It’s ‘inevitable’ that TDs who vote against the Government on the National Maternity Hospital will face sanctions, the Tánaiste has told Newstalk Breakfast.
The Dáil is tonight likely to vote on whether the new facility should be built on public land.
The Rural Independent Group is seeking support for a vote on the issue after last night’s debate ended without one.
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has said she will vote against the Government if a vote is called.
Her party colleague Patrick Costello has also voiced his opposition; however, he has yet to decide whether how he will vote.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there will no free vote on the matter.
“I think [sanctions] are inevitable,” he said. “Governments have to be engaged in collective responsibility.”
“There won’t be a [free vote] on this matter. There can be free votes on certain matters but certainly the Government hasn’t decided that there should be a free vote.”
Last night’s debate on a Sinn Féin motion obliging the Government to re-engage with the St Vincent's Healthcare Group to buy the site outright ended without a vote because Cabinet decided not to oppose it.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath then called for a vote just as the debate was ending; however, he will need the support of ten TDs to make it happen this evening.
The Rural Independent Group is made up of six TDs so they will need the support of four more.
Minister Varadkar has previously described public ownership of the new hospital as a “red line issue.”
He told Ciara that he believes the current 299-year lease deal achieves that objective.
“We do own the hospital - the bricks and mortar - and we have a 300-year lease,” he said. “That is a form of ownership.”
“There are two forms of ownership as you know, one is freehold and one is leasehold and a 300-year lease constitutes what they call solid title – so that constitutes ownership.
“It may not be freehold which I think would be ideal, but I understand why that is not possible and sometimes the perfect can be the enemy of the very, very good.
“This is very, very good and, despite what some people are saying, it is going to be a secular hospital. Any procedure that is lawful in the State will be provided there as it is now.”
He noted that the deal also gives Government a place on the hospital board and removes “the archbishops and the priests who are currently on it”.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of what we are trying to achieve here and that is to build a state-of-the-art National Maternity Hospital,” he said.
“Single rooms for every woman. Five new theatres which will make a big difference to gynaecology waiting lists and also co-location with a major adult teaching academic hospital, which is St Vincent’s, so that if something goes wrong - if a woman has a stroke, a major haemorrhage, heart problems, vascular problems - they can be in the ICU or with a specialist team within minutes rather than having to transfer by ambulance through the streets of Dublin.
“That is what we are trying to achieve and we want to go tender as soon as possible and ideally get under construction next year so that it can be available for women and children in four or five years’ time. That’s the kind of timeline we’re working on.”