Government didn’t push for full ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital site because it could have delayed the project, according to the Minister for Health.
Speaking at an event marking International Day of the Midwife in Dublin this afternoon, Stephen Donnelly said the clinical independence protections for the new facility are legally “bulletproof”.
Opposition TDs are continuing to express concerns about religious influence over the new hospital because the State will not own the land it is built on.
Government is continuing to insist that the 299-year lease it holds over the land is ownership in all but name.
Minister Donnelly said the legal agreements protecting the clinical independence of the new hospital are ‘set, agreed and bulletproof’.
“The transfer of the land has happened and critically the constitution of the not-for-profit charitable company that will be the holding company has been available publicly for about a year,” he said.
“What we see from that is we see a not-for-profit charitable company whose sole purpose is to provide the best possible healthcare.”
Compulsory Purchase Order
Minister Donnelly said the Government never pushed for complete ownership of the land because the negotiations would have delayed the project further.
He said attempting to CPO the land would put the entire project at risk – with no guarantee of success.
“First of all, there is absolutely no guarantee a CPO would succeed,” he said.
“I imagine St Vincents or indeed the courts would say, well you do own the land for the next 300 years, so come back to us in 300 years and we can have the conversation but for the next 300 years you essentially own the land.”
He said the entire purpose of locating the hospital at Elm Park was to create a co-location partnership with St Vincent’s Hospital – noting that it was the government who originally approached St Vincent’s.
He said any attempted CPO could poison that partnership and throw the whole project in doubt.
He insisted that Ireland could end up waiting another 15 years for its new National Maternity Hospital if that happened.
National Maternity Hospital
The Vatican approved what the Religious Sisters of Charity said was a “gift” of land worth €200m to the people of Ireland in 2020.
When controversy over the ownership of the land first broke in 2017, then-Minister for Health Simon Harris ruled out a CPO of the land.
At the time, solicitor Brendan Slattery told Newstalk the State would face three main obstacles to any CPO attempt – establishing the need for it when the land is freely available, the length of time it could take and the potential compensation owed to the Church.
On Tuesday, Cabinet delayed signing off on the relocation of the facility for two weeks to allow people time to review the legal agreements underpinning the plan.
On Newstalk Breakfast yesterday, Minister Donnelly said the ownership of the land “has been a red herring from the start”.
With reporting from Michael Dooley.