High Court bid to stop nuns owning maternity hospital
A High Court challenge has been lodged to prevent the new National Maternity Hospital being built on land owned by the Order of the Sisters of Charity on the campus of St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
The new twist comes as talks between the Department of Health and St Vincent's Healthcare Group over the future ownership of the €300m State-funded hospital enter a crucial phase today.
The legal challenge is to be announced this morning by Dick Spicer (70), co-founder of the Campaign to Separate Church and State, and his son Norman.
He confirmed yesterday he has already lodged the High Court summons against the State, the Health Minister and the Attorney General.
They are seeking to have the proposal to give ownership of the new hospital to the order which owns the land at St Vincent's to be judged unconstitutional.
Mr Spicer achieved prominence in the 1980s when he campaigned against what he saw as the State's failure to safeguard taxpayers' funds over the sale of the order-owned Carysfort Teacher Training College in Blackrock.
His son Norman (30), served in the Irish army over a period of 12 years and is currently a full-time student at University College Dublin on a master of laws programme.
The revelation that the order will own the new maternity hospital caused a furore in recent months amid concerns that it would mean that some procedures may not be permitted.
This was strongly denied by both the boards of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St and St Vincent's who said they had an agreement giving the new facility full independence.
Mediator Kieran Mulvey who helped broker the agreement pointed out the land on which the new hospital will be built is part of a wider campus which is tied up in loans.
This led Health Minister Simon Harris to go back into talks with St Vincent's Healthcare in a bid to get clarity on the issue of ownership, setting a deadline of the end of May for some resolution.
Sources said "good progress" has been made.
It is understood that St Vincent's Healthcare Group is due to come back with proposals today.
The duo are holding a press conference today to discuss their legal challenge.