Concern over Catholic ethos for proposed new maternity hospital

‘Unthinkable’ that State would buy and fund a hospital that does not allow for abortion

The plan to relocate the maternity hospital to the campus of St Vincent’s University Hospital in south Dublin has been beset by delays for several years

The plan to relocate the maternity hospital to the campus of St Vincent’s University Hospital in south Dublin has been beset by delays for several years


The issues surrounding the new maternity hospital are “intractable” unless the State owns the land on it which is proposed to be built, it has been claimed.

The Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare has said it would be “unthinkable” for the State to fund a new maternity hospital which had a Catholic ethos.

In the Dáil during the week Tánaiste Leo Varadkar raised concerns about the status of the new facility on the St Vincent’s University Hospital campus.

The site is owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who plan to gift it to a new body that will run the hospital.

The Government was told on Thursday that the State would not be able to buy the land on which is the hospital is being built.

Mr Varadkar said the site was “not being gifted to the State but to a private charity” and that “we have a difficulty with that. We do not think the safeguards around that are strong enough”.

The Tánaiste also said he had “a difficulty with the governance of the proposed new hospital” because it would not be appointing the board.

“That is a real difficulty because a hospital that is almost fully funded by the State should have a significant number or majority of members of the board appointed by the Government.”

Mr Varadkar stressed “it is an absolute requirement” that the hospital’s constitution “must specify that any procedures and treatments that are legal in the State are available in that hospital”.

Underlying issue

Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare chair Jo Tully said the only way out of this legal quagmire “is for the new hospital to be fully owned and fully governed by the State, like the new children’s hospital”.

She urged the Government to talk away from the deal if the State cannot have full control over the ethos of the hospital.

“The site on which the hospital is to be built, as he stated, is to be owned by a private entity. It is clear that, despite protracted negotiations, all that’s on offer is a lease that is subject to a licence that will remove all control from the State for the duration of the lease,” she stressed.

“Although the hospital will cost up to a billion euro of taxpayers’ money, the State is to have no role whatsoever in the new facility except to bankroll it.

“With ownership comes ethos, and this is the underlying issue that needs to be addressed. They cannot and will not permit the new hospital to offer abortions and other procedures banned by their Church.

“They cannot be compelled to provide services which they, as a Catholic entity, cannot in conscience allow,” she said.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has called for all correspondence to be published regarding the proposed purchase of the site. She believes the public need clarity and transparency on the issue.

“We need to get an understanding of what offers were made and where issues arose,” she said.

“The new maternity hospital should have a secular charter, unfettered by any religious doctrine. I remain concerned that the governance arrangements currently proposed will still allow for the influence of Catholic ethos on the type of care provided to patients.

“It is wholly inappropriate that the Catholic Church would retain any influence over decisions relating to women and our healthcare. We need to ensure that Ireland is a truly secular and pluralist society, a true republic in which the church and State are separated.”