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Sisters of Charity

'I really thought we were beyond this point': Protest to be held tomorrow on new maternity hospital

Former junior health minister Kathleen Lynch told Drivetime that the hospital is not “going in the right direction”.

A FORMER JUNIOR minister in the Department of Health said today that she does not believe the new national maternity hospital is “going in the right direction”.

Controversy over the proposed hospital, where the land would be owned by religious order Sisters of Charity, rumbled on today as a petition to prevent the group becoming its owners got over 40,000 signatures.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime, former Labour TD Kathleen Lynch said that she couldn’t imagine maternity health – in all of the forms it takes – being performed in an institution owned by a religious order.

Lynch was in the department when the decision was made to build the new hospital, and said that a “new, modern state-of-the-art” maternity hospital was required but added that she was no longer sure that it would be delivered.

She said that there may be cases where a woman requires treatment that the Sisters of Charity are fundamentally opposed to, such as termination when a woman’s life is at risk.

She said that this would create problems for the treatment of women in the future when or if the owners of the hospital were to express its opposition to such procedures.

“I don’t accept that the ethos of Holles Street would be protected,” she said.

In an era when legislation and people’s expectations about their own lives are changing on a yearly basis, for instance: intersex, gender reassignment, IVF… Will all of those things be acceptable?
I really thought that we were beyond the point when the state builds a hospital and yet doesn’t own it. And if you don’t own your institution that you are delivering your national maternity services in and other people have an input – and who fundamentally disagree with some of the procedures – I think you are storing up problems.

Protest planned

Tomorrow, at 1pm, there is a protest due to be held outside the Department of Health in Dublin to urge the government not to allow the Sisters of Charity own the new maternity hospital.

Organised by Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan, it is understood that speakers at the protest will include members of the Abortion Rights Campaign and Parents for Choice.

Ryan said: “We hope this demonstration sends a message to Minister Harris that we want decent, well-funded public services. That means state-owned and state-run – not owned by any private body, whether it be the church, big corporations or anyone else.”

The new national maternity hospital will be built on the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, and will cost the State €300 million.

Health Minister Simon Harris has repeatedly insisted that the hospital would be run independently.

In a statement yesterday, the Department of Health said: “The new company will have clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services, without religious, ethnic or other distinction, as well as financial and budgetary independence.

This independence will be assured by the reserved powers which are set out in the agreement and which will be copper fastened by the golden share which will be held by the Minister for Health.

Speaking to Today with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, Kieran Mulvey, the former chair of the Workplace Relations Commission, said money owed by the Sisters of Charity to the redress scheme for abuse survivors was not discussed during negotiations to move the hospital.

Read: Over 40,000 sign petition to prevent Sisters of Charity becoming owners of maternity hospital

Read: ‘No religious influence’: Harris defends new maternity hospital ownership in face of criticism

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