Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 May 2022

National Maternity Hospital: Statements


3:15 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I have three and half minutes and I could make a lot of comments but I will try to be focused. I have read and struggled through the documents as best I can and what I see before me is that an unholy mess has been created. I have with me just some of the documents we have tried to download on the computer. That unholy mess completely suits the entity that is St. Vincent's Holdings, under the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group, and under that the new maternity hospital DAC, each of which is a complete subsidiary of the other. We cannot get away from the trinity. We have the male trinity at the top and we have the male trinity here. We simply cannot get away from it, it would seem.

We are here today because of the outrage, the upset and the lack of trust by the majority of women and men in Ireland on this. I disagree with the Minister of State, Deputy Butler. I have the greatest of respect for the Minister of State but there has been little or no debate on this other than what was forced by the Opposition repeatedly. We used three Private Members' motions, and Sinn Féin also used time, to force the debate. There are committed people on the ground who have been demonised for daring to ask a question. I will now go around in a circle and we will start in 2013, although it all started before that with the accountants report. In 2013 the male Minister for Health tells us that co-location is wonderful and that we all agree. I was not in the Dáil at the time but I will take the experts' advice that co-location is the way to go.

Fast-forward four Ministers later and there is no co-location anymore but complete integration into the trinity of ownership of private companies - the Minister shook his head earlier - albeit with charity status. Let us make English mean something here - they are private companies. The changes that have happened from the Mulvey agreement, which I welcome, are simply that we are now appointing three directors to the new company, which is a welcome change, and there is also a golden share. I have no idea what that means other than what I have read, but it does not reassure me in any way in this sense. I do not know how that is going to operate. What is the process around that? If somebody is at a disadvantage in the hospital because it is not being run the way it should, will that woman, man or anybody in that family be able to appeal to the Minister? Does the Minister understand that? We need guidelines around when and how that lovely golden share will be used.

We have a situation where St. Vincent's or whatever it was named absolutely refused to give over ownership. This Government and previous Governments never come back and said, look, it is not giving us ownership, therefore, we are going for a completely different model. The Minister never told us when the nuns gifted their share to the new entity and on what basis. Was Revenue involved in that? What was the value of it? I understand that at some point, it was a €600 million value. What value was it? What conditions were attached to it, if any? The Minister might clarify that. It has never been clarified. Has anyone seen the correspondence under which they were allowed to divest that very valuable asset to a new entity? Where is all the correspondence around that?

The phrase "clinically appropriate" has meant so many things to different people to whom I have listened. Sometimes it means all legally permitted procedures, and we are supposed to be reassured by that. Then, we hear from other experts that it means we are not going to have brain surgery. Can you imagine? We are not going to have other services here because it is a maternity hospital.

I have no idea really why we cannot have a public hospital on a public site. I say to Deputy Michael Collins that it is not ownership.


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