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Green TD Neasa Hourigan had said she would have voted against the government. Leah Farrell/
National Maternity Hospital

Green Party unease over NMH vote as government accused of 'breathtaking cynicism'

The government will not oppose a Sinn Féin motion calling for public ownership of the land.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been accused of “breathtaking cynicism” for deciding not to oppose a Sinn Féin motion calling for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to be fully public and located on public land. 

Cabinet today approved plans for the NMH that will see it remain as a voluntary hospital and be moved to be co-located alongside St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

Under the plan, the State will own the buildings but the land on which it will be built will be owned by St Vincent’s Healthcare Group who will lease it back to the State for 299 years. 

All of the major opposition parties are opposed to plans as envisaged and have called for the land to be fully publicly owned. 

A Sinn Féin Private Member’s Motion calling for public ownership of the land is being debated in the Dáil tonight and may be voted on tomorrow. 

Speaking earlier today, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan had said she would not be able to oppose Sinn Féin’s motion if the government had opposed it.

This raised the prospect that Hourigan and potentially other government TDs would be forced to vote against the government. 

Voting against the government would likely have led to Hourigan losing the Green Party whip. Hourigan previously lost her speaking rights within the party when she voted against the government on the Residential Tenancies Bill in 2020. 

However, it has now been confirmed that the government will not table a motion against Sinn Féin’s, making it likely that Sinn Féin’s non-binding motion would be passed if it is voted on.

A government spokesperson has said this evening that a Cabinet decision has already been made on the issue and therefore there was no need to oppose Sinn Féin’s motion. 

The spokesperson said that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will “outline his view” during the course of the debate but that much of what is in Sinn Féin’s bill is “non-contentious” as it calls for improvement in maternity care. 

The spokesperson also said that decisions on not opposing opposition motions is one which is made “on a case-by-case basis”.

In the Dáil this evening, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said that the government should be “ashamed” by its “hypocrisy”. 

“The government is faced with a motion that says that we must pursue the full realisation of the promise that was made by the Sisters of Charity to give the land to the people of Ireland,” she said. 

It is the height of hypocrisy that on the very day that this government rammed through a Cabinet decision to plough ahead with its proposal, that you actually sit back and pretend that you’re supporting this motion. I mean, are you not ashamed of that?

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy made similar comments. 

“It is the height of breathtaking cynicism. The motion calls for the government to get full public ownership on the very same day when they’ve done the opposite. It’s disgusting cynicism,” he said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme this evening, Hourigan herself said the government was removing her right to demonstrate her opposition. 

“Where you have no democratic vehicle to register your objection to these things, one of the ways to do it is to deviate from the whip. By the government accepting this motion as it seems that they will, now even that small piece of dissent has been removed,” she said. 

Hourigan said that in general opposition motions are “not a good vehicle for political debate” but that this case was an exception.

In this case, where there’s a 299 year deal, this is generations of women, and I would have liked the opportunity to have it on the record for those 299 years that I object to this, this isn’t good.

Speaking this evening, a government spokesperson said that Hourigan’s position was not discussed at Cabinet but that her party leader Eamon Ryan had “reached out”. 

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