controversy | 

Ownership of maternity hospital is a 'red herring' Health Minister claims

Plans to sign off on the relocation of the hospital have been put on hold amid "genuine concerns" about potential religious influence

Clodagh Meaney

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that the ownership of National Maternity Hospital land is a “red herring.”

It comes as signing off on plans to relocate the hospital from Holles Street to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Elm Park has been put on hold by the coalition.

Plans have been paused as there are “genuine concerns” about whether or not the hospital will operate independently from the influence of the Catholic Church.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Minister Donnelly said that the land is no longer church land, and added that it has been transferred to a new company that “doesn’t reference any religious ethos in its constitution whatsoever”.

“We don’t own the land under Holles Street,” he said.

“In fact, we don’t own the building at Holles Street. We don’t own the land under many primary care centres and we don’t own the land under GP clinics.”

“Nobody would reasonably say that because the State doesn’t own the land that GP clinics operate on, that somehow GPs would be influenced by the ownership of the land.”

The ownership of the land has been transferred to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, the constitution of which does not reference a religious ethos.

However, the hospital does reference the core values of their founders, the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group, who share the ethos of the Catholic Church.

“It is simply a red herring and what is important, and I have discussed this in detail with the Attorney General, is we have layers of protection in place,” he continued.

“Not only will the National Maternity Hospital continue to have full clinical and operational independence, it has it today in Holles Street, it will have it in the future in Elm Park, we have gone actually further to say that the new National Maternity Hospital is legally obliged to provide all services permissible under law.”

He said that the agreement allows him to “directly intervene and direct the NMH to provide all legal services” should it be necessary.

“The questions a lot of your listeners are asking are, will termination of pregnancy, will tubal ligation, will gender affirming surgery, will assisted reproduction be available at the new national maternity hospital?” he said.

“The answer is an absolutely clear and categoric, yes they will.”

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