Religion and healthcare – a volatile mix?


Sir, – Nicholas Kearns’s article regarding the move of the National Maternity Hospital to the St Vincent’s site is a most welcome, well articulated, and coherent defence of this wholly necessary investment in women’s health (“New maternity hospital will not be run by nuns”, Opinion & Analysis, April 26th). For too long various activists and politicians in Irish society have talked impressively about the need to improve maternity health infrastructure in Dublin but have been rather short on delivering anything. Some of these same self-publicising individuals are now trying to scupper the realisation of tangible and real improvements. That personal bias, anti-clericalism (whether merited or not) and sheer political opportunism usurp sound written legal proposals in informing their stance is a reflection of our current age of unreason. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – We need a formal statement from Rome as to what it expects from its church officials in Dublin regarding its new maternity hospital. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – NMH – “Not My Hospital”. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – There is just one question I’d like to know the answer to. Just why do the 213 Sisters of Charity (average age 76) want to maintain ownership of the proposed new maternity hospital? What’s in it for them? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Has the board approached the Islamic community to see if it would be willing to have the National Maternity Hospital on its campus in Clonskeagh? It is less than a kilometre from St Vincent’s hospital, and I am sure that in return for ownership of the building and four seats on the board, it might be tempted. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The controversy surrounding the National Maternity Hospital gathers apace to the shame of all concerned. One aspect that has not been explored to date is the fact that the average age of the community of nuns who might own the facility is 76 years. With the lack of new vocations, it is likely that before the hospital is even commissioned, the nuns will have little or no involvement, and most likely within ten to 15 years the order in Ireland will be defunct. This would suggest that apart from ethical or religious reasons, the gift of the hospital to the Sisters of Charity makes no sense as a very serious issue arises as to who would inherit its assets.

It is not clear from the details of the published agreement that this issue is addressed and resolved in the public interest. Would their assets revert to the mother house, thus putting them outside the remit of this State? Might they be bequeathed to the archdiocese of Dublin and be subject to the rigours of Catholic teaching, or to the Vatican, with similar consequences?

The simple fact is we don’t seem to know, and the Government is walking us blindfolded into yet another potential minefield. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The concerns expressed this past week over the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital are sufficiently grave that they have necessitated a full-court press from Official Ireland to try and suppress them. First, there was the old reliable of a “review”, which always serves to take the heat out of things. Then we get a familiar refrain of “there is no alternative” pronouncements to win back the centre ground. Finally, the playbook calls for an offensive manoeuvre to silence and disenfranchise a leading naysayer.

All of this in order to avoid an arrangement whereby a publicly-funded hospital is owned by the State and the required land for the building is leased on normal commercial terms! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.

Sir, – A respected past master of the National Maternity Hospital calls stop. The Citizens’ Assembly says get on with it. Will political governance here finally reach adolescence 101 years after declaring a republic? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Instead of questioning the location of the new maternity hospital on a site owned by the Sisters of Charity at St Vincent’s Hospital, isn’t it time we questioned the ownership of the publicly funded St Vincent’s Hospital itself, which in its mission statement states that its values are “based on the mission and philosophy of the Religious Sisters of Charity, our shareholders”? – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – In his article “Catholic Church’s charity towards Irish people is a corrosive myth” (Opinion & Analysis, April 25th), Fintan O’Toole explains a flaw inherent in charity: “Charity is unaccountable ... it suits all those whose lives are made easier by not having to answer to the people they supposedly serve”.

Doubtless he will let us know in due course the faults intrinsic to other principles of Catholicism – mercy and, of course, love. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s suggestion (Opinion & Analysis, April 25th) that the RTÉ site could be suitable for the new maternity hospital is interesting but it does raise a question. If the site were used, would sole ownership of the new hospital be given to RTÉ? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.