Harris reiterates maternity hospital will be independent

‘Discredited order’ such as Sisters of Charity should have no input at facility, says Smith

Minister for Health Simon Harris has again insisted the proposed national maternity hospital will have full clinical independence.

The controversy was raised yesterday, for the second consecutive day in the Dáil, with Mr Harris echoing comments made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Tuesday.

“Let me be clear, because I want to be crystal clear on this,’’ said Mr Harris. “This hospital will have full clinical independence.’’

The Minister was responding to the ongoing row over the Government’s decision to give to the Sisters of Charity-owned St Vincent’s Healthcare Group sole ownership of the hospital when it moves from Holles Street to the Elm Park campus next to St Vincent’s University Hospital.


The Minister said he intended to ensure the hospital’s independence was further underpinned in legal arrangements.

“You don’t just need to take my word for it,’’ he added. “The master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony has made that very clear.’’

He said “every single service’’ available in Holles Street would be available at the new hospital. He added this would include any new services permitted under a change of law.

Mr Harris said the next month should be used to get the matter absolutely right.


People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said she did not understand “this business of the next month’’, adding there would be a further demonstration in Dublin on Sunday to ensure the Minister understood where the rest of the country was at on the issue.

Ms Smith said the Catholic Church should have no input into the new hospital nor should a “discredited order’’ such as the Sisters of Charity.

She said 100,000 people had signed an online petition calling on the Minister not to proceed with the agreement.

Mr Harris said it was important to note the arrangements in respect of the new hospital were published by his department in November of last year. The statement at the time had covered all the issues involved, including the ownership of the company, clinical independence and the composition of the board.

He said people wanted a new national maternity hospital which they needed and deserved. “If the deputy does not believe me, she should go down to the hospital and speak to those who deliver services,’’ he added.

Later, during a debate on maternity services, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the revelation of plans to place the new maternity hospital under the ownership of the Sisters of Charity was “simply mindboggling’’.

He said his party welcomed the hospital’s relocation to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus, given Holles Street was not fit for purpose. “However, the decision to provide ownership of the new hospital to the Sisters of Charity is simply quite unbelievable,’’ Mr Ó Caoláin said. “There should be absolutely no connection between the provision of healthcare services and religious orders in this day and age.’’

He said a particular religious ethos should have no influence over clinical decisions. “This debacle needs to be sorted out as a matter of urgency,’’ he added.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times