The former master of the National Maternity Hospital has said that Higher Education Minister Simon Harris suggested the new maternity hospital could be located at Tallaght instead of St Vincent's Hospital.
Dr Peter Boylan told RTÉ'sthat he had spoken to Mr Harris last week when an alternative to the contentious decision to locate the €300m hospital at St Vincent's was discussed. He said that he believed the Government was "considering a Plan B" on the site in Tallaght.
“I think the Government is considering a plan B, and let me tell you why I say this. Last Saturday, I bumped into Simon Harris. We discussed the issue of the hospital. He suggested that possibly Tallaght might be an option. That makes me think the Government are considering a plan B.
"The ownership of the land is critical, and everything flows from that. There is no way that the Sisters of Charity will be able to hand over ownership of the land without the permission of the Vatican. The Vatican will not give permission to build a hospital in which abortions will take place.
“In the last few days, everything has changed. This has been going on for years.”
A spokesperson for Mr Harris said the conversation was private.
"The Minister briefly met Dr Boylan while canvassing in Dublin Bay South on Saturday. They had a private discussion and the development of 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."
Opposition parties have pushed the Government to ensure that there is no religious control of the site in South Dublin, with some arguing for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to be used. However, the Taoiseach told the Dáil today that any such move could mean the hospital does not get built.
"It can take a long time. And it could – let’s be honest about it – it could undermine the prospect of ever getting the hospital built. That has to be weighed up. We don’t rule anything out here, but that has to be weighed up."
The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) issued a statement on Tuesday, rejecting calls to sell the land, saying it must own it “for the delivery of integrated patient care.”