The National Maternity Hospital

Sir, – The leaders of the three Government parties have stated categorically that the HSE will own the new National Maternity Hospital. The State will hold a 299-year lease, supposedly at a peppercorn rent, from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. This, according to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Eamon Ryan makes the State the owner of the new building.

A Government TD this week repeated the claim, likening the 299-year lease to a typical lease of similar duration on a redbrick house in Drumcondra, which gives the householder full ownership. That comparison was poor. The owner of the redbrick has a title defined in law as a proprietary lease, giving the owner a right to buy out the freehold at any time for a nominal sum. The State can never buy out the freehold of the new hospital.

The claimed peppercorn rent is an illusion. Having built the hospital, the State is required to pay €850,000 per annum in rent, to be abated on condition the tenant (HSE) does not breach conditions laid down by St Vincent’s Group.

By way of background, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group stated that unless it got an operating licence, it would not lease the hospital site to the State at all. This operating licence enables St Vincent’s Group to manage and control the hospital “jointly” with the newly created hospital company.


The hospital design, incidentally, incorporates five private suites for medical consultants to enable them to continue their private practices to supplement their public salaries. This provision is in contravention of the principles of Sláintecare.

If the State were the owner of the property, as the Government leaders claim, it would not be compelled to give a licence to any third party. The Government could also ensure that the privilege of private practice would not be granted to hospital consultants in the new hospital, thereby beginning to dismantle the dysfunctional public-private mix in our publicly funded hospitals.

Ownership is described in legal texts as a bundle of rights. There is no doubting who has the bulk of rights in the new hospital. It is St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. This private company is the freehold owner, and as landlord, it is imposing severely restrictive clauses on a tenant State. It is also the larger stakeholder in the operating licence.

In a final ignominy for the Government, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group has also retained the power to mortgage the new building, subject to the usual conditions. St Vincent’s, can not, of course, mortgage the hospital building unless it owns it. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – My late mother, Anne Byrne, of Sir John Rogerson’s Quay (then a densely populated part of Dublin) was born in the new maternity hospital in Holles Street on March 7th, 1896. She had two older brothers who were home births, as the hospital did not exist then.

She married my father William Sands of Windmill Lane in St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, on June 26th, 1916. They had 12 children, most of them born in Holles Street. On November 17th, 1937, I was their last born, or “the shakings of the bag”, as some people called it. I was then a home birth, as it was deemed my mother was experienced enough to cope.

Approaching my 85th birthday, it’s possible I may be around to see the opening of the new NMH, fully State owned and operated, and therefore available to all. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The recent debate concerning the planned new maternity hospital on the St Vincent’s Hospital site has generated much debate about the term “religious ethos”.

As the majority of citizens in Ireland identify according to a religious persuasion, it might be helpful for those who are prone to demonise the influence of religion, particularly in the public sphere, to acknowledge that the central tenet that underpins religious practice centres on the care of others, particularly the vulnerable. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Paul Walsh identifies several elements of Irish drama appertaining to the National Maternity Hospital debate (Letters, May 13th). To his list (religion, land, money, nuns, childbirth, politics, law, strong women and farce), could I add the most obvious, "weak men". – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.