Candidates in the upcoming Dublin Bay South byelection have called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to ensure that the planned new national maternity hospital (NMH) is free of all religious influence.
Fine Gael candidate Cllr James Geoghegan, who sits on the NMH board, said there should be “absolute legal certainty” that “every service legal in Ireland” will be available in the hospital, which is to be located in Dublin Bay South.
Plans to move the NMH from Holles Street in Dublin 2 to the St Vincent’s University Hospital campus at Elm Park have been delayed amid concerns about ownership and religious ethos. The legal framework around the planned relocation is nearing completion.
Opposition and Government TDs and campaigners believe that the hospital might not be fully State-owned and independent, and are seeking to meet Mr Donnelly about the issue.
When asked if the hospital would be free of religious influence under the current planned structures, Mr Geoghegan said it “must be free of all religious influence” and that “every procedure that is legal in this State has to be carried out in the new hospital”.
Labour candidate Senator Ivana Bacik said she was concerned about current governance proposals and believed that “every medical service legally available for women and men” should be provided there.
Fianna Fáil candidate Deirdre Conroy called for all services to be available at the hospital.
People Before Profit candidate Brigid Purcell said she had concerns regarding the running and owning of the NMH. Green Party Cllr Claire Byrne said it was her understanding “that the new hospital will perform all maternal medical procedures that are legal in Ireland”.
Concerns have been raised about a holding company being established to run St Vincent’s and the new maternity hospital. St Vincent’s Holdings CLG is being set up as the owners of St Vincent’s, the Sisters of Charity, cease involvement with the hospital.
Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan previously told the Dáil that “the core values of the constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings are identical to those of the Sisters of Charity”.
Campaigners have questioned whether it would be bound by canon law, but Mr Donnelly last year said he was advised this would not be the case.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said recently he would insist that “all State policies would be followed through without question in the policy of the hospital and the operational working of the hospital”.
Political sources said there is concern at Cabinet level about the increasing cost of the move and the terms of the contracts. One said that while there was an urgency to provide the best maternity facilities, a decision cannot be rushed into until “all of the questions have been answered”.