Words: Eva O’Beirne
The cabinet will be asked today to sign off on the gifting of Ireland’s new one billion euro National Maternity Hospital, to a company legally bound by the ethos of the Religious Sisters of Charity.
The Religious Sisters of Charity founded St Vincent’s Hospital in 1834 and was also one of the four orders involved in running Magdalene laundries.
Stephen Donnelly has assured the public that all legally permissible procedures such as abortion and contraceptive services will be available in the hospital, “where clinically appropriate”.
Former master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan has criticised the move, writing to the Government to say that religious influence on the hospital is a major concern.
The new hospital board will include three independent directors selected by the minister, alongside three nominated by St Vincent’s, and three nominated by the National Maternity Hospital.
The Religious Sisters of Charity are due to transfer the ownership of lands the hospital will be built on to an independent entity. This independent entity will then lease the new maternity hospital site to the State for 299 years.
Critics and reproductive rights campaigners have claimed a Catholic religious ethos will exist in the hospital, possibly compromising the hospital’s power to carry out services such as abortion. Last month, a petition with 10,000 signatures, calling for the new National Maternity Hospital to be publicly owned, was presented to the Taoiseach.
Bernie Linnane from the Our Maternity Hospital Campaign commented to District this morning: “Our position is clear. It is estimated the new hospital will cost at least one billion euro to build – the state will pay this and the ongoing running costs. As the state is paying, it should own the hospital site and building.”
“The Vatican-approved successor company of the religious order that ran a Magdalen Laundry will have involvement however in the new hospital. The Deputy Head of the HSE, Professor Deirdre Madden has expressed ‘concerns regarding legal ownership of the site and building, and the governance and control of the proposed new maternity hospital’.”
“Madden is a professor of Law at University College, Cork, specialising in health law and medical ethics. Her opinion must surely be sufficient to pause all further progress on this deal until such concerns are assuaged. Our new National Maternity Hospital must be public and secular. Nothing less is acceptable.”
Dr. Peter Boylan cited a number of concerns including the “conditions set by the Holy See for the transfer of ownership of SVHG to St Vincent’s Holdings”.
“As you will be aware, the Religious Sisters of Charity (RSC) were obliged under canon law to seek the permission of the Holy See for the transfer of their shareholding to St Vincent’s Holdings.
“As a Catholic religious order, they are governed by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome.”
In his letter to the Government, he also said: “As you will further be aware, two members of the board of the HSE dissented from the decision by the board to agree the RSC shareholding transfer to St Vincent’s Holdings. The vice-chair of the HSE, Prof Deirdre Madden is recorded as having ‘concerns regarding legal ownership of the site and building, and the governance and control of
the proposed new maternity hospital”.
The Our Maternity Hospital campaign has urged those who are concerned about these issues surrounding the project to email the cabinet. They have provided an email template which can be found below.
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