Breakthrough on maternity centre as Harris to sign contract amid row
Health Minister Simon Harris is to sign construction contracts for the new National Maternity Hospital ahead of the December 31 deadline, the Irish Independent understands.
The project was thrown into doubt after it emerged that a row had blown up over the make-up of the hospital board.
The minister was accused of 'meddling' in the process after demanding that a public interest director be appointed alongside representatives from the St Vincent's Healthcare Group (SVHG) and Holles Street.
The stand-off comes against a looming deadline of December 31 for contracts to be signed. The alternative would be for the €300m project to go back to design stage.
However, it is understood that Mr Harris will today seek Cabinet approval to give the go-ahead for work to begin on a car park and pharmacy.
Sources indicated the contracts will be signed on the understanding that a public interest director will be provided for when legal agreements are finalised in the new year.
The minister is also expected to address ongoing concerns that the Religious Sisters of Charity order will have some involvement in the new hospital.
Earlier this month, protesters took to the streets in Dublin calling for guarantees that the proposed hospital will be owned and run by the State, without religious involvement.
The nuns had already stated that they were transferring their shares away from SVHG. A memo being brought to Cabinet by Mr Harris is believed to re-emphasise this point.
And his memo will also outline that the final lease agreement will ensure the hospital buildings on the grounds of St Vincent's in Dublin remain in public ownership.
A Government source said that while a lot of issues still had to be ironed out, the moves being made today would "keep the project alive".