The Minister for Health has said the Government's strong preference is for the State to have full ownership of the site in Dublin, which has been earmarked for a new National Maternity Hospital.

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

The Religious Sisters of Charity order owns the land and has said it is gifting it to the Irish people.

The order also said that it has "never at any point" been contacted by the Government or the State to discuss the purchase of the site.

The St Vincent's Healthcare Group has also disputed that it has been approached to sell the land.

Minister Stephen Donnelly said that ongoing negotiations are continuing in "good faith" and he plans to discuss this view with the Sisters of Charity and St Vincent's hospital group.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, the minister said "a revolution in women's healthcare is needed in Ireland" and said Ireland needs "a modern maternity hospital and we need it quickly".

He said the new NMH must have full clinical independence, a full range of services for women and must also protect the State investment.

Mr Donnelly said that even if the full independence of the maternity hospital is secured through the contract and is "bullet proof" he would still prefer the site to be in public ownership.

"My strong view is that the State should own the site and if anything can be done to that end we will do it".

He said that he will not recommend the hospital to Government without absolute certainty on the clinical and operational independence of it.

The minister said that ownership of the site allows for a change to the governance structure and said the Sisters of Charity are ready to transfer their full shareholding to the holding company and are prepared to step back from the running of healthcare.

He said: "We need to get it built, women, mum's and babies need this".

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy has said full public ownership of the site is "a critical issue" and called on the Government to make an immediate approach to secure the outcome.

Speaking on the same programme, she said the State must safeguard the €800 million investment in the hospital and ideally it should be co-located near an acute hospital.

She said that moving to a different location would be a last resort, but that will be determined by those who own the site at the moment.

Deputy Murphy said a Compulsory Purchase Option is another option that could be considered but this is "not ideal" and would add to delays in building the facility.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that ideally the State would own the hospital and the land given how much money the taxpayer is investing in the facility.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also said that if either St Vincent's or the Religious Sisters of Charity are willing to sell the land, the State would be willing to buy.