State would face bill of €50m-plus to compulsorily purchase site for National Maternity Hospital

Senan Molony

IT will cost the State a minimum of €50m to compulsorily acquire the St Vincent’s Hospital land for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH), the Irish Independent has learned.

This would push the expected final bill for the high-tech building to at least €850m – and probably much closer to the €1bn barrier.

Sources said the 29-acre site was worth a minimum of €50m to €60m. RTÉ land close by in Donnybrook, which had different zoning, sold for €107m for just 8.5 acres, less than a third of the size.

One expert told the Irish Independent: “I don’t know what the terms of a CPO (compulsory purchase order) would be – but if that land were available for housing, it would command nearly the highest price per acre in the country.”

Mary Lou McDonald raised the ‘ghost’ of the National Children’s Hospital overspend at the St James’s Hospital site when questioning the Taoiseach in the Dáil yesterday.

Project costs for the new National Maternity Hospital had “ballooned”, she said, growing by €500m to a new estimate of €800m. There were now fears it could easily top €1bn by completion, she said.

The Taoiseach said it was not helpful to bandy such large figures around when tenders were under way for the new NMH. He also warned that going down the CPO route “could undermine the prospect of ever getting the hospital built”.

Meanwhile, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street, Dr Peter Boylan, revealed on RTÉ radio that former health minister Simon Harris had suggested to him that the NMH could be co-located at Tallaght instead.

A spokeswoman for the Mr Harris confirmed: “The minister briefly met Dr Boylan while canvassing in Dublin Bay South on Saturday. They had a private discussion and the National Maternity Hospital was discussed.

“Minister Harris reiterated his view, and the Government’s view, that the State should own the land and discussed other land the State owned in the city. As it was a private conversation, Minister Harris has no further comment to make.”

Mr Harris, however, was only echoing what his party leader had warned last week – that the new NMH may need to be built on alternative State land.

Micheál Martin was, meanwhile, told that the land ownership issue at the St Vincent’s is a “defining moment” for his leadership and for the country.

TDs told him he must be prepared to issue a CPO for the entire campus at the St Vincent’s Hospital site in Dublin, where the new NMH is to be co-located.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said society was at a crossroads after a refusal to give up ownership of the land by the St Vincent’s Hospital Group, which involves the Sisters of Charity – the Catholic order which originally established and ran St Vincent’s.

Mr Martin said he did not accept the argument of the group that it needed ownership of the land to ensure standards of care into the future. “The ownership of the site isn’t critical to that. I don’t think that arguments stacks up at all,” he said. He called on the St Vincent’s Hospital Group to reflect on the views of the Oireachtas and the public interest.

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