It is essential, in the interests of Irish women now and in the future, that the national maternity hospital is fully State owned and free of religious control and influence
A new cross-party group has been established, by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, to advocate for full public ownership of the new national maternity hospital – and the site on which it will be built.
“The committee, which has members from across the political spectrum including all three government parties, has been formed due to concerns that governance at the new maternity hospital will be influenced by a Catholic ethos. This would clearly have huge implications for clinical independence at the hospital and the treatment of women in Ireland long into the future.
“The existing maternity hospital, at Holles Street, is not fit for purpose – and has not been for a very long time. But, when it comes to the provision of reproductive healthcare for future generations of Irish women, the notion of any religious involvement cannot be countenanced.
“I have today written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, on behalf of this group, to request a meeting so that the issue of public ownership of the hospital can be urgently discussed. This new facility will be treating Irish women for the next 100 years. We have to get it right.
Deputy Shortall noted that the proposed move of the national maternity hospital, to St Vincent’s Hospital, had been mired in controversy for years.
“It didn’t even occur to the last government that gifting a €500 million public hospital to a religious order – the Religious Sisters of Charity (RSC), the owners of St Vincent’s Hospital Group – was a problem, until there were public demonstrations about the plans in 2017
“Following that, the Sisters of Charity announced they were ending their involvement in St Vincent’s Hospital and moving their ownership to a new corporate entity, St Vincent’s Holdings. In May last, the Order received conditional permission from the Vatican to transfer their shareholding to this new entity.
“However, concerns remain that the constitution of this new corporate entity will mandate a Catholic ethos, which necessarily limits the type of reproductive healthcare that women can receive, at the new maternity hospital.
“Meanwhile, nearly four years after they announced they were ending their involvement in St Vincent’s Hospital, the Sisters of Charity remain the sole shareholder of St Vincent’s Hospital Group.
“As it stands, if the project proceeds in its current guise, it means the national maternity hospital would be owned by St Vincent’s Holdings, the successor to the Sisters of Charity with the same Catholic core values.
“It also means the State would be transferring the ownership of a large, publicly funded, hospital to a private company, on privately owned land, with all the implications that has for Sláintecare.
“It is essential, in the interests of Irish women now and in the future, that the national maternity hospital is fully State owned and free of religious control and influence.”
27 April, 2021