Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told Fianna Fáil TDs and senators tonight that discussions on the new National Maternity Hospital "need to be brought to a conclusion".

At a private meeting tonight, he said the Government needs "to get it done".

The Taoiseach said: "We need investment and delivery for women and children by building modern maternity hospitals."

Mr Martin said the Government now had "significant guarantees" within the constitution of the hospital.

The Taoiseach said 52 clinicians in Holles street support the plan and are clear that "all legal clinical procedures will be available in this new modern hospital".

He added: "The women of this country deserve modern world class facilities and we must also deliver modern neonatal facilities to ensure the best outcomes for all."

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said all concerns and questions must be answered with reassurance and clarity before a final decision is made by Government.

The Fine Gael leader told his party's TDs and senators tonight that it is clear in the NMH constitution that all legally permissible procedures, for a maternity hospital, will be permitted and there will be no religious ethos there.

He said no religious representatives were on the board and no religious body was in ownership of the site.

Regarding calls for a compulsory purchase order of the St Vincent's site, Mr Varadkar said it could cost the State many millions, take years and might be refused.

St Vincent's Hospital (Pic: RollingNews.ie)

Earlier, the Taoiseach defended ownership proposals for the new maternity hospital on the St Vincent's Hospital campus in Dublin, telling the Dáil that an arrangement to lease the land for 300 years at a rent of €10 per annum amounted to "public ownership".

Micheál Martin said the current hospital in Holles Street was "not fit for purpose" and pointed out that the original proposal was agreed to nine years ago.

He added: "How long more do we want people to wait?"

Yesterday, the Cabinet delayed deciding on a proposal to move the hospital to the St Vincent's campus.

The issue will come before ministers again in two weeks' time.

The Cabinet is still supportive of the move and ministers want to see the new maternity hospital built at the south Dublin site.

Mr Martin said politicians had collective responsibilities and had to make a decision.

He said concerns had been comprehensively addressed in legal documents which had been published by the Department of Health last night.

Religious ethos would have "no hand, act or part" in the new hospital, he said.

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said the hospital should be State-owned and built on State land.

She described the proposed arrangements were "convoluted" and also called for St Vincent's to gift the land to the State.

Mr Martin said they have the "strongest legal advice" from the Attorney General on the new hospital, and that it is "a new departure that I don't intend to engage with" to cite the concerns of individual HSE board members.

He was responding to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, who said many concerns remain, contrary to the Taoiseach's claims.

She said two experts on the HSE board had expressed concerns over the National Maternity Hospital, and asked the Taoiseach to meet them.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett TD questioned why St Vincent's would have any involvement in the new maternity hospital, and asked why sterilisation procedures were not currently available at St Vincent's.

In response, the Taoiseach said any religious ethos "was out of the question" in the new hospital.

He said co-location of the National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent's campus was correctly decided, because it meant combining two high standard hospitals.

He also said he is not against Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly addressing the Dáil on the issue, after he has appeared before the Health Committee.

"It's a matter for the business committee in terms of next week", the Taoiseach said.

However, he stated that the Government is not in a position to facilitate Mr Donnelly's appearance this week.

Several members of the Opposition had called for the minister to make a statement to the Dáil on the controversy surrounding the new maternity hospital.

The Minister for Health said he can "100% guarantee" that every service provided for by law, including termination of pregnancy, tubal ligation, assisted reproduction and gender affirming surgery, will be provided for at the new National Maternity Hospital.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Stephen Donnelly said the current conditions in Holles Street are inadequate and not something that can be stood over any longer.

However, he added that people are right to raise any concerns about the new facility.

Mr Donnelly said the plans were not approved yesterday because it was felt that the many questions raised, which reflected the "very genuine concerns" people have around the country, had to be addressed.

He said: "What people want to know is that the new hospital will be fully independent, which it will, clinically independent, which it will. And critically that it will provide all healthcare services, which it will.

"So what I was confirming to Cabinet yesterday was termination of pregnancy services, tubal ligation, gender affirming, surgery, assisted reproduction. All services will be available."

"Nobody's wrong to raise concerns, we have to get this right," Mr Donnelly added.

