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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Protest
Crowds gather to protest against Catholic ownership of National Maternity Hospital site
The campaign chair said there had been a huge amount of ‘subterfuge and deceit’ over who will own the hospital’s land.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 26th 2021, 1:52 PM

hospital protest 529 Sam Boal Protesters campaigning against the Catholic Church owning the new National Maternity Hospital protesting outside Leinster House in Dublin Sam Boal

CROWDS HAVE GATHERED on Kildare Street outside Leinster House to protest the ownership of the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital.

The campaign chair told The Journal that what has emerged in the past few weeks has “galvanised people’s attention”, and added that there’s been a huge amount of “subterfuge and deceit” over what is happening with the hospital. 

The proposal currently is to move the National Maternity Hospital from Holles Street in Dublin City Centre to the Elm Park campus of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

It emerged in 2017 in a report by the Times of Ireland, that the religious order that runs SVHG, the Sisters of Charity, would retain ownership of the hospital.

In the four years since, the debate has flared over whether a religious order that still owes millions of euros in compensation to the State should retain ownership of Ireland’s national maternity hospital, where procedures including abortions would be offered.

After the issue was raised again this week, a protest kicked off at 1pm today, organised by The Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare.

Ahead of the demonstration, organisers said the protest would be socially distanced and people would be wearