Vatican may have ‘nothing to do’ with new National Maternity Hospital, Taoiseach says

The Vatican doesn’t and may have “nothing to do” with the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) ought to its proposed relocation go forward, the Taoiseach has stated.

Micheál Martin stated the settlement concerning the transfer to a website on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus at Elm Park in Dublin, a 300-year lease at €10 every year, represented “public ownership by any historic or objective analysis”.

He was addressing issues raised by Opposition leaders within the Dáil on Wednesday, after the Cabinet determined to delay giving approval to the relocation when it met on Tuesday.

Mr Martin stated there was no spiritual ethos concerned within the proposed hospital and “there will not be”.

“Our concern primarily right now has to be the establishment of a national maternity hospital to replace a hospital that is not physically fit for purpose in the 21st century and that is my biggest concern, that as we continue to debate on this issue, that women right now are not getting the physical conditions they deserve,” he stated.

“Also we have the physical transporting of women with serious complications from one place to another. We have to put that to an end.”

Mr Martin stated official issues had been raised concerning the transfer however these had been comprehensively addressed “not via rhetoric but via legal guarantees and documents which have been published”.

‘Not fit for purpose’

He stated that by way of the structure of the brand new hospital all legally permissible companies within the State could be offered to girls “today and right into the future”. He stated that he wished to see the lengthy mooted transfer “done”.

“I do believe that we should get it right but the latest phase of this co-location proposal began in 2013, it is now 2022. How long more do people want to wait? How many more years are women expected to occupy or be in a hospital that’s physically not fit for purpose?” the Taoiseach requested.

He stated there have been “a lot of conspiracy theories floating about the place” concerning the transfer, together with about potential Vatican affect on the facility.

“The Vatican should have nothing to do with anything to do with healthcare here in terms of public hospitals, has nothing to do with healthcare in terms of this particular maternity hospital and will have nothing to do with it,” Mr Martin stated.

“Forget about that, that’s gone, out of the equation, totally. Likewise in terms of any involvement of any religious ethos, out of the question. That’s very clear in the legal documents that underpin this new hospital that will be built.”

‘Stoking unease’

Sinn Féin chief Mary Lou McDonald stated the €800 million hospital was being funded by taxpayers’ cash and that the State ought to “own the hospital and the ground that the hospital is built on outright”.

“That’s simple common sense. Under your proposal, we will own the building but not the land which will remain in private ownership and that makes absolutely no sense when the state is footing the bill,” she stated.

“We want a publicly constructed maternity hospital on publicly owned land, delivering public healthcare companies for girls to a typical of excellence.

“Instead what is proposed is a convoluted maze in which the Sisters of Charity have transferred the land to a holdings company that then leases the land to the State. It’s all very messy, unnecessarily so and it’s stoking unease and worry.”

Labour chief Ivana Bacik stated issues round possession, management and governance on the new NMH remained.

“The key question that everyone is asking is, if this is public ownership in all but name, why don’t we just move to public ownership?” she stated.

“If a 299-year lease amounts effectively to State ownership, why don’t we see a gifting of this site to the State so that it is truly and beyond doubt within public ownership, rather than this Byzantine series of legal arrangements.”

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