Invitation to Mass a ‘silly mistake’, says National Maternity Hospital

Hospital claims interfaith ceremony will mark inauguration of Master

The National Maternity Hospital has issued invitations to a Catholic Mass to mark the inauguration of its new Master, Prof Shane Higgins, on January 1st.

The invitations, issued by hospital chairman Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns on National Maternity Hospital headed paper, say the "programme for the inauguration is as follows" and sets out that a Mass is to take place at noon in the hospital boardroom.

A spokesman for the hospital said the reference to a Mass on the invitations was a “silly mistake” and that in fact an inter-faith service was planned.

He refused however to say who from non-Catholic or non-Christian traditions had been invited. When asked if the invitations would be withdrawn and re-issued, he said: “Nothing to add”.


When contacted by The Irish Times Maurice Cohen, chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, said no-one to his knowledge from the Jewish community had been invited to the event. Nor, according to Dr Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, had anyone from the Muslim community. The Dublin City Interfaith Forum, which said it was "normally be invited to interfaith events" in the city, had also heard nothing about the event to mark the start of Prof Higgins's seven-year term.

A Mass is not a usual or necessary part of events to mark to beginning of a Master's term. Of the previous four Masters, including outgoing Dr Rhona Mahony, just one had a Mass.

Dr Declan Keane had a Mass in 1998 at the start of his term, and held the position until 2004. Neither his predecessor, Dr Peter Boylan, nor Dr Michael Robson who succeeded him had a Mass.

Among those who received the invitation were Dublin city councillors Claire Byrne and Mícheál Mac Donncha. Both sit on the hospital's board of governors.

Cllr Mac Donncha described the invitation to a Mass at in the hospital boardroom as “inappropriate” particularly given the ongoing controversy over the planned move to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus.

Concerns remain over the degree of control the Sisters of Charity would have over governance at the hospital. The Sisters say they are withdrawing from ownership of St Vincent’s.

Following an executive meeting at the hospital on Wednesday Cllr Mac Donncha spoke to Mr Justice Kearns and was assured, he says, the service would be “interdenominational”. He said he asked that the invitations be re-issued clarifying the situation.

Cllr Byrne said she thought it "very odd" when she saw she was being invited to a Mass. Neither councillor can attend the event on 1st January. Prof Higgins did not return phone calls from The Irish Times.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times