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New maternity hospital will only go ahead with 'absolutely watertight' guarantees of independence - minister

The new National Maternity Hospital project will only go ahead once there's "absolutely watertigh...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.39 23 Jun 2021


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New maternity hospital will on...

New maternity hospital will only go ahead with 'absolutely watertight' guarantees of independence - minister

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.39 23 Jun 2021


Share this article


The new National Maternity Hospital project will only go ahead once there's "absolutely watertight" guarantees around its independence, the Health Minister has said.

Stephen Donnelly says the project is not a mess, suggesting there are just "one or two" outstanding questions about it.

He said Government will "consider what options there are" if the State can't buy the site, although said there will be further "engagement" with the landowners first.

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There's been fresh controversy over the plans for the hospital, which is due to be built on the St Vincent's Hospital campus in Dublin.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there were "problems" arising over the plans - including around governance and the ownership of the site.

It has led to fresh calls from the opposition for the Government to ensure the land is state-owned.

However, the St Vincent's Hospital Group has said it will not be selling the site - although has also insisted the new hospital will be clinically independent with no religious or Vatican influence.

With the Dáil due to debate the issue today, Stephen Donnelly told Newstalk Breakfast the Government's "very close to where we want to get to, which is starting to build the hospital".

New maternity hospital will only go ahead with 'absolutely watertight' guarantees of independence - minister

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He said the State has tried to buy the site, but it has not been possible so far.

He explained: “We know they don’t want to sell the site, but we’re going to engage with them on that. There have been negotiations going on for years with this.

“It’s unclear what the outcome might be. If the outcome is that it’s not possible for the State to be gifted or to take ownership of the site, then the Government will consider what the options are.

“Ultimately, what this comes down to, is it’s important to women in Ireland that they own the site that their maternity hospital is being built on.

“What I’m hearing is that women are fed up and being sick of being told what is in their best interests when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health. Ultimately, they would prefer to own the land the hospital was built on."

Minister Donnelly said he doesn't believe the questions around governance and ownership are connected - saying they're "separate issues".

He said the legal advice he has received is that there are guarantees around clinical independence, following ‘years and years’ of negotiations.

However, he added: “I can tell you categorically… the only recommendation on this hospital I will bring to Cabinet for consideration is one where we have absolutely watertight legal guarantees and protections in place, for the full clinical and operational function of the National Maternity Hospital.”

Main image: Stephen Donnelly (Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie) and St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin (Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie)

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