Why is there such an unseemly rush to push this deal through cabinet? 

The cabinet must not sign off on the national maternity hospital deal tomorrow when a number of significant questions remain unanswered, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

“The legal documents underpinning the State’s biggest ever investment in women’s healthcare were published less than two weeks ago – and a number of significant questions remain outstanding.

“Those questions are:

SVHG Financial Position

SVHG previously used the State-funded public hospital as collateral to develop its private hospital and commercial car park. It did this without the knowledge of the State. A clause in the draft lease raises questions about whether SVHG would be able to do this again – and take out finance using the national maternity hospital site and hospital as collateral. This is particularly concerning given it must shortly refinance loans it used to construct its private hospital.

Vatican Permission

We know that the Vatican had to give permission to the Religious Sisters of Charity to dispose of its shareholding in SVHG. However, the conditions attached to that disposal have never been disclosed. In fact, the government has stated that nobody on the State side ever even asked to see the Vatican documents assenting to this disposal. Why not?

Clinically Appropriate

There is now broad agreement, even among those who support this project, that the term clinically appropriate is vague and open to misinterpretation. Despite this, there is a marked reluctance to define this term in the legal documents. Instead, SVHG has provided a legally inert letter of comfort to the government while Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has offered to define the term in a further legally inert letter to the Health Committee. Why is there such reluctance to define this crucial term in the only place that matters – the legal agreements, which have not been entered into yet?


The Sisters of Charity have now been indemnified by SVHG – the proposed landlords of the new national maternity hospital. However, the terms of that indemnity deal have never been published. We have no idea how extensive that indemnity is or what the implications for the taxpayer may be – given the new national maternity hospital will be part of St Vincent’s Holdings, which owns SVHG.

Business Case

The cabinet is reportedly intent on signing off on this deal tomorrow – before the business case for the hospital has even been approved. Why is there such an unseemly rush to push this deal through cabinet, when the Department of Public Expenditure has yet to approve the business case for the new hospital and we have no indication of how long that process will take?

“These are just some of the issues that remain outstanding. It should also be noted that the Health Minister, having pledged to revert to the Health Committee on a number of issues by May 12, has yet to respond. Those unanswered questions include the number of terminations carried out by SVHG under the 2018 Act; a legal note on the first schedule of the lease agreement; and a note on the clinical direction at the hospital.

“This deal has taken nearly a decade to get to this point – and the legal documents, which underpin this 300-year deal, were published less than two weeks ago. Why is the cabinet so determined to rush this through, without proper scrutiny, in the face of all of these outstanding questions? It must defer the decision to allow this scrutiny take place.”

16 May, 2022


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