Varadkar expects Government decision on NMH on Tuesday

Tánaiste says CPO of site could cost tens of millions extra and lead to further delay

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he expects there to be a Government decision on the proposed new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) next Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on Thursday “we will see how things develop between now and then [Tuesday]”.

Speaking during leader’s questions, Mr Varadkar said a compulsory purchase order (CPO) of the site would mean additional costs of up to “tens of millions” of euro, further delay with the project, and that ultimately the CPO might fail.

He said the Government had considered a CPO but that it would not have the co-operation of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG.

The site of the proposed new hospital at Elm Park in south Dublin was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who transferred its 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 at €10 per year.

Mr Varadkar said St Vincent’s Holdings CLG had been “very clear” with the Government that it does not wish to sell the site.

“If the site was at the edge of the campus, like the BreastCheck building, they might sell the site and they did that actually in relation to BreastCheck, but they’re very clear that this site is in the middle of their campus – they do not want to sell it.”

The Fine Gael leader said the Government had decided two weeks ago to pause making a final decision on the proposed new National Maternity Hospital. He said this was "a sensible approach" that allowed people to ask questions, for transparency, the publication of documents and also to consider "what additional safeguards we might be able to add to the Government decision".

Mr Varadkar was addressing Labour leader Ivana Bacik, who said it was "time to call the bluff"of the owners of the site.

“It is time to call them out because while a 299-year lease is certainly better than the previous alternative that was offered, a 99-year lease, it still remains different to freehold,” she said.

“It still remains conditional ownership, not outright ownership in perpetuity, and that’s the difficulty we have.

“We believe it is time to call the bluff of the owners of the site and to say we as a State wish to take ownership in perpetuity of the land on which the new National Maternity Hospital is to be built, to put beyond doubt the future ownership and the future availability right into the next century, the future availability of all necessary maternity and reproductive healthcare services for women.”