned by the State. “I am going to be engaging with the Sisters of Charity, with St Vincent’s, and my strong view is the State should own the site, and if anything can be done to that end, we will do it,” Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said yesterday.

Currently, the order plans to transfer it to a charitable entity linked to the hospital, St Vincent’s Holdings. Campaigners have argued the ownership structure envisaged under this deal could curtail the provision of services prohibited by Catholic teaching.

The Government says all procedures currently legal in the State would be offered at the hospital, even if a purchase is not completed, while the order of nuns says it will have no input into the running or ethos of the hospital. Mr Donnelly said yesterday he would not bring a proposal to Government that did not safeguard the clinical, financial and operational independence of the new hospital.

However, the Coalition’s preference is that the site, which is also the subject of a mortgage held in relation to the development of the private hospital on the campus, be owned outright by the State. It had been thought that purchase was not possible, with the State under the impression that St Vincent’s and the order had no interest in a sale, despite sources claiming a sale had been broached many times. This was compounded by a 2017 letter from the hospital to the Department of Health which stated that it could not “countenance any sale or lease of part of the land on the site, or any separate ownership of a hospital on site”.

However, following statements on Friday from both the order and the hospital group that they had never received an offer from the State, the possible transfer of land ownership to the State is to be explored again. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday the Government was willing to buy the land at a reasonable price and “that was always the case”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said yesterday a resolution should be found quickly.

“This has to happen in the coming weeks. It’s been years in the making, we now need to start building, and I believe it can be resolved, and we’ll play our part,” he said.

Neither the Religious Sisters of Charity or St Vincent’s Healthcare Group had any comment on Sunday.

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