Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane has said there are "very real" concerns in relation to the ownership of the site of the National Maternity Hospital as well as with the hospital's governance.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Cullinane said: "I think everybody would accept that we don't want to see any religious ethos or interference in the running of any hospital, but especially the National Maternity Hospital."

He added that if the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Health "are saying they have been aware for time that there are problems in relation to the ownership of the site then why was this issue not discussed at the highest level with the Religious Sisters of Charity and the St Vincent's Healthcare Group?"

Mr Cullinane said he believed the "best option here would be for the Religious Sisters of Charity to gift the land to the State".

He said: "They're saying this is being essentially done with the establishment of an independent private charity."

Mr Cullinane also said he wants to see new national maternity hospital built "as quickly as possible".

He said: "It's already six years behind schedule, costs have escalated over the last number of years from an estimated cost of €300m to €800m now."

Mr Cullinane said it would be better if to have a public hospital built on public land and governed by the State.

In response to a statement from the Religious Sisters of Charity order in which it said that it has "never at any point" been contacted by the Government or the State to discuss the purchase of the site of the National Maternity Hospital, Mr Cullinane said he was "very surprised by that".

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New National Maternity Hospital back in focus


He said the Government has to "be engaging extensively" with the Religious Sisters of Charity and the St Vincent's Healthcare Group to find a solution.

Mr Cullinane said the State using a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to obtain ownership of the site "would have to be the last option" but that "all options have to be on the table".

He said the problem with a CPO is that it would be lengthy, have to go through the courts, and would delay the project further.

The facility will be built on land that will be owned by an independent charity, St Vincent's Holdings, and rented to the State as part of a 99-year lease.

The Sinn Féin health spokesperson added that the fact this "new charity will have an independent board of governors who won't be appointed by the Minister (for Health) does raise very serious issues".

He said: "I think the State should have more representatives. I think the governance should be managed by the State and the minister should be able to appoint people to the board."