The Taoiseach has said that legal guarantees about the provision of all services at the new National Maternity Hospital are water-tight in the Constitution, according to the legal advice given to Cabinet.

Micheál Martin told the Dáil that there is "no way" such services will not be provided, because it is obligated with the legal framework governing the new hospital.

On the day when Cabinet collectively agreed to move ahead with the National Maternity Hospital, there was a degree of collective criticism from opposition parties.

The leaders of Sinn Féin, Labour and the Social Democrats have all branded the decision as the the wrong one.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil the new maternity hospital would have a private landlord and Government made no "real effort" to secure the land.

Responding the Taoiseach said the hospital site will be in State ownership for 300 years and he told the Sinn Féin Leader "you are wrong".

Mr Martin said the overall motivation behind the Government's decision is to provide modern maternity facilities, but there was criticism too from Green Party TD's Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello.

Neasa Hourigan said the Green Party should have made this issue a battle and ensured there was a public hospital built on public land.

It seems there will now be a vote tomorrow evening on Sinn Féin's private members motion on the new maternity hospital as the Rural Independents have called for one.

Earlier, the Government said it would not oppose the motion.

The vote puts pressure on two Green Party TDs - Ms Hourigan and Patrick Costello - who have expressed misgivings about today's Cabinet decision.

The Dáil is debating the Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to secure full public ownership of both the hospital site and building.

Junior Minister Frank Feighan told the Dáil that all lawful permissible services will be provided at the new national maternity hospital and nothing will be prohibited due to religious beliefs or ethical code.

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said it was deeply cynical that the Government will not oppose the motion calling for the new maternity hospital to be fully publicly owned and built on public land.

He said it was "absolutely breathtaking" the lengths the Government would go to to sell what he said was a "bad deal".

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Cabinet agrees to proceed with new maternity hospital

Earlier, the Cabinet agreed the legal framework to allow the new National Maternity Hospital to relocate to a site beside St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.

The legal framework has also been approved by the HSE board, as well as the boards of the NMH and St Vincent's Healthcare Group (SVHG).

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly hailed Government approval for the hospital relocation plan as an "important milestone" for maternity services in Ireland.

He said: "The new National Maternity Hospital is a critical piece of health infrastructure that will ensure women and infants are cared for in a state-of-the-art hospital that will help our clinicians deliver improved outcomes."

Mr Donnelly said the new legal framework would ensure all legally permissible services will be available in the new NMH.

It will also "prevent any influence, religious or otherwise, on the operation of the new hospital" and "safeguard the State's significant investment in the hospital".

Speaking following the Cabinet meeting, the minister said that there will never be any religious influence on the services that will be provided at the new NMH.

He said that the legal documents will be signed by all parties in the coming weeks and tender documents will then be drawn up.

Mr Donnelly also said that an annual report will be published for the first five years of the new hospital giving the details of the services provided there.

He said too that an annual report will be published for the first five years of the new hospital giving the details of the services provided there.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she is confident that the hospital will be secular and provide all legally permissible services.

Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman said the last two weeks had provided absolute clarity on the secular status of the new hospital.

Meanwhile, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital has said the Cabinet decision comes as a "welcome relief to the doctors, nurses and midwives at the NMH who have worked to ensure that this vital national healthcare project proceeds".

Dr Shane Higgins said: "I want to again reassure those who have doubts or concerns that the NMH currently has no constraints on the procedures it offers patients, and this will continue when the hospital moves."

Decision to proceed wrong - Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government made the wrong decision by proceeding with the National Maternity Hospital.

She told the Dáil that the hospital will have a private landlord and Government made no "real effort" to secure the land.

Addressing the Taoiseach she said: "We now know that neither you nor the Minister for Health made any serious or meaningful attempt to bring this land into State ownership."

Responding, Micheál Martin said the hospital site will be in State ownership for 300 years and he told the Sinn Féin leader "you are wrong."

"Please stop now. It's time to wrap this part of it up now," Mr Martin said.

He said the overall motivation behind the Government's decision is to provide modern maternity facilities which are required.

Mr Martin also said legal guarantees about the provision of all legal services at the new hospital are water-tight in the constitution, according to the legal advice given to Cabinet.

He told the Dáil that there is "no way" such services will not be provided, because it is obligated with the legal framework governing the new hospital.


Read more: Timeline of the new National Maternity Hospital saga


Mr Martin defended the Cabinet's two week pause on taking a decision, saying the purpose was to have a debate and the Govenment had ensured transparency through the publication of legal documents.

He contended that a lot of arguments put forward by opponents to the hospital "didn't hold-up" and it was now time to "put away all the nonsense."

He was replying to the Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, who said the Government had claimed it was open to change over the past two weeks but this had been nothing more than "a charade."

The Dublin North West TD said it was a "sham" given, she contended, that five years had passed since without any "serious attempt" to engage with the Saint Vincent's Healthcare Group acquiring the site.

Deputy Shortall said she hoped he would forgive the women of Ireland if they were not reassured that, on foot of a note to Cabinet, that a legally binding guarantee was not required to ensure all procedures at the hospital.

She also accused the Government of being patronising, and dismissing good faith attempts to engage with documents.

She claimed the Cabinet was engaging in an "unseemly rush" to approve the proposal, which was "inexplicable" given the Department of Health had npt even published the business case.

The Taoiseach said negotiations had been under way for a decade and it was now time for some "common sense" and a bit of "reality".

Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan was asked about the concerns raised by Ms Hourigan last night.

The Dublin Central TD said she continued to have "heartfelt and genuine concern around the pushing through of this deal".

Minister Ryan said he was aware of Ms Hourigan's concerns, but there would be no change to the term 'clinically appropriate'.

It was in the legal documents and clarity had been given on it, he said.

He said there had been a lot of clarifications over the past two weeks and "that is a good thing".

Additional reporting: Laura Fletcher, Sandra Hurley