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Most people don't support changing hospital names to remove religious references

Locals recently protested the proposed name change of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

MOST PEOPLE DON’T support changing the names of hospitals to remove religious references.

In a Claire Byrne Live/TheJournal.ie opinion poll conducted by Amárach Research, 52% of people said they are against such a move, while 34% are in favour and 14% are unsure.

Last weekend, hundreds of people marched through Drogheda to protest a proposal to change the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in the town.

A petition calling for the name to be retained has been signed by over 8,000 people to date. 

The gender breakdown of the opinion poll is as follows: 52% of men and 51% of women don’t support the idea, while 36% of men and 34% of women would back the move, and the rest are unsure.

The difference in opinion is more stark in terms of age, with younger people more likely to support the suggestion:

  • 18-24 years: 44% in favour and 42% against
  • 25-34 years: 40% in favour and 41% against
  • 35-44 years: 37% in favour and 49% against
  • 45-54 years: 28% in favour and 55% against
  • 55+ years: 30% in favour and 61% against (with the remainder unsure)

Some local people have called for consultations to take place before the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital name is changed.

The hospital was founded in the 1950s by Mother Mary Martin and the Medical Missionaries of Mary. It was bought by the HSE in 1997.

The name-change has been raised in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Speaking in the Dáil in December, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “No matter what the name of the hospital is officially, it will always be the Lourdes hospital for people in Drogheda.

I agree that it would be appropriate for management to consult with local representatives and the community before making any change.

“A change does not require government approval but it is a hospital that serves a community and it is only right that the community should be involved in any decision to change the name.”

‘High-handed and arrogant’

Labour Senator Ged Nash, who is from Drogheda, was critical of the proposed name change when speaking in the Seanad recently.

“For all my public life I have fought to separate church and State … As a real pluralist, the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital does not offend me.

“The notion that we dispense with it and, as a consequence, the link to our local hospital’s founders does not sit comfortably with me.”

He said there is “very little public support in Drogheda” for the name change. 

90132979_90132979 Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews,.ie

Nash noted that the general manager of the hospital told senior staff via email that it was her intention to change the name of the hospital.

It is extremely high-handed and arrogant for a public official to make that decision without consultation…

“In this case, the general manager of the hospital jumped the gun, although I do not wish to personalise the matter.”

It is understood that staff members were given the option to vote for one of three alternative names: Drogheda Regional Hospital, Drogheda General Hospital and Drogheda University Hospital.

The Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is part of the RCSI Hospitals Group.

Nash noted that the group does not have university status in Ireland, stating: “It can market itself as a university for the purposes of attracting students from abroad, but it does not have that legal status in Ireland.”

He has tabled an amendment to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 which would allow it to describe itself as a university in Ireland.

A number of hospitals’ names have been amended in recent years to include ‘university’ in their title, including Letterkenny University Hospital and University Hospital Kerry, as they moved to academic models.

A spokesperson for the HSE said any potential name changes are up to individual hospital groups. The RCSI Hospitals Group did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Órla Ryan

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