Thursday, 12 May 2022
National Maternity Hospital: Statements
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive statement on this matter today. I fully support the view that the project should go ahead. I am extremely astonished at the interpretation by some members of the legal profession of what a leasehold title is. As someone who has practised and been involved in the purchase and sale of leasehold title for more than 25 years, it is clear that there is misinterpretation being given to what a 299-year lease is. A 299-year lease gives absolute power to the lessee to manage and run the facility in the best way they want.
It is important that the lease sets out six covenants on which the lessee is answerable to the landlord. The first relates to the primary responsibility for the funding of public hospitals and the provision of public healthcare facilities. The second is that the tenant cannot assign without the consent of the landlord. The third is that the lessee cannot change the permitted use. The fourth is that the premises is actively used throughout for the provision of public health services. The fifth is not to abandon the use of the premises. The sixth and final covenant is about the freehold title issue. Here is a lease for 299 years, which is about providing where a new hospital can be built to provide up-to-date care for maternity services and related healthcare for women in this country.
It is important to note what is clearly set out under clause 6.1 of the lease, which relates to "quiet enjoyment":
The Landlord hereby covenants with the Tenant that so long as the Tenant pays the rents and observes and performs the covenants and the conditions of this Lease the Tenant may hold and enjoy the Premises and the rights hereby granted peaceably during the Term without any unlawful interruption by the Landlord or any person lawfully claiming under or in trust for the Landlord.
It is clear that the lessee, which in this case is the new national maternity company, will in fact have total freedom in the management. There is misinterpretation on whether it is freehold or leasehold title. It is interesting how the current National Maternity Hospital is held under a lease; it is not freehold title.
Then we go on to the issue relating to compulsory purchase. People are being quoted extensively in the media saying there should be a compulsory purchase order. Let us look at one of the opinions provided by a legal counsel and quoted extensively in the media. It states on page 62 of the opinion:
Insofar as the State proposes to compulsory acquire the lands, the appropriate legislation is under the Health Act 1947 which confers on the HSE the power to compulsorily acquire lands. However, significant issues relate to whether the procedure under Health Act 1947 is constitutional in affording sufficient independence in the process for confirming a CPO.
On the one hand we have the person being quoted extensively in the media to the effect that we should compulsorily acquire the site, yet on page 62 of the opinion he clearly flags that there may be difficulties if the State goes down that road. The Minister clearly outlined that this is a partnership between the new national maternity hospital and St. Vincent's Hospital Group. We are delivering a comprehensive health service on the one site, which is extremely important.