Cabinet members who raised concerns at maternity hospital plans move to defend it

Naughton says there will be ‘clear protections’ to ensure new NMH has complete operational and clinical independence

Two Cabinet members who raised concerns about the plans to move the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus defended the project over the weekend.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton were among Fine Gael and Green Ministers who last week sought assurances from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that all legal healthcare services would be available at the hospital.

The new NMH will be located on the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, which was formerly run by the the Religious Sisters of Charity. The order last week transferred its shareholding in the company that owns the land to a charitable trust, which will then lease it to the State for 299 years.

There has been concern expressed by the Opposition and others at the extent of the new hospital’s independence from religious influence, and the impact this could have on the provision of abortions or fertility treatment.


Both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Mr Donnelly have insisted the new hospital will have no religious influence.

Ms Humphreys said at the weekend her concerns had been allayed, and she would back the project.

She said the current location of the NMH at Holles Street had gone past its sell-by-date and it was important to “move this on now as quickly as we can”.


Ms Naughton told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics there will be “clear protections” to ensure the new NMH has complete operational and clinical independence.

She said she knows there are “genuine concerns” by women around maternity services and the provision of care.But she said the leasing arrangement will have “no impact on the provision of clinical, obstetric and gynaecological services”.

“There will be complete operational and clinical independence. The hospital will be in State-ownership, that is absolutely categoric.”

Mr Donnelly brought the proposed deal for the NMH’s move from Holles Street in Dublin to a site on the St Vincent’s site to Cabinet last week. However, plans to approve the project were put on hold for two weeks after a number of Ministers expressed concern.

Mr Donnelly engaged with people on social media over the weekend in multiple posts insisting that the hospital building will be owned by the State and the NMH will be “clinically and operationally independent and obliged to provide all services”.

He is to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Health this Wednesday to face questions on the plans.


The Committee will meet in private on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of holding another meeting this week.

A second meeting would potentially hear from former master of the NMH, Dr Peter Boylan – who is opposed to the move to St Vincent’s as well as supporters of the plan like the current master of Holles Street, Dr Shane Higgins, or former master Dr Rhona Mahony.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall and a member of the Committee on Health said her main concern is that the Government “effectively and inexplicably gifting a publicly-funded hospital to a private entity, and completely contrary to the principles of Sláintecare”.

She told the Irish Times: “There are umpteen outstanding questions about the purpose and nature of this deal in respect of ownership, control and ethos which require to be answered.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times