Abuse redress bill ‘did not arise’ in hospital transfer talks
Former Holles Street master Dr Peter Boylan said his concerns about project have ‘strengthened’
The relocation of the National Maternity Hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin involves the largest single investment made in maternity services in the State. Photograph: Dave Meehan
The Sisters of Charity’s failure to provide its share of funds to a redress scheme for institutional abuse victims is a separate issue from the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital, the man charged with negotiating the move has said.
Kieran Mulvey, who brokered the deal between the Sisters of Charity and Holles Street hospital for the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital, said the order would have no day-to-day involvement in the running of the hospital.
The Sisters of Charity were the shareholders of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group which the Department of Health said would be the “sole owner of the new hospital” which is to be built on a site at Elm Park in south Dublin.
On RTÉ radio Mr Mulvey said the redress question was a matter of historic concern that “should be addressed elsewhere in an appropriate forum”.
He said it was an imperative that Holles Street moved as early as possible to the St Vincent’s campus.
However, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dr Peter Boylan said his concerns about the new National Maternity Hospital have been “strengthened” over recent days.
“I’m known to have serious reservations about the proposed arrangement and nothing I’ve learnt in the last couple of days has changed my view. If anything it has strengthened it, strengthened my concerns,” Dr Boylan said.
“The proposals haven’t been fully agreed yet but I think it’s really essential that women are protected and that there’s absolutely no possibility of any interference by the church or indeed by the Minister.”
Dr Boylan queried what exactly Minister for Health Simon Harris meant when he said he would have a “golden share” in the project. “It’s a phrase I’ve never heard before,” Dr Boylan added.
Mr Mulvey said the talks on the relocation centred on governance, the make-up of the new board, the protection of funding and the hospital’s ethos, he said, adding the redress issue did not arise at all.
On the role of the Sisters of Charity, he pointed out, firstly, they owned the land on the campus, and, secondly, they had “no real active role” on the board of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
“I don’t think it was anticipated that the nuns themselves would sit on that board [of the new hospital]”, he said.
“The ethos of Holles Street is protected under reserve powers and the arrangement is that the Minister has a golden share, which means the terms of the agreement can’t be changed or the terms of the board without his or her agreement at any particular stage; there would be a lien on the land.
“In effect the State has a very prominent position in regard to the protection of any investment on the campus.”
He said to the best of his knowledge no ground rent would be paid and the nuns were giving the land without charge to the State to the build the hospital.
Also on RTÉ, however, Stephen O’Riordan of the Magdalene Survivors asked why the Sisters of Charity did not just “hand over” the land at Elm Park and leave it in the sole responsibility of the State.
The relocation of the hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s hospital campus involves the largest single investment ever made in maternity services in the State. Proceeds from the sale of Holles Street will go towards funding the new maternity hospital.
Opposition politicians have criticised the manner in which the ownership issue has been handled, among them People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith who called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to reverse the decision.
“People Before Profit has, for a long time, called for full democratic control of our hospitals via community councils. We need the Church out of our hospitals, out of our schools, out of our wombs and out of our lives,” she said.
Ms Smith has called for a special Dáil debate on the matter.
The Green Party described the decision to grant ownership of the hospital to the religious order as “wholly inappropriate”, given the outstanding redress bill.
“We don’t believe religious bodies should have any involvement in the provision of State services,” the party said in a statement, “however, regardless of your stance on that issue, the choice of this particular group is a insult to survivors of institutional abuse as long as they refuse to meet their obligations.”
The Sisters of Charity is one of 18 religious congregations which managed residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission and was party to the 2002, €128-million indemnity agreement with the State.
Following publication of the Ryan report in 2009 the Sisters of Charity offered to contribute a further €5 million towards the €1.5 billion redress costs incurred by the State involving former residents of the institutions.
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report last month the Sisters of Charity have contributed just €2 million of their 2009 offer to date.