The Government needs to clearly tell the country why they're unwilling to buy the land that will house the new National Maternity Hospital, Dr Peter Boylan says.
The controversy over the land for the new hospital - which will be located on the St Vincent's Hospital site in Dublin - has been ongoing for several years now.
While the Religious Sisters of Charity order says they are gifting the land to the State, campaigners fear continued religious influence at the site will stop doctors from performing certain procedures.
The current St Vincent's healthcare group has ruled out selling the land to the State but has insisted the new hospital will be clinically independent with no religious or Vatican influence.
They say the new hospital building will be fully owned by the State while the land it is built on will be leased to the State on an agreement lasting 99 years with the option for an extension.
In the latest development, The Irish Times today reports that a proposed HSE licence for the new hospital "will include legal measures requiring it to provide all medical procedures allowed under Irish law".
However, Dr Boylan - a former master of the NMH - said that wouldn't really change anything, and such agreements "aren't worth the paper they're written on".
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Dr Boylan observed: “The problem is the new hospital is planned to be owned 100% by a company called St Vincent’s Holdings, which is a private company. The Sisters of Charity are trying to transfer their assets into this company.
“The directors of that company… will be obliged to uphold the values and vision of Mother Mary Aikenhead, the founder of the Sisters of Charity.
"We’re being asked to believe the vision and values… include the provision of abortion services, sterilisation and IVF - all procedures directly contrary to Catholic teaching."
He said there are fears the boards of St Vincent’s and the new hospital will be ‘packed’ with consultants with contentious objections to doing particular procedures
There's also a risk that “down the road” St Vincent’s Holding could merge with an international Catholic organisation, Dr Boylan suggested.
He said: “All of this could be sorted out if the State owned the land on which the hospital was built.
“The Uplift group recently obtained senior counsel opinion that a compulsory purchase order is a realistic proposition in this case.
“The Government needs to tell us - clearly - why they will not go down the route of a compulsory purchase order for the land. Are we yet again going to see the Irish State capitulate to the Catholic Church, and yet again it will be Irish women who suffer in the long term?”
“We’re a Republic, for god’s sake - we should not be investing this amount of money in a private enterprise with such risks attached to it for the reproductive health of women in years to come.”
He stressed that co-location of healthcare facilities is a practice well recognised around the world, pointing to the current approach on the St James’s campus - with several hospitals governed independently - as an example of how that can work
However, in terms of the new maternity hospital, he argued: “This nonsense that because it’s on the same campus it has to be part of the hospital & organisation doesn’t hold up to any objective analysis at all.”