Varadkar expresses concerns over new maternity hospital

Land for building ‘has not been gifted to the State but to a private charity’, says Tánaiste

June 17th, 2021: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, responding to a Dáil question from People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, has said that the Government has concerns over the land ownership, lease proposal and governance arrangements of the new national maternity hospital.

 

The Government has concerns about ownership of the land the new national maternity hospital will be built upon.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar expressed concern in the Dáil about the proposed new hospital’s governance. The land “has not been gifted to the State but to a private charity”, St Vincent’s Holdings with a 99-year lease to the State, he said.

“We don’t think the safeguards around that are strong enough,” he said, adding that they also had a difficulty that the hospital’s board would not be appointed by the Government.

“A hospital that is almost fully funded by the State should have a significant number, a majority appointed by the Government in my view.”

Mr Varadkar told People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith that the “ideal scenario” would be for the State to own the site. But he said it was “an integrated building with the existing hospital” and that made it “tricky”.

He told the Dublin South-Central TD that “you and I agree on this more than you may believe”.

Raising the issue in the Dáil Ms Smith said that ideally the State should compulsorily purchase the land and staff and run it “without any interference from a charity that the nuns can appoint directors to”.

She said the Mulvey report on which these arrangements were based should be “scrapped” because it was agreed before the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment on abortion and “repeal changed everything”.

Earlier this month the Sisters of Charity – the religious order which previously ran St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, where the new hospital will be located – said it was not now, nor would it be involved in the management of St Vincent’s hospital, the new maternity hospital or the new independent charity set up to take over ownership of the facility.

Private Catholic ethos

But Ms Smith said the constitutional make-up of the new St Vincent’s Holding Group still allowed for the voluntary organisations to maintain a private Catholic ethos.

And she did not believe there was sufficient guarantee to ensure that some procedures and treatments would be provided because of that ethos.

The Dublin South-Central TD said there would be a demonstration on Saturday June 26th at 1 pm outside the Dáil to campaign make the hospital “fully public”.

And she called on the Tánaiste to allow the Dáil examine the current draft of the legal framework, “to scrap the Mulvey plan because it had been made redundant by the repeal of the Eighth Amendment” and act to take the new maternity hospital into full public ownership.

Mr Varadkar said, however, that “it is an absolute requirement that the constitution must specify that any procedures and treatments that are legal in the State are available in that hospital. There can be no ambiguity about that and it includes sterilisation, IVF, assisted reproduction and terminations.”

He agreed with her that the ideal scenario would be ownership of the site but that was tricky because of the design.