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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# National Maternity Hospital
'It was clear that public opinion influenced the Sisters of Charity's decision'
But who now owns the National Maternity Hospital? The government still needs to clarify its position.

Parents for Choice Sam Boal / Thousands of people marched hold up a petition of over 100,000 signatures of those opposed to the patronage of the new National Maternity Hospital going to the Sisters of Charity. Sam Boal / /

THE RELIGIOUS SISTERS of Charity have stepped back from their involvement in the new National Maternity Hospital after a massive public backlash.

Although their statement yesterday said that they had been considering this option for the past two years, it’s clear to stakeholders that it was the outrage from the public that pushed them to give up ownership.

AIMS Ireland, the representative body of maternity service users in Ireland, praised both the Minister for Health Simon Harris, and the Sisters of Charity for achieving this result, which was “undoubtedly down to the people’s voices”.

National Maternity Hospital board member Mícheál Mac Donncha (Sinn Féin) said that “it was clear that public opinion influenced their decision”.

I’ve no doubt that their withdrawal was caused by the controversy.

Social Democrats leader Róisín Shorthall said that the decision showed that ”the wide-spread public outcry” in relation to the National Maternity Hospital “has been heard and heard loudly”.

It is encouraging for people to see that public sentiment is hugely important and can change policy direction.

The Sisters of Charity’s decision seems to be a sudden one – the board of the National Maternity Hospital wasn’t informed of the decision beforehand, and learned about it through media reports.

On Sunday, Simon Harris said on The Week In Politics that a solution to the National Maternity Hospital row would be made publicly known through a briefing to Cabinet this week.

Airing of views

File Photo THE RELIGIOUS SISTERS of Charity have announced that they will end their involvement with the St Vincent’s Hospital Group – Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

“For the last two years we have been actively working to find the best way to relinquish our shareholding of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. It includes three hospitals: St Vincent’s University Hospital, St Vincent’s Private Hospital and St Michael’s Hospital Dún Laoghaire.”

That’s part of the Sisters of Charity statement from yesterday.

We asked them what was done in the past few years to relinquish their ownership of the St Vincent’s Hospital Group, but so far, they haven’t responded.

The Department of Health said that Harris’ short statement yesterday in which he welcomed the decision, would be the only comment he will make for the time being.

What’s next?

Parents for choice Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

But there’s still some confusion over who exactly will own the new Maternity Hospital.

AIMS Ireland said that it was now “crucial” that the hospital defines and follows their ethos, based on “international best practice and evidenced-based, woman-centered care”.

Although board member Mac Donncha said that the clinical ethos of the hospital has been decided as separate from religious involvement, he says it’s still not clear who will own the hospital.

Will the current arrangements secured by Kieran Mulvey (the mediator) minus the Sisters of Charity be implemented as planned? We just don’t know.

His fellow board member and Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr, said that the State should take ownership and full responsibility for the new hospital, rather than let it being handed from the control of one private group to another.

Another National Maternity Hospital board member and Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne agrees.

“That still needs to be worked out. From a Green Party perspective, we would hope it would be placed in public ownership.”

She said they awaited a clarifying statement from Simon Harris on the matter.


National Maternity Hospital row Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

In the meantime, there’s a general air of praise for the Sisters of Charity for making the decision to relinquish clinical control and ownership of the National Maternity Hospital.

Speaking on the Sean O’Rourke Show yesterday, Dr Peter Boylan, who resigned from the National Maternity Hospital board following the controversy, said that the transfer of ownership was a mistake that has now been corrected.

“There’s no hospital in the world which is on land owned by a catholic religious order which permits a lot of the procedures, which are part and parcel of modern maternity care and I think that’s what caused the most difficulty.”

He said he feels vindicated in his views, but stressed that the Sisters of Charity and Minister Simon Harris deserve credit for the decision reached yesterday.

The Religious Sisters of Charity were duty-bound by their ethos and beliefs as any religious order,” AIMS Ireland said.

“So their involvement in a National Maternity Hospital would have put them in an impossible position. We welcome their honesty and clarity.”

Read: Sisters of Charity will not own or run National Maternity Hospital

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