The government will not oppose a Dáil motion to be debated on Thursday evening calling for the compulsory purchase of the site of the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH).
However, the government has not changed its position and has no intention of buying the site. Instead, it is seeking to secure a long-term lease – expected to be for 299 years – with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, which owns the site adjacent to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.
The motion, promoted by independent TDs Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle, will be debated by the Dáil on Thursday evening, but it does not bind the government. Critics of the government plan fear that unless the state fully owns the site, the displaced hospital could be prevented from performing medical procedures such as abortion that are against Catholic teaching. Indeed, the owners of the site are the successors of the order of nuns who originally founded and ran the Saint-Vincent Hospital.
However, the government has dismissed those concerns, as have many doctors who currently work at the NMH and want the move – first hinted at many years ago – to go ahead. The NMH is currently housed in a series of Victorian buildings and later additions in Holles Street in Dublin’s south city centre.
In a statement released last night, the government spokesperson said the Coalition is “committed to the development of the new National Maternity Hospital planned for the St Vincent campus in Elm Park”.
“Work is underway to finalize the legal arrangements to settle the ownership and governance agreements,” he said.
He explained that the state had three objectives: “to ensure that all clinically appropriate and legally authorized services are provided to women who need them in this new public hospital; prevent any undue influence, religious or otherwise, in the operation of the new hospital; and to protect the interest of the State with respect to capital, revenue and the provision of services, in particular the right of ownership over the State’s investment in land and assets”.
“The Minister of Health has made it clear that he will not present any proposals to the government unless he provides assurances on these key objectives,” the statement said.