Protesters call for State to take over new maternity hospital site

Demonstration takes place outside hospital over move to religious order’s Dublin 4 site

Deirdre Fitzgerald wants the site of the new National Maternity Hospital to be bought by the State in a compulsory purchase or for the new hospital to be moved to Tallaght instead of the St Vincent's Hospital site.

Standing next to her daughter Mia, Ms Fitzgerald was one of more than 30 demonstrators outside the current site of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin city centre on Thursday who are angry at the relocation of the new hospital to the Dublin 4 site.

The site was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who have transferred their shareholding to a new company, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. The land for the new Dublin hospital is to be leased to the State for 299 years.

"Ultimately, it's wrong, it is really wrong. It is not serving Irish women. It is not serving my daughters, my children, my grandchildren or anyone well," she said, holding her own placard that asks whether the Vatican has given permission for abortions to take place on their land.

“None of my daughters want it; none of their friends want it; everyone is incensed.”

The demonstration, organised by the Our Maternity Hospital group that is campaigning against church ownership of women’s healthcare, took place as the board of the hospital met inside the Upper Mount Street building which is also home to Fianna Fáil’s headquarters.

The protesters fear a religious ethos could hamper services such as abortion and IVF, despite assurances from Ministers and medics.

Protest organiser Anne Conway said the "most troubling" aspect of the deal was the possibility that the €10 annual peppercorn rent could rise to €850,000 if there was a disagreement.

Lack of trust

The fact that the deal involves the Religious Sisters of Charity, which failed to deliver its full share to the financial redress to institutional abuse survivors, leaves her deeply uneasy. “It makes us feel untrusting of them,” she said.

All protesters cannot understand why the hospital land is not just being handed over to the State. "The transfer of this hugely expensive public asset to a private company is bad and it should be under democratic control and public ownership," said Karl Stanley.

Jody Neary, a Social Democrats councillor in Greystones, Co Wicklow, is concerned at the "railroading" of the agreement behind the hospital and believes time should be given to scrutinise the documents behind the land deal and the private company behind the hospital.

“We have been waiting decades. We can wait a little longer if it means getting full and proper healthcare,” she said.