The Tanaiste has rejected claims that the Government is considering alternative sites for the new National Maternity Hospital.
Leo Varadkar told the Dail that the facility will be co-located with St Vincent’s Hospital, which he said is set out in the Programme for Government.
Mr Varadkar denied reports that the Government is examining other potential sites if the current relocation agreement fails.
The Government is facing mounting pressure to buy the site of the new National Maternity Hospital over concerns around ownership and governance.
Last week, Leo Varadkar said using a lease for the national maternity hospital is seriously problematic.— Social Democrats (@SocDems) June 24, 2021
When he was Taoiseach, in 2017, this is what the Secretary General of the Dept of Health had to say about a lease.
It was his Govt’s idea. #MakeNMHOurs #PublicAndSecular pic.twitter.com/ol7uDrIFC9
Mr Varadkar said the Government wants to own the hospital and the land, adding that his position on this “has not changed”.
Mr Varadkar, however, also told the Dail that the Government has not yet officially signed off all the arrangements for the site.
“For the record in 2017 and 2018, two memos for information were brought to Government, check this with the Cabinet secretariat,” Mr Varadkar added.
“No memo for decision was brought to government and no memo for decision has yet to be brought to government.
“So a government decision on the lease has yet to be made, and was not made by the previous government and has not yet been made by this government.
“Had it been made back in 2017 or 2018 I assume the project would have gone to tender by now, but it didn’t.
Tanaiste, this mess has your party's fingerprints all over itRoisin Shortall
“So two memos for information went to government, no memo for decision, that still has not happened yet and we are where we are in that regard.”
The facility is to be moved from its existing location at Dublin’s Holles Street, to the site at Elm Street.
“We haven’t given examination to alternative sites,” Mr Varadkar added.
Social Democrat co-leader Roisin Shortall queried Mr Varadkar’s shift in position on the ownership issue, accusing him of “blithely” ignoring warnings from her and others about the issues.
Ms Shortall asked when he “finally saw the light”.
“For a start, it had been pointed out to you for years by myself and others that this deal is manifestly bad for the public,” Ms Shortall added.
“Yet you blithely ignored all of those warnings.
Having ignored warnings, about fundamental problems with the deal for years, @RoisinShortall wonders why Leo Varadkar broke his silence last wk.— Social Democrats (@SocDems) June 24, 2021
“It’s an issue voters in Dublin Bay South care deeply about. Perhaps their concern has been a catalyst for some long-overdue action” pic.twitter.com/T7SNnTbYbS
“Whenever I have raised concerns about ownership, governance and ethos, I have been fobbed off with assurances that a legal framework was all that was outstanding.
“Work started on that legal framework in 2017, but four years later there’s still no sign of it.
“There’s a second reason your comments were unexpected Tanaiste. You complained bitterly about the proposed 99-year lease, saying it wasn’t satisfactory and we should own the site, but it was your government that proposed a lease in the first place.
“Tanaiste, this mess has your party’s fingerprints all over it.”
Ms Shortall told the Tanaiste that the National Maternity Hospital being a wholly-owned subsidiary of St Vincent’s is the “nub” of the problem.
Mr Varadkar said: “I’ve always had concerns. What prompted me quite frankly was a straight question from deputy Brid Smith. I would not have answered that question had it not been asked.”
In relation to the 99-year lease, the Government is not satisfied with thatLeo Varadkar
He said the Government has always maintained the position that the new hospital must be clinically and operationally independent.
“Any gynaecological or obstetrical procedure that’s lawful in the State must be provided for in this hospital,” he added.
“We have clear legal advice to the State that the draft legal framework ensures that all legally permissible medical services will be provided in the new hospital.
“We are having that double checked at the present.
“In relation to the 99-year lease, the Government is not satisfied with that.”
Last year the Sisters of Charity said it intended to gift 29 acres of land at the St Vincent’s Hospital site to the Irish people, with ownership of the land being transferred by the religious order to a new independent charity St Vincent’s Holdings.
Opposition members have questioned the independence of that charity.
Under current plans, the Government will fund the development of a new hospital building, which it will own, but it will not own the land on which it is built.
St Vincent’s say that the new building will be owned by the State, but the site will be owned by SVHG and leased to the state for 149 years.
Earlier this week, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group issued a statement rejecting calls to sell the land, saying it must own it “for the delivery of integrated patient care”.