Survivors of child abuse in residential institutions have expressed shock at the fact that the sole owner of the new National Maternity Hospital in south Dublin will be the the St Vincent's Healthcare Group, of which the Sisters of Charity are the shareholders.
The Sisters of Charity have yet to fulfil their commitments under the 2002 indemnity agreement, under which they and 17 other congregations that ran residential institutions for children agreed to pay the State €128 million towards redress costs.
They have also to meet commitments they made in 2009 to pay a further €5 million towards redress,€3 million of which remains outstanding.
The congregation is one of four that managed the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, all of which explicitly refused in 2013 to contribute anything to the State redress scheme for women who had been in the laundries.
The Magdalene Survivors Together group expressed "deep anger and absolute shock" at the decision of "the Irish Government to award sole ownership of Ireland's maternity hospital to the Sisters of Charity".
Group chairman Steven O’Riordan said “this decision goes beyond belief. How it is possible for a religious order who denied so many women any sort of dignity be given sole ownership of our new maternity hospital?”
Mary Murphy, survivor of one of the Magdalene laundries, recalled how she "spent four years in the Sisters of Charity [laundry].
“It was hell on earth. I’m disgusted by this decision and I’m calling on the Irish Government to reverse it. Religion has no place in Irish hospitals. Just as it had no place in interfering in my life.”
A survivor of the Seán McDermott Street laundry, which was run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and closed in 1996, asked: "Do they think we are fools? They say one thing and they do the complete opposite. What happened to getting the religious orders to pay up for the abuse we suffered?"
Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said his "fundamental difficulty" with the ownership issue concerning the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park was with the State "gifting a €300 million new hospital to a religious congregation which has yet to honour a 15-year-old commitment on redress".
Survivors' advocate Bernadette Fahy, who took part in the 1996 Dear Daughter documentary about the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin's Inchicore, said the decision "doesn't make any sense".
“They [Department of Health] should absolutely deduct what is owed to the State [by the Sisters of Charity]. Interest as well,” she said. “Clearly, it’s a case of one arm of the State paying no attention to what the other is doing.”
John Kelly of the Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) Ireland group said it was outdated to have "the religious involved in any way shape or form" in schools or hospitals.
“If they receive that money [€300 million] they have no excuse whatever when it comes to redress. Now they have a clear opportunity to do the honourable thing. Let’s see their money, not their words.”