‘Unusually high’ state protection in governance of new National Maternity Hospital, says attorney general

The state will enjoy an “unusually high” level of protection in the governance arrangements of the new national maternity ward, the government lawyer concluded.

In what was described as a key Cabinet intervention, Attorney General Paul Gallagher reportedly told ministers that the 300-year lease and the secular nature of the council means the state has a level of comfort not normally seen.

Several ministerial sources confirmed to the Irish Examiner that although no written memorandum was circulated in advance or to the Cabinet, Mr Gallagher’s verdict offered a “sufficient degree of comfort”.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher. Photo: Damien Storen.

Even though the decision was taken to suspend formal Cabinet ratification for two weeks, Mr Gallagher’s assessment was seen as a clear sign that the deal will go ahead.

The controversial arrangement dominated debates in the Dáil on Thursday, with opposition TDs demanding to know why the state isn’t just buying the hospital land.

In response to these questions, the St Vincent Hospital Group (SVHG) told the Irish Examiner that a sale of land was “never considered a viable option” in the context of the possibility of running multiple integrated healthcare facilities on a single campus.

The hospital said the land had belonged to the SVHG – a legal entity in its own right – for 20 years and not to the Nuns of Charity, as some have claimed in recent days.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the government had received legal advice saying there was no guarantee that a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the land for the new National Hospital site motherhood would be successful.

Mr Donnelly said he had received ‘clear’ advice from the Attorney General that there was ‘absolutely no guarantee a CPO would be successful’.

We would need to show that we should own the land, I imagine St Vincent’s, or even the courts, would say, ‘Well, you own the land for the next 300 years’.

“So there’s no guarantee it would be successful.”

Mr Donnelly also said that the plan to co-locate the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on a site at St Vincent’s in Dublin is meant to be “a partnership”, and that this partnership could be complicated or abandoned due to legal proceedings necessary for the compulsory purchase of the land.

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