“I worked there - I did part of my training in the National Maternity Hospital. I never ever felt there was a nun or a priest looking over my shoulder when it came to giving the right care to women”
The Tánaiste emphasised that the hospital will be publicly owned, and “terminations of pregnancy, IVF will be legal in the new hospital, we’re comfortable around that”, he told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder.
Emphasising there will be no interference to clinical procedure as provided by law, the Tánaiste said:
“I worked there - I did part of my training in the National Maternity Hospital. I never ever felt there was a nun or a priest looking over my shoulder when it came to giving the right care to women.”
However, Mr Varadkar admitted that there are “difficulties” surrounding the governance and the make-up of the board for the new hospital, which currently has no government representatives.
“We don’t like that there are no representatives of the government on the board as it is currently proposed,” he said.
“Boards make decisions, and we would like to have government reps on a board for obvious reasons.”
Speaking about the issues surrounding the land for the new hospital, the Tánaiste said the deal is “there or thereabouts”, and the government would buy the land if it went up for sale.
“I think I’m now hearing that Vincent’s or the Sisters may be willing to sell that land, and if they are, we are willing to buy,” he said.
The Tánaiste said the Sisters of Charity’s decision “to withdraw from healthcare, to give the land to a charity” is significant, however, the issues surrounding the land ownership is on a legal basis rather than religious.
Meanwhile, while speaking on the show, Mr Varadkar said “at least 20pc” of people in the public sector will have the option of remote or home working after the pandemic while outlining the upcoming changes to employee rights and workplace relations.
The Tánaiste said plans for auto-enrolled pensions are to be made in 2023.
Mr Varadkar pledged to double the number of new homes built in Ireland to 40,000 a year.
"Our target is to build 40,000 houses a year, not next year, but to get to that point, it's a doubling of where we are now, which is 20,000," he told the programme.
Citing the pandemic for the reason for failing to achieve the 2016 Rebuilding Ireland target of 25,000 homes, he said, "We were heading for 25,000 last year and 30,000 this year but because of the pandemic, it's going to be more like 20,000 this year.
“It's just common sense that shutting down construction held us back,” he said.