Thursday, 12 May 2022
National Maternity Hospital: Statements
I thank the Deputy for his contribution and questions. The golden share is a name attaching to ministerial powers. The golden share from many years ago was a name attaching to different powers. They just happen to have been called the same thing. What matters to us is what the ministerial powers here are. There are two very significant powers. The first is that the reserved powers of the new hospital, which are essentially the things the new hospitals does, can only be changed with the unanimous agreement of the board and that of the Minister for Health. It is those reserved powers that are so important because they are the powers around providing all services and doing so without any religious ethos. It is important no such change can be made without the unanimous agreement of the board and the agreement of the Minister for Health.
The second power is a power around being able to intervene directly. That is an important power that resides in clause 9.1.1 of the articles of association. It refers to the duties of the directors, one of which is to carry out any direction of the Minister, including in writing, at his or her sole direction, including to ensure, and this goes to the heart of the debate, any maternity, gynaecological, obstetrical or neonatal service which is lawfully permissible in the State shall be available. That is important. It does not state those services may be available; they shall be available in the hospital without religious ethos, ethnic or other distinction. It goes on to say, for the avoidance of doubt, that the directors shall be obliged to comply with any such direction.
The ministerial power here is important. Even if the board of directors were to agree unanimously, it does not have the ability to change the purpose of the hospital and the obligations on it. If somehow the board of directors fails in its duties or all of these amazing clinicians in Holles Street stop providing services, the Minister can directly intervene and instruct the hospital to provide all services and to do so without any religious ethos.