Talks on National Maternity Hospital relocation deal are ‘advanced’, Taoiseach says

Talks on securing a deal for the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) are at an advanced stage and a memo to Government including an agreement is expected shortly, the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking in France on Friday, Micheál Martin said he is impatient to see progress on the matter.

His comments came after The Irish Times revealed this week that a HSE licence for the new maternity hospital will include legal measures requiring it to provide all medical procedures allowed under Irish law.

This followed recent Government moves to reopen a draft relocation agreement in which the Elm Park site in south Dublin for the new hospital will come under State control for 299 years after the site’s transfer to the NMH from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

An informed source said the agreement, which has still to go to Cabinet for approval, will be changed to include specific provisions to reflect the fact that procedures at the new hospital will include “anything permissible within Irish law”.

Although the plan to move the NMH from Holles Street in central Dublin to the site on the St Vincent’s campus has been in train since 2013, the project has been mired in controversy for years.

The Religious Sisters of Charity are due to transfer the ownership of lands at St Vincent’s to an independent entity, which will then lease the new maternity hospital site to the State. But critics have claimed for years that a Catholic religious ethos would live on for the new hospital, possibly compromising its power to carry out procedures such as pregnancy termination and sterilisation.

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte said last month that while concerns “continue to circulate” in relation to the potential involvement of the Religious Sisters of Charity in the new maternity hospital, the order will not play any role in the governance or operation of the hospital.

‘Advanced stage’

On Friday, Mr Martin said of the talks on a relocation deal: “We are at an advanced stage and a memo hasn’t been brought to Government yet, but I am aware that a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes with the Minister and Department [of Health] and with all the stakeholders involved here. We do need a new national maternity hospital.

“The current situation is simply not good enough in terms of women’s health, and I’m very anxious now that we get moving on this project because generally speaking, health projects are taking too long to get off the ground, to get designed, to get built. I am impatient for progress on this.”

He said there will be a memo to Cabinet “shortly” but would not be drawn on the exact date.

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