Government expected to make key decision on proceeding with new National Maternity Hospital

Hospital will move from Holles Street to St Vincent’s campus in south Dublin if Minister for Health’s proposal is approved by Cabinet

St. Vincent's hospital, Elm Park, Dublin yesterday (Monday 9th April)

The Government will make a key decision on Tuesday on proceeding with the construction of a new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on the grounds of St Vincent’s hospital in Elm Park.

At the weekly meeting of the Government on Tuesday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will seek approval to proceed to tender for the hospital. If the Cabinet green lights his proposal, it will see the hospital move from its present location in Holles Street to the St Vincent’s campus in south Dublin.

The proposed relocation was the subject of controversy and opposition, amid claims the ethos of the religious order which owned St Vincent’s, the Sisters of Charity, would have a residual influence on the new hospital. This claim has been rejected strongly by the Government and by a majority of clinicians at the NMH.

Mr Donnelly’s memorandum to the Government will set out a proposal to co-locate the new hospital with the adult teaching hospital at St Vincent’s.


It is envisaged the new entity will provide an expanded maternity and gynecology services with an additional 80 beds over than the current capacity at Holles Street. Moreover, there will be no shared beds in wards with individual rooms for all patients.

The relocation of the NMH was approved in principle by the Cabinet in May last year following months of controversy and contentious debate. The expected cost of the project has not been revealed but is expected to be in the region of €1 billion or more.

In April 2022, the Religious Sisters of Charity transferred its shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (St Vincent’s Healthcare Group) to another entity, St Vincent’s Holdings, which will lease the land, on which it is proposed to build the new NMH, for 299 years.

The Government was accused by Opposition parties and other campaigning groups of delivering a scheme that fell short of being a publicly-owned hospital on publicly-owned land.

Mr Donnelly will also bring a memo to Cabinet asking for a non-statutory inquiry into the historical use of sodium valproate in certain groups of women. Sodium valproate is an oral medication which has been licensed and prescribed worldwide since the 1970s, primarily for the treatment of epilepsy. The drug has been licensed in Ireland since 1975.

There is scientific evidence that some anti-seizure medications, including sodium valproate, are associated with an increased risk of foetal harm. This could arise from conditions that might affect some babies exposed to valproate medicines while in utero. Mr Donnelly made a commitment to hold an inquiry following meetings with patient representatives.

If the memo is approved by Cabinet on Tuesday, a non-statutory inquiry will be established into the historical licensing and use of the drug in Ireland.

Separately, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will update the Cabinet on how his proposed First Right of Refusal legislation is progressing.

The Government decided in March this year to establish a new ‘right to purchase’ for tenants. Essentially it would require a landlord selling a property to first offer it to the tenant.

However, it is understood that some of the issues involved in the legislation are complex, and it has been subject to detailed examination by the Attorney General. There are concerns that some of the proposals might lead to unintended consequences, such as causing delays to the conveyancing process.

Given those issues, Mr O’Brien is not now expected to seek Government approval for the legislation until September.

The first-refusal legislation proposes that where a notice to quit is served by a landlord who wishes to sell, he or she would be obliged to simultaneously invite the tenant to make a bid to purchase the property within 90 days.

If the landlord proceeds to put the house on the market and receives a higher bid, then they are obliged to invite the tenant to make a further bid equal to the sales price they are willing to agree with the third party. They would be obliged to accept the matching bid from the tenant.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times