Catholic Church should hand over hospitals to State - Martin

Fianna Fáil leader says scope of inquiry into Tuam babies scandal must be broadened

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photograph: Eric Luke

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photograph: Eric Luke


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said it is time for the Catholic Church to hand over the hospitals it runs to the State.

Mr Martin said hospitals such as the Mater in Dublin and St Vincent’s are already substantially funded and run by the State. He also raised the possibility that the State could take over schools currently by the religious orders.

He suggested the controversial indemnity deal done in 2002 in which the church’s contribution to the redress scheme for institutional abuse victims was capped at €128 million, should be revisited.

Mr Martin said the Catholic Church could never be expected to come up with the €1.5 billion cost of the redress scheme.

As an alternative, he suggested the handover of health and educational facilities to the State if the State had invested substantially in them.

“In my view, a better deal could be done. For example, all the hospitals in the State should be given over by the churches to the State,” he told RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke programme on Wednesday.

Speaking in relation to the Tuam babies scandal, he said: “In my view any area in education or health, where fundamentally the State has made a large investment and continued to make the investment for over 30 or 40 years, when that comes to an end - the utilisation of that facility for those purposes - I think those facilities should then revert to the state.”

When questioned as to whether he would include the handover of schools as well, he said: “The State has a lien in all of those properties, which would be my understanding. Those negotiations could be reopened. That could be examined.”

Mr Martin said the inquiry into the Tuam babies scandal must be broadened and a forum established for all families and victims of mother and baby homes.

Mr Martin said the homes speak to a very dark side of our history, when we had an invasive church governing families and the lives of people.

“There has to be the inquiry, but I think also, there has to be a proper forum for families where we can transparently have the story told, articulated,” he said.

“First of all so that, at this very late stage, that families and victims of this regime can get some opportunities to articulate their needs and concerns and to guide, if you like, current day society in terms of responding to those needs.”

Mr Martin said children must be prioritised in the next budget.

He said looking back at how children were treated in the past, in certain circumstances, can inform how we deal with things currently.

When asked about the terms of reference for the ‘Grace’ case, concerning the alleged abuse of an intellectually disabled woman in a foster care home, Mr Martin said that he believed a cast iron guarantee was needed from the Government to ensure the inquiry can cover other cases.