National Maternity Hospital concerns


Sir, – It gives me no pleasure to point out that Prof Shane Higgins and colleagues (Letters, May 21st) fail to address the central and critical concern regarding the clinical independence of the planned new National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park in Dublin.

The plan agreed in the Mulvey report in 2016 was that the Religious Sisters of Charity would own the new hospital 100 per cent. The current proposal is that St Vincent’s Holdings CLG will be the sole owner. St Vincent’s Holdings CLG is to be set up as the successor company into which the Religious Sisters of Charity are transferring their ownership of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

The obvious question is if the Sisters will follow the custom of religious congregations worldwide in similar circumstances and transfer their property, assets and services into a Vatican-approved entity known as a public juridic person of pontifical right?

In recent years, the Religious Sisters of Charity in Canada and Australia, and the Sisters of Mercy and Bon Secours order in Ireland have established public juridic persons for their healthcare organisations.

If St Vincent’s Holdings CLG is going to be a public juridic person (or similar entity) it will be obliged to submit an annual “stewardship accountability report” to the Vatican. It is hard to see how such a report could include the numbers of elective sterilisations, abortions and artificial fertilisation procedures carried out in the hospital in the year, and continue to be approved by the Vatican.

In “Consultants say Rome assent to deal clears way for new National Maternity Hospital”, News, May 21st), Patsy McGarry reports that the application for the establishment of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG was approved by the Vatican on March 16th, “having ‘heard the opinions’ of Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, and papal nuncio Archbishop Jude Okolo”.

Have these senior clerics really agreed, as Sean Fox (Letters, May 21st) asks, “to facilitate . . . an institution that carries out abortions”? Mr Fox like several recent correspondents, is puzzled by the church’s apparent “U-turn” on abortion.

As Prof Higgins and colleagues state, the planned new National Maternity Hospital will be “the most important infrastructural development for women’s health in the history of the State”. There is therefore urgent necessity for clarity on the question of clinical independence and religious ethos. This requires documentary evidence rather than unsubstantiated assurances. The Religious Sisters of Charity must publish all their correspondence with the Holy See regarding the transfer of their ownership of SVHG to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. We also need to see the memorandum and articles of association and any charter or mission statement.

If there is nothing to hide, don’t hide it.

As matters stand, we are in the preposterous situation where an estimated €100 million of public money has already been spent on the new National Maternity Hospital before the company that will own it has even been established and its structure made available to public scrutiny.

We are being asked to believe that the Irish Religious Sisters of Charity, with the approval of the Vatican and the three most senior clerics in Ireland, are satisfied with a plan that allows the construction of a hospital which will provide procedures absolutely prohibited by Catholic teaching. I can find no precedent anywhere in the world.

Is it not more likely they have approved a plan for the ownership of a hospital in which such procedures will not be performed? – Yours, etc,


(Life Governor

and Former Master,

National Maternity


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Previous masters of the National Maternity Hospital and consultants from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group are calling for the immediate construction of the new National Maternity Hospital (Letters, May 21st) . However , they need to be reminded that the main issue to be resolved is not one relating to their area of expertise but to the public interest. Irish taxpayers need clarity about the new owners of the site, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, and especially what power its shareholders will exercise over the ethos and governance of the new maternity hospital. They gloss over this issue as if it is unimportant. I wonder whether they have information that is not available to the general public. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – If, as seems to be agreed by all the medical professionals, this site next to St Vincent’s hospital is the ideal location for the new maternity hospital, then this land could and should have been acquired by the state via a compulsory purchase order. The State would then, of course, have had to pay a price for the site related to its commercial value. The nuns could then have used this money to do good elsewhere, and they could have walked away with a clear conscience that they had just obeyed the law of the land rather than facilitated future provision of abortion.

Instead, however, what appears to have been agreed is that the State gets the site for nothing, and the doctors who work in the new hospital will then be free to trample all over deeply cherished Catholic beliefs. Everyone gets a free pass, in short – except the traditional Catholics, who are being treated with contempt by their own church. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.