Government will not reopen National Maternity Hospital deal

Ministers intend to use two-week delay to reassure concerned TDs, sources say

New National Maternity Hospital planned for the St Vincent’s hospital campus, at Elm Park. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The Government will not consider any changes to the structure or governance of the new National Maternity Hospital in the coming weeks, despite Opposition concerns about the ownership of the site and potential religious influence.

Senior sources said Ministers would instead seek to use the next two weeks to explain the nature of the agreement with St Vincent’s Hospital and seek to reassure Green Party TDs and others who have expressed reservations about the proposed relocation.

Three sources with knowledge of Government deliberations on the issue said there was no intention to amend the agreements between the Health Service Executive, the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital. They said the decision was paused but would not be changed and was likely to proceed before long.

“The Government is not going to reopen this agreement,” said one source. “In fact, the Government isn’t a party to the agreement. The agreement is between the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent’s, with the HSE’s approval. The Government just noted the agreement.”


Asked if the agreement would be changed, another source replied: “100 per cent not.” Another person involved at Government level said: “The deal is agreed. Nobody at Cabinet had any real issues with the deal itself.”

Opposition leaders and some Green Party TDs continued to express doubts about the deal to build the hospital on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin 4. The site was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who have transferred their shareholding to a new company, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. The land for the new hospital is to be leased to the State for 299 years.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the State must own the site outright, while Labour leader Ivana Bacik called for it to be acquired through a compulsory purchase order.

Pressure group

The Just Transition Greens, a pressure group within the party, last night said there were “very real concerns that, with the landlord and governing body being Catholic religious bodies, Catholic ethos will inform medical decisions as happens across the world in similar hospitals”.

Some campaigners say that because the land is owned by an entity with links to the Sisters of Charity, the hospital could be hampered by a religious ethos in delivering elements of women’s healthcare such as abortion and IVF.

This view is disputed by hospital staff, including former NMH master Dr Rhona Mahony, who on Wednesday insisted that the hospital would have complete independence and urged policymakers to proceed with the project.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last night wrote to Oireachtas health committee chairman Seán Crowe citing strong legal guarantees that the hospital would provide “all legally permissible services” including abortion, “gender affirming surgery and assisted human reproduction”. The Minister said he would attend the committee next week to discuss the project.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times