Nuns will have no role in new maternity hospital, St Vincent’s says

Healthcare group seeks to allay fears over future of the NMH after protest in Dublin

St Vincent's Healthcare Group has insisted the Sisters of Charity will have no role in the management of the new National Maternity Hospital when it moves to south Dublin.

It said the religious order is withdrawing from all involvement in healthcare, and documents underpinning the new arrangements at the hospital will be lodged with the Charities Regulator in the coming weeks.

St Vincent’s was responding to queries from The Irish Times on Sunday after a protest in Dublin at the weekend was told the nuns “haven’t gone away” from the hospital.

"The Religious Sisters of Charity announced in May 2017 that they were withdrawing from St Vincent's healthcare group. They resigned from the board on that date," a spokeswoman for the hospital said on Sunday night.

“We are now working towards giving effect to their decision. We expect the new constitution to be submitted to the Charities Regulator for approval in the coming weeks.”

Sources in the National Maternity Hospital, St Vincent’s hospital and the Government all said they expect a decision to proceed with the new hospital – which will see it move from its present site at Holles Street to a new €300 million facility on the St Vincent’s site in Dublin 4 – will be made shortly.


It is understood Minister for Health Simon Harris expects to bring proposals on giving the project the go-ahead to Cabinet next week, at its last meeting before Christmas.

This would enable the Department of Health to release €20 million in funding, allowing work to begin on the site before December 31st.

New European regulations around energy efficiency in public buildings, which come into force on January 1st, mean that the project must be started by December 31st or it will have to be substantially redesigned, sources on all sides of the issue agree. This means that a decision to proceed with the project is needed before the end of the year.

Mr Harris has signalled that he requires assurances about the ethos of the hospital, about the inclusion of a public interest director on the board, and clarity about the State’s ownership of the new hospital. However, all sides expect that these requirements can be satisfied in advance of next week’s Cabinet meeting.

Public ownership

At a rally in Dublin city centre on Saturday in support of the new maternity hospital being wholly in public ownership, the co-leader of the Social Democrats, Róisín Shortall, said it was clear the nuns had not yet got the requisite permissions from the archdiocese or the Vatican to divest themselves of ownership of the lands.

“It is still St Vincent’s Healthcare Group owned by the Sisters of Charity and that is the entity that Simon Harris is currently negotiating with,” she said. “They haven’t gone away.”

Rhona Mahony, the master of the Holles St hospital, said it was unfortunate that a lot of people thought nuns were going to be running the new facility.

“They never sought to have any involvement in this hospital and they were never going to have any involvement in this hospital and they do not have any involvement in this hospital,” she told RTÉ’s Marian Finucane.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times