Private ownership of National Maternity Hospital is ‘unacceptable’, rally hears

No place for Catholic ethos in women’s reproductive healthcare, says Dr Peter Boylan

About 250 people attended the rally outside the Dáil against the proposal that the Sisters of Charity would continue to own the site of the New Maternity Hospital after it is built. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

About 250 people attended the rally outside the Dáil against the proposal that the Sisters of Charity would continue to own the site of the New Maternity Hospital after it is built. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

There is “no prospect” of women in Ireland being able to access all reproductive healthcare in the proposed new National Maternity Hospital if the State does not own the site, Dr Peter Boylan has claimed.

Dr Boylan, a former master of the current National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, told a rally it is “incredible and unacceptable” that the State would consider investing upwards of €800 million in a site it would not own.

About 250 people attended the rally outside the Dáil against the proposal to have the new maternity hospital built on land owned by St Vincent’s Holdings.

The Sisters of Charity plan to transfer ownership to the new entity, which will act as a holding company for St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), and will lease the land to the State for 99 years with option of a 50 year extension.

Dr Boylan said the religious order needs to honour its commitment made four years ago to gift the land on which the hospital is being built, beside St Vincent’s Hospital, to the people of Ireland.

Supporters of the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare protesting outside the Dáil. Photograph: Alan Betson
Supporters of the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare protesting outside the Dáil. Photograph: Alan Betson

“There is no place for a Catholic ethos in women’s reproductive healthcare,” Dr Boylan said in a message delivered to the crowd.

“It is must be clear to the Government that nothing less than State ownership of the land and the hospital is acceptable.

“Unless the hospital is built on State land and is owned 100 per cent by the State, there is no prospect of the women of Ireland being able to access all reproductive healthcare in the State.”

It is an “existential moment for the State”, he said, and will determine the future of healthcare in Ireland.

Test case

“We all know about historic Catholic control of health and education. This is a test case of how the State wants to go forward into the future,” he said.

“Will the Government insist that the new National Maternity Hospital be State-owned on State land or will they capitulate once again to private Catholic interests with the women of Ireland once again the losers?”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “extraordinary” after so many years that the Government still had no guarantee that the site would be publicly owned.

“The Government needs to get its act together. It [intended to build the National Maternity Hospital on a site the State did not own, she would lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop the construction work.

Women’s rights campaigner Ailbhe Smyth. Photograph: Alan Betson
Women’s rights campaigner Ailbhe Smyth. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Sisters of Charity said they would not be involved in any way with the hospitals in the future.

SVHG also said this was the case, adding “all medical procedures, in accordance with the laws of the land, are available in SVHG hospitals, including pregnancy termination, tubal ligation and gender reassignment procedures”.