Sir, – I welcome the Tánaiste's acknowledgment that the Government is double-checking the legal advice it has received on the proposed relocation plan for the new National Maternity Hospital (News, June 25th).
The key point to note is that any legal advice received before August 2020 must be considered deficient. This is when we first saw the constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings, the company into which the Religious Sisters of Charity plan to transfer their shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).
On March 16th, 2020, the Vatican issued a conditional letter of grant to the Sisters in respect of the transfer. Government lawyers must now consider in particular one sentence from that letter which was emphasised in bold type. It said that “the provisions relating to the validity and lawfulness of alienations, found in Canons 638-639 and Canons 1292-1294 of the Code of Canon Law and in Proper Law, are to be observed”. We must assume that the Sisters did indeed follow this directive.
Thus the obvious question arises as to how the observation of the canon laws has been achieved practically.
Could it be as follows:
1) St Vincent’s Holdings must perpetuate Catholic ethos. As the constitution of the company retains in full the core values of the order, and the directors are obliged to uphold the values and vision of the Order’s founder, this box is ticked.
2) St Vincent’s Holdings must retain ownership of the land on which the new hospital is to be built. Box ticked.
3) St Vincent’s Holdings must own the company which will operate the new hospital, NMH DAC. Box ticked.
4) St Vincent’s Holdings must have the ability to control the board of the new hospital. NMH will only be able to nominate four out of nine directors of NMH DAC, and the chairmanship of the board will rotate every three years to SVHG. Box ticked.
The other key point to note in light of the all-party consensus that the State must own the land on which the new hospital is to be built (Social Democrats Dáil motion on June 23rd) is that the Sisters will have to make a fresh application to Rome in order to achieve the will of the Oireachtas. Given the statements made the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Health in recent days that they want absolute certainty that procedures such as abortion and IVF will be done at the new hospital, including, as the Tánaiste said, an explicit clause in a revised constitution and memorandum of association of St Vincent’s Holdings, it will be interesting to see if Rome can or will grant such permission.
Above all Government lawyers must be mindful that they must ask the right questions in order to get the right answers. – Yours, etc,
Dr PETER BOYLAN,
Sir,– It beggars belief that it has taken the collective genius of Enda Kenny, Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, plus four ministers for health, not to mention the glorious wisdom of the civil servants in the Department of Health, eight years to discover that the site for a new maternity hospital is not for sale.
Is it any surprise that we can’t build houses? – Yours, etc,