TDs are expected to vote on Wednesday evening on a Sinn Féin motion calling for public ownership of the site of the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH).
It comes after the Rural Independent Group called for a vote on the motion on Tuesday. If ten TDs call for a vote on Wednesday evening during weekly divisions, the full house must vote on the Sinn Féin motion, which Government is expected will not oppose.
Sinn Féin said it would be “deeply cynical” for the Government not to oppose its motion “but at the same time having no intention of supporting it”.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it was “the height of hypocrisy” on the very day the Government had “rammed through a Cabinet decision” it would then “sit back and pretend that you’re supporting this motion”.
“Are you not ashamed of that? What has this Government come to that they’re behaving like this, in such an utterly disrespectful way,” Ms Shortall said as the Dáil debated the motion on Tuesday evening.
The relocation of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) from Holles St in Dublin to St Vincent’s was on Tuesday approved by Cabinet.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the task now was to get the new maternity hospital built “as quickly as possible”.
Mr Donnelly said Ireland had a history of “taking too long” to build hospitals but there was already “a big advantage” for the new NMH as planning permission was in place as well as legal frameworks, the detailed design was completed, and the business case was being developed.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said Cabinet had made the “wrong decision” and that the State had signed up to a legal framework that was “really complicated, complex, convoluted and in my view unnecessary”.
“It’s all a product of the fact that we’re proceeding to build, for the first time since Sláintecare, a hospital that will not be in full public ownership and that will be a hospital run by an independent charitable company, as opposed to a HSE hospital,” he said.
“I don’t believe in the 21st century it’s beyond us as a people when we’re building hospitals that we build hospitals that are publicly owned, publicly run, publicly managed in the interests of the public and of patients.”
The Waterford TD said it was “breath taking” to see the lengths the Government would go to, to sell what he saw as “a bad deal”.
In April, the Religious Sisters of Charity transferred its shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) to another entity, St Vincent’s Holdings, which will lease the land on which it is proposed to building the new NMH for 299 years.
There are fears in some quarters that potential lingering religious influence could mean abortions or fertility treatment would not be allowed to take place at the new hospital. Questions have also been raised about why the land is not being sold or gifted to the State.
Such concerns have been dismissed by the Government and the hospital’s supporters in the medical community.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik said her party continued to have “strong concerns” about “ongoing issues” with the control, ownership and governance of the new hospital.
The Dublin Bay South TD said they were “very disappointed” that the two-week delay and engagement had not led to any change or substantive improvement to the deal that was on offer.
“We should have learned by now the need to get this right because we have such a long legacy in Ireland of Church and State interference in the exercise of women’s right to reproductive healthcare,” she said.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the level of cynicism being shown by the Government in not opposing the motion was “disgusting”.
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said she was “fully confident” there would be no religious ethos at the new hospital and that “now is the time to move on towards the delivery of this much needed new maternity hospital”.