Update 9.24pm: Labour’s Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly TD has said that Minister Simon Harris should consider bringing in legislation, if necessary, to initiate a compulsory purchase order for the St Vincent’s Hospital site, if the deal to build the new National Maternity Hospital does not go ahead.
His comments come after the Board of the St Vincent’s Group, which is run by the Sisters of Charity religious order, said in a statement this evening that the status of the project would be reviewed in the wake of recent controversy.
Speaking from the Labour Party National Conference in Wexford, Deputy Kelly said: “I have said from the outset that a hospital built and paid for by the State must remain in public ownership.
“We have yet to see the details of this deal, which should be published.
“However, it is not clear from the statement of the Board of the St. Vincent’s Hospital Group this evening, whether that agreement is now in jeopardy.
“If the Group does intend to pull out of the project, the Minister for Health needs to step up to the plate and consider bringing in legislation, if necessary, to initiate a compulsory purchase order for the site, to ensure this vital hospital is built- and remains in state ownership.”
Update 9.24pm: Health Minister Simon Harris remains fully committed to the National Maternity Hospital project, his department has stated.
The comments come after the Board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group tonight said it is to review the status of the controversial project "in light of the current situation".
A statement from the Department of Health said that Minister Harris "is confident that the criteria which he has identified will be met as the project proceeds, subject to planning approval, through the various development stages.
"Further stages of the process involve the Minister discharging his duties with various parties by putting in place appropriate legal mechanisms.
"This will include arrangements to secure the State's interest, which apply in all capital projects on voluntary hospital sites to protect the State's investment.
"The clinical, operational and financial independence of the new hospital as provided for in the agreement will also be copperfastened in new legal arrangements."
However, Social Democrat TD Rosin Shortall has again called on the Minister to publish the original deal reached between the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent's.
“It’s important that when we’re talking about public money, and we’re talking about a major public facility, that everybody is in possession of the facts,” she said.
“I’d repeat the call that I made yesterday for the Minister for Health to actually publish the report in full so that we know the detail.”
The Board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group is to review the status of the National Maternity Hospital project in light of the recent controversy, it was announced tonight.
Under the proposed plan, there was to be nine people on the board of the new National Maternity Hospital - four nominated by the St Vincent's Hospital Group, which is owned by the Sisters of Charity, and four by the current National Maternity Hospital, including the Master. It was to be chaired by an international expert in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Questions over whether the Sisters of Charity would have ultimate ownership of the public hospital and could profit from has provoked anger as the congregation has yet to pay €3m of redress for victims of institutional child abuse.
Almost 80,000 people have signed an online petition opposing any role or ownership for the nuns of the new facility.
This evening, a statement by Jimmy Menton, chairperson of St Vincent's Healthcare Group, read: “On November 21, 2016, following six months of intensive discussions chaired by Mr. Kieran Mulvey (former CEO of the Workplace Relations Commission), St Vincent's Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) signed a comprehensive agreement providing for the corporate and clinical governance arrangements for the future operation of a new maternity hospital, called ‘The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park DAC’.
“That agreement was publicly endorsed and welcomed by both the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, at a press briefing that evening in Government Buildings.
“In view of the controversy and misinformation that has arisen in recent times regarding the project, and the views expressed by the Minister for Health and other members of the Oireachtas, the board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group will review the status of the project in light of the current situation.
“Pending this review, the Board does not intend to make any further comment.”
Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris said: "I want to make sure that no religious order makes one cent from this move."
He also called on the religious order to agree contracts allowing lawful abortion or contraceptive treatment in the proposed new hospital.
The decision to review the project is being welcomed by opposition politicians who heavily criticised the deal between the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent's.
Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats says clarity is needed on how that agreement was reached last November.
“The negotiations and the brokering of the deal were done behind closed doors,” she said.
“And it’s only through the work of various journalists now that the details of that deal are starting to slip out.
“It’s in everybody’s interest that we know exactly what’s involved in this, and that there is full transparency on it.”