Ethos of National Maternity Hospital


Sir, – We write in response to the article “Time to address role of Sisters of Charity in NMH” (Una Mullally, Opinion & Analysis, December 3rd).

Your writer asked for clarity, and we are happy to provide it. The Sisters of Charity will have no role in the proposed new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) at the St Vincent’s hospital campus at Elm Park. The agreement governing the new hospital entered into two years ago makes clear that it will have “clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology, obstetrics and neonatal services (without religious, ethnic or other distinction) in the hospital at Elm Park, Dublin and the provision of medical, surgical, nursing midwifery and other health services”. There has never been any doubt about that and the continued attempts to suggest otherwise despite the clarity of the agreement is creating an issue which, quite simply, does not exist.

The new NMH will operate in accordance with the law of the land, not canon law – just as it does now. It will have no religious ethos.

As the outgoing and incoming Masters of the NMH, we would not countenance supporting anything other than the continued clinical independence of the NMH.

In her article your writer expresses concern over issues including the past treatment of women in Magdalene laundries, the detention of psychiatric patients and asylum seekers. These are really serious issues for Irish society. However, they must not be conflated with the pressing need for this new hospital for the women and infants of Ireland.

Building regulation requirements mean that contracts to begin some initial work on this project must be signed by the Government by December 31st. If the Government decides not to sign them, the project faces significant delay and funding risks. We must ensure the most important women’s health project for this generation is not brought down by being associated in the public mind with entirely unrelated issues.

There is no lack of clarity. There will be no religious ethos in the new hospital.

But there will be a transformation in maternity and healthcare services for women in this country. It is imperative that this opportunity not be lost. – Yours, etc,


(Master, to December 31st, 2018),


(Master, from January 1st, 2019),

National Maternity Hospital,

Holles Street,

Dublin 2.