Further delay to National Maternity Hospital would ‘not be the right choice’, Dáil hears

Green Party leader says legal structures show there will not be religious interference

Further delay to the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) would "not be the right choice", Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan said the legal structures showed there will not be any religious inference with the hospital.

Mr Ryan was responding to concerns raised by the Opposition during Leader's Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, after Cabinet decided to delay giving approval to the relocation of the NMH to a site on the St Vincent's Hospital campus at Elm Park in Dublin earlier this week.

The Irish Times reported on Thursday that the Government will not consider any changes to the structure or governance of the new National Maternity Hospital in the coming weeks.

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.

Documentation

Mr Ryan said Cabinet had decided to release all documentation relating to the deal, which the Oireachtas Health Committee would examine and investigate, and the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly would come back to Cabinet with those observations.

“What will be decided at Cabinet in two weeks’ time, we will have to wait and see and decide then,” he said. “It’s not decided in the front page of an Irish newspaper.”

Mr Ryan said he felt the vast majority of medics and the public recognised that the existing situation in the National Maternity Hospital was “intolerable” and that “we cannot delay”.

He said if it was decided tomorrow to proceed with the relocation, it would be 2030 before the State would see a new hospital in operation.

Mr Ryan also said it was his understanding that the Sisters of Charity were asked if they wanted to sell the land and “the answer was no from their side”.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty asked why couldn't the Sisters of Charity gift the land to the State,

“Why are you, it seems from what you’ve said, supporting the idea of spending a billion euro of taxpayer’s money building a hospital that we all agree is needed, on land that is not owned by the State,” he said.

Prominent medics

The Donegal TD said despite serious concerns being voiced by many women and prominent medics about the relocation, the Government was "relentlessly pursuing the option of leasing the land".

Mr Doherty said everyone agreed a new National Maternity Hospital needed to be built and operational as soon as possible, but “expediency cannot be at the cost of rights in any way”.

He asked Mr Ryan had he abandoned a previous position while in Opposition that a lease agreement was not acceptable or had he "now rolled over to the tune of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil".

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the Taosieach had referenced the 299-year lease only costing €10 a year but that “tellingly he failed to mention that the actual rent stipulated in the lease agreement is €850,000 a year”.

“It has been reduced to €10 as long as a list of six conditions are complied with, including that the landlord, St Vincent’s Holdings, retain a controlling stake over the use of the hospital,” she said.

“If these conditions are breached, the rent reverts upwards.”

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she was "deeply troubled" by reports that the Government had no intention of changing the governance or structure of the new hospital.

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