No consideration given to alternative sites for National Maternity Hospital – Tánaiste

Varadkar says Government committed to development ‘planned for St Vincent’s’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: ‘I want to say that the Government is committed to the development of this hospital.’ Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: ‘I want to say that the Government is committed to the development of this hospital.’ Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The Government has not given consideration to alternative sites for the location of the new National Maternity Hospital, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Former minister for health Simon Harris reportedly suggested at the weekend that Tallaght hospital might be considered as an alternative option in the row over ownership and governance at the St Vincent’s site in Elm Park, south Dublin.

But Mr Varadkar told Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall “we haven’t given examination to alternative sites”.

He added: “I want to say that the Government is committed to the development of this hospital. It is planned for the St Vincent’s University Hospital campus at Elm Park,” which was set out in the program for government.

When the issue was raised again by Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin O Broin Mr Varadkar said “I’m not aware of any plans to look” at other hospitals for co-location.

He said the “obvious fit” for the hospital currently located at Holles Street “notwithstanding the enormous complications is St Vincent’s”.

During leaders’ questions Mr Varadkar also rejected a suggestion from Ms Shortall that the concern he raised about the governance and ownership of the site was prompted by the byelection in Dublin Bay South and the concerns of its constituents about the issue.

The site was owned by the Sisters of Charity who have since transferred ownership to St Vincent’s Holdings but concerns have been raised the order’s ethos may prevent the provision of reproductive and sexual health treatments.

Negotiations

The Tánaiste said “what prompted me quite frankly was a question from [People Before Profit TD] Bríd Smith. I would not have answered that question if I hadn’t been asked it.”

He said it might have been two or three years since he was asked for his comments on the project. “I’m conscious of the fact that negotiations have been underway during that period.”

But Ms Shortall said this was a “bit rich” as she had been raising the fundamental problems with ownership and governance repeatedly for the past four years.

She said Mr Varadkar’s comments were surprising given that she and others had been telling him all that time that “this deal is manifestly bad for the public”.

“You blithely ignored, all of those mornings. Whenever I have raised concerns about ownership governance I have been fobbed off with assurance the legal framework was all that was outstanding.”

She said work started on the legal framework in 2017 “but four years later, there’s still no sign” of it.

Ms Shortall added that the Tánaiste had “complained bitterly” about the 99 years lease and said that the State should own the site.

“But it was Government proposed the least in the first place”.

“In July 2019 you referred to the proposal yourself in this House. You said the team has agreed in principle to provide the stage with a 99 year lease.”

He said; “we want to own the hospital, ideally own the land as well.

“And we want proper representation on the board and the governance issue is as important as the land ownership issue if not more, in my view. That’s my position on that hasn’t changed.”