"And there is a very uneasy history in Ireland between the church and women's reproductive health. And I think people are right to probe and to question and to demand guarantees and that's what we're doing."

He said that due to the concerns raised it was decided that rather than approval, the "most open and transparent and respectful way" to proceed was to publish all the documentation before agreeing the plan.

It will then come back before the Cabinet in two weeks' time, being conscious of observations made, he said, and he will also be before the Oireachtas Committee on Health to discuss the issue.

Mr Donnelly said there will be no representation on the board of the hospital of the religious Sisters of Charity.

The operating license of the national maternity hospital will have all healthcare services covered under the new institution's constitution as well, he said.

An artist's impression of how the hospital will look once complete

There will not be a religious ethos and there will be "robust" governance and legal framework to ensure that everything that is required will happen in this new hospital, he added.

The minister said the Vatican has "nothing to do with the ownership of the land" and the share transfer of the land has already happened and the land is owned by St Vincent's.

St Vincent's Holdings CLG has said that "bespoke governance arrangements" have been put in place to protect the clinical, operational and financial independence of the new maternity hospital, which "will have its own separate service arrangement with the Health Service Executive".

Mr Donnelly said there will be a 299-year lease and it does not really matter who owns the land, it matters who owns the hospital and "who controls the hospital, and all of that are set out in the legal legal framework. There are multiple layers of protection".

The minister said the structure is complicated and essentially involves two voluntary hospitals coming together to create a hospital that will be owned by the State, on land owned by one of the voluntary hospitals.

However, he said the NMH is a voluntary hospital and this is a matter of transferring one voluntary hospital to another site.

Mr Donnelly said the Government did ask for the land, but at the time St Vincent's did not want to sell the land.

"This conversation about who owns the land is a red herring. If you think about the national maternity hospital today, the State doesn't own the land. It doesn't own the building. We don't own the land under under the other voluntary hospitals," he said.

The minister said he wants the process to be as open and transparent as possible and he looks forward to discussions over the next two weeks.

Read more
Complex documents at heart of maternity hospital row

'Transparency is key'

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin said the new maternity hospital is a State investment of significance, and such things need to be fully examined to protect the State's investment.

She said she welcomes the fact that the Cabinet noted the report about the location of the hospital and that it will now receive the parliamentary scrutiny she believes it needs, adding that it is important for the public also.

She said transparency is key in a project of this importance, but that for her, the issue of paramount importance is that the absolute clinical dependence of the National Maternity Hospital has to be crystal clear and rock solid.

She welcomed the fact that Minister Donnelly will go before the Health Committee and report back to the Cabinet in a fortnight.

Minister Martin said she particularly wants to hear what happens at the committee, especially as it had only been five or six days since the transfer of share holdings in the hospital site by the time the Cabinet was being asked to approve the new legal framework.

She noted and accepted that there have been a number of safeguards put in place, but said all of the safeguards need to be examined to ensure all guarantees.

Earlier, her party colleague Neasa Hourigan said it "remains to be seen" if further delays to the new hospital will be needed.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Ms Hourigan said she welcomed the minister's assurances and said Mr Donnelly had made them in good faith.

However, she said that none of his assurances are contained in the agreement and these words "need to be on the page".

"Ultimately there could be other ministers who are anti choice in the future, and none of those assurances actually are contained within the agreements," she said.

"So, you know, in 90 years and 50 years, the word needs to be on the page that vindicates the rights of people who want to access all those services."

New maternity hospital 'badly needed'

A former Master of the National Maternity Hospital said she expects the sign-off to go ahead in two weeks, and that it will be made clear that there will be no religious influence at the hospital.

Dr Rhona Mahony said having the lease of the land for almost 300 years and ownership of the building was "effective ownership" for the Government.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Dr Mahoney said the hospital is "badly needed" and they are currently trying to provide modern healthcare in an outdated building that is "not up to the standards" of the day.

"What this move means is that we'll be operating on a campus according to international norms in accordance with all the medical, diagnostic and surgical facilities available to women on campus," she said.

"We will no longer be transferring critically ill women across the streets of Dublin in the middle of Dublin, women who could die."

Additional reporting by David Murphy, George Lee