Government will not oppose motion to buy site of new National Maternity Hospital

Coalition seeking to conclude lease agreement with St Vincent’s health group

An artist’s impression of the new National Maternity Hospital

An artist’s impression of the new National Maternity Hospital

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The Government will not oppose a Dáil motion to be debated on Thursday night calling for the compulsory purchase of the site for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

However, the Government has not changed its position and does not intend to purchase the site. Instead, it is seeking to conclude a long-term lease – expected to be 299 years – with the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, owners of the site adjacent to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.

The motion, promoted by independent TDs Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle, will be debated by the Dáil on Thursday night but it is not binding on the Government. Critics of the Government plan fear that unless the State owns the site outright, the relocated hospital could be prevented from carrying out medical procedures such as abortion which are contrary to Catholic teaching. This is because the owners of the site are the successors to the order of nuns who founded and originally ran St Vincent’s Hospital.

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However, the Government has rejected these concerns, as have many of the doctors who currently work in the NMH and are keen for the move – first mooted many years ago – to go ahead. The NMH is currently housed in a series of Victorian buildings and later additions at Holles Street in Dublin south city centre.

In a statement last night, the Government spokesman said the Coalition is “committed to the development of the new National Maternity Hospital planned for the St Vincent’s campus at Elm Park”.

Legal arrangements

“Work is ongoing in finalising the legal arrangements to address the ownership and governance arrangements,” it said.

It explained that the State had three objectives: “to ensure all clinically appropriate services that are legally permissible are provided for women who need them in this new public hospital; to prevent any undue influence, religious or otherwise, in the operation of the new hospital; and to protect the State’s interest in relation to capital, revenue and service provision, in particular to the ownership interest in the State’s investment of the land and asset”.

“The Minister for Health has been clear that he will not bring any proposal to Government unless it provides assurances in relation to those key objectives,” the statement said.