State would own new National Maternity Hospital in ‘ideal world’, says Taoiseach

Stakeholders should not become ‘overly obsessive’ about ownership, Taoiseach says

June 17th, 2021: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, responding to a Dáil question from People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, has said that the Government has concerns over the land ownership, lease proposal and governance arrangements of the new national maternity hospital.

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that in an “ideal world” the State should own hospitals such as the new National Maternity Hospital where “very, very substantial” funding is provided by the taxpayer.

He urged stakeholders - specifying he wasn’t talking about the State - in the hospital project to reflect that the “ultimate objective” is to “look after the women of Ireland, and not to be becoming overly obsessive about ownership”.

“I’m not talking about the State, I’m talking about historic bodies, or trusts, or whatever.”

The long-running saga over the ownership of the new facility, to be built on the St Vincent’s University Hospital Campus in south Dublin was reignited this week after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil there are “problems” with the project, including around the plan to rent the land as part of a 99-year lease. Under that deal, the ownership of the land would transfer to an entity called St Vincent’s Holdings.

The Religious Sisters of Charity have said they will have no involvement in the operation of the hospital, but campaigners protest the plan risks an ongoing religious influence on the ethos of the hospital.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Friday, Mr Martin said his view, going back to when he was in opposition, was that new hospitals should be “public hospitals owned by the public, built on public land”.

“It is time for society to move beyond the era we’ve had in relation to ownership issues and so on, because given the nature of tertiary healthcare services in the modern era, given the nature of and necessity of State investment to make it possible in terms of high quality, world class facilities, the world has moved on in terms of those issues.” he said.

He said nothing has been signed off in relation to the project; campaigners and politicians have voiced concerns about ownership and religious ethos at the new hospital. The site where it is to be built is owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who plan to gift it to a new body that will run the hospital.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will be continuing engagements with all parties concerned, Mr Martin said. “There will be enormous taxpayers’ money allocated here, and a basic requirement of that in an ideal world would be that the taxpayer would own the facility the taxpayer is investing in right into the future, because it will be very, very substantial money indeed.”

“We need urgently a modern new maternity hospital for Holles St, particularly for all of the women who would be availing of its services. The current situation is not good.”

Referring to previous issues around the ownership of Tallaght Hospital, Mr Martin said: “There seems to be just endless negotiations and discussions around who owns what and so on, and it’s no longer tenable in the modern era, and where the State is putting such huge resources into a particular entity, all the resources into a particular entity, I believe the State should own it.”

It’s understood a business case for the new hospital has been completed by the Health Service Executive , whose board has received final legal documents on the scheme recently and is now considering them.