State, church and healthcare – the National Maternity Hospital
Sir, – Dr Peter Boylan has stood up for his beliefs and taken a stand for the women of Ireland. He is to be applauded for his integrity, honesty and morals. Simon Harris, the very quiet nuns and the rest of the dealmakers should learn from him instead of continuing down a path that grossly insults the Irish people. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Simon Harris has asked for a “month of calm” but we should all take a moment to celebrate the Sisters of Charity in Ireland. They are to be congratulated for being such modernisers and for being at the forefront of religious and social tolerance. They will be the only Catholic order in the entire world to allow procedures that are totally against their Catholic faith to take place in their newly “gifted” €300 million maternity hospital built, staffed and funded by the State (should it proceed). You can’t put a price on such tolerance! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Dr Peter Boylan’s concerns about a religious ethos influencing clinical practices and decision-making at the proposed new National Maternity Hospital are well founded. The website of the Sisters of Charity tells us that St Vincent’s Healthcare Group provides medical services “in an atmosphere of Christian love and compassion operating according to the values of the Sisters of Charity health service and drawing on the talents and creativity of all those who share our vision”.
The Government seems to expect the Irish taxpayer to believe that the Sisters of Charity are prepared to own and co-run a new hospital, on their own land, that will be devoid of such a “Christian atmosphere” and that will not be run in accordance with their values. Presumably we are also to believe that this new facility will be devoid of religious iconography. Leaving aside the rather questionable track record of these nuns and their “values” in the field of maternity care, the question remains as to why they would want to own a medical facility offering a range of services that conflict so sharply with their own beliefs.
The line between church and state in Irish healthcare has been blurred for long enough. If this new hospital goes ahead as planned, I fear that Dr Boylan will ultimately be vindicated in his concerns. In the meantime, his experience shows that those who rock the boat in Irish public life invariably end up in the water. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Why do nuns need maternity hospitals? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is normal practice before engaging in a construction project to check on the record for honesty and the reputation of those partners with which you will be involved. It behoves the Government to engage in such an exercise before they get involved in hospital construction projects with third parties. At a minimum, it could check its own records. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The proposed location of the National Maternity Hospital to the St Vincent’s campus is another example of an “Irish solution to an Irish problem”. Such a phrase should not be taken to denigrate the intelligence and judgment of Irish people but of elites in Irish society who have the power to steamroll their quick-fix solutions in the face of widespread public opposition and dissatisfaction. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Why is €300 million of my money and yours being given to any private organisation? Can this be stopped? The banking crisis and troika bailout happened effectively behind closed doors, and we and our children bear the debt. This transfer is happening now, in front of our eyes. How can we stop it? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Safeguards” against what, exactly? Surely not religious interference in our health system? We owe a great debt to the lucid and principled stand taken by Drs Boylan and Fitzpatrick. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Intermingling the issues of religion and the relocation of a State healthcare unit distracts from a basic tenet of corporate governance. The board of the NMH was wrong to claim Dr Boylan’s duty of loyalty lay with it. His fiduciary duty was to ensure the best for the hospital body, then its creditors, staff and shareholders.
Donating €300 million to an unrelated entity clearly is not in the best interest of the shareholders (ie taxpayers). As one of the latter, I am saddened that we have lost a board member for doing his job in upholding the code of good corporate governance. – Yours, etc,
Parknasilla, Co Kerry.
Sir, – Your front-page article on the NMH quotes the Minister for Health as saying that the St Vincent’s site “was being offered free” (April 27th). Free of financial cost in the short-term perhaps, but it is incorrect to claim that the site is being offered free of conditions. – Yours, etc,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – With all the publicity about the commencement of building of the new children’s hospital in the grounds of St James’s Hospital, I am at a loss to understand how the hospital will succeed without any input from the Catholic Church. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – According to their own website, the Sisters of Charity of Ireland take a vow of poverty which is defined as “developing a healthy practice of using the word ‘enough’, to live simply, to be satisfied with what we have and to share with others”. In that context the sole ownership of a prime slice of Dublin real estate, let alone the proposed acceptance of the government’s largesse on behalf of the un-consulted taxpayers, flies in the face of the nuns’ own principles.
If the nuns who remain in the order are, in the words of Dr Ruairi Hanley (April 28th), “a small elderly group”, it is surely time for them to recognise that they are no longer living in the 19th or 20th centuries when the majority were indeed able to provide some hospital services.
The nuns have been put in an invidious position by the pusillanimity of the Government but that in no way diminishes their need to bow out of this arena or else to add the word “hypocrisy” to the charges already placed at their door as a result of the actions of a minority of their order. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The silence from the Fianna Fáil party on the controversy surrounding the National Maternity Hospital is deafening. It appears that Micheál Martin is performing that dexterous feat for which he has become famous – sitting on the fence until he discovers which way the wind is blowing. – Yours, etc,
Howth, Dublin 13.
Sir, – It looks very much now as though the gifting of the NMH to the Sisters Of Charity is going ahead as planned. Let us hope that in five, ten or 15, years if a crisis of governance erupts over what goes on and is allowed in the new hospital, that the key players in forcing through the move, in particular Minister for Health Simon Harris, will not be allowed to get away with the usual wringing of hands and asking “How did we get here?” – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We have been waiting for a modern replacement of Holles Street hospital for 50 years. Let’s spend a little longer to make sure we get it absolutely right. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Minister for Health Simon Harris insists that he is “strongly in favour of separation between church and state” while simultaneously spearheading a deal which will deepen that same entanglement for decades to come. Has ever a politician spoken from both sides of their mouth on this grand a scale? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I don’t remember falling down a rabbit hole, but we are about to build a hospital at huge public expense, and hand it over to a private organisation. Only the queen in Alice could be this illogical, so I must have unknowingly walked through a looking glass. I hope to wake up soon. – Yours, etc,
Dr MADELINE STRINGER,