The process of relocating the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) has gone on for "far too long", the Taoiseach has said, and major health projects need to be delivered "much more quickly" than they are at present.
Micheál Martin told the Dáil there would be no involvement or influence "in any way" from religious arrogations when the hospital moves south from Holles Street, Dublin to a site at Elm Park.
Mr Martin was responding in the Dáil on Wednesday to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, who said recent news reports suggested there was an agreement between the HSE and the St Vincent's Healthcare Group (SVHG) regarding the move.
"Not many people believe, myself included, that the Catholic Church will allow terminations or medical procedures that fundamentally go against their ethos to be performed on their land," Ms Whitmore said.
She said the women of Ireland would not countenance "any healthcare that will be influenced by religious ethos".
The Irish Times reported last week that, under proposals aimed at advancing the €800 million project, the HSE licence for the hospital is to include legal measures requiring it to provide all medical procedures allowed under Irish law.
The Elm Park site would come under State control for 299 years after its transfer to the NMH from SVHG. The text of that agreement between the HSE, the NMH and SVHG would then be incorporated directly into the licence under which the hospital will operate.
Mr Martin said there would be no involvement or influence from any religious organisation, “be it Catholic or whatever”, in the new facility.
“The hospital needs to be built now, negotiations are ongoing, but it’s gone on far too long. The existing conditions (at Holles Street) are not acceptable in the modern era,” he said.
“Health projects have to get delivered much more quickly than they are currently being delivered in this country. It’s not acceptable.”
Mr Martin said the issues raised by Ms Whitmore would be dealt with and that a memo would first come to Government on any agreement, which would then be shared. “I’m very clear we need to get this hospital built.”