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11th May 2022

Senior Counsel raises new questions over ownership of new National Maternity Hospital

Melissa Carton

Many questions have been raised.

New legal analysis issued today has cast doubt over the ownership and governance structures of the proposed new National Maternity Hospital.

In a preliminary review of the documents released by Stephen Donnell, Senior Counsel Stephen Dodd said the inclusion of language relating to ‘permitted use’ and specifically that ‘all clinically appropriate and legally permissible healthcare services’ is “vague and generic.”

He went on to say that the use of the term “appropriate services” raises the question of “appropriate” according to whom? Mr Dodd suggests that the text should say ‘all clinically appropriate services as determined by the HSE.’

Mr Dodd also determines that the phrase “…clinically appropriate and legally permissible healthcare services”, is itself not defined and this phase would appear to implicitly include ethical considerations and which could extend to matters of religious ethos.”

He suggests that the arrangements should include language such as “for the avoidance of doubt, clinically appropriate and legally permissible healthcare services may include the termination of pregnancy, sterilisation, etc”

The preliminary legal analysis also raises questions over the ownership of the actual building that will be the National Maternity Hospital.

Mr Dodd said;

“I have to say I am surprised to find that it would appear that the State and HSE will not own the building itself.”

Eoin Brady of FP Logue Solicitors who has been advising the campaign said the message is clear to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, “you don’t own the land and you don’t own the building and proceeding with the current arrangements is acting against the public good”.

Siobhan O’Donoghue of campaigning organisation Uplift said;

“Government ministers have a choice in front of them, continue with the shameful legacy of denying women and people the maternity care we all need and deserve or pushing ahead with a deal that clearly puts control in the hands of a private company we have little or no control over.”

Former Master of the NMH Dr Peter Boylan went on to say;

“Providing services on the basis of a test of whether they are “clinically appropriate” removes autonomy from women and gives the sole decision making capability to the doctor case by case.

These words would give anti-choice doctors a justification for the refusal of legally permissible treatments, such as abortion or elective sterilisation.

The only way to guarantee women’s reproductive healthcare in the new hospital and protect the State’s €1 billion investment is for the NMH to be completely independent of St Vincent’s is if it is State-owned on State land.”