Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 January 2022

National Maternity Hospital: Motion [Private Members]


7:05 pm

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Tonight the House is saying for the third time that the new national maternity hospital must be fully owned and controlled by the State and that it rejects any agreement with St. Vincent's Healthcare Group, St. Vincent's Holdings or the Religious Sisters of Charity, RSC, which does not achieve such State ownership and control of the facility. Deputy Joan Collins has said the Government will not oppose this motion, and I will be pleased if that happens. However, not opposing something and taking action are two very different things, and tonight we are asking that action is taken.

Last June, after the previous debate in this House or around that time, I tabled a written question to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, to ask him if the proposed national maternity hospital would be in public ownership. In his response he talks about planning permission, etc., but then goes on to state, "The ownership and governance arrangements are more complex." That sentence alone raises all kinds of issues. He then goes on to refer to the Mulvey agreement and what it does and to the draft legal framework put in place. He finishes by stating:

I have been very clear that I will not bring anything to Government unless it provides assurances around all legally permissible services being provided in the new ... [national maternity hospital].

He further states:

In that context, as I have recently stated, I intend to engage further with both St Vincent's Healthcare Group and the Religious Sisters of Charity, as we move toward the finalisation of the arrangements.

That is the kicker. If the Minister were satisfied with the legal position, he would not need any further engagement. I apologise for reading that out in detail, but it matters very much because those are the Minister's own words. As I said, he starts his answer by saying the governance and ownership arrangements are more complex and finishes by saying he intends to have further engagement. Where, precisely, are we now in this process of further engagement? Have we the assurances and guarantees to which the Minister referred?

This has gone on far too long. In the final analysis, the national maternity hospital must be in public ownership, a 100% publicly owned hospital - no ifs, no buts, no maybes and no "complex" situations. This whole debate has nothing to do with any argument about services; it is simply that the women of Ireland, the people of Ireland, must have full and unequivocal access to all legally permissible services. We should not even be talking about it here. This should be an absolute given. We are all waiting to see how this will happen. I support the motion. I supported the other two motions. It is past time we dealt with this matter. On 23 June this House passed a motion calling for the new maternity hospital to be fully owned and governed by the State. Tonight we are again delivering a very simple message: we need a publicly owned, publicly funded and publicly run national maternity hospital. While I am glad to see the Minister of State here and I know she is listening carefully to us and is fully engaged, the Minister for Health, as Deputy Joan Collins said, has responsibility for this. He should be here. This is the third time we have had to debate this in this House. This should not be happening. We should have the clarity we need. The Minister should not be hiding behind the "complexity" of the situation. I know that the Minister of State will deliver this message loud and clear to the Minister.


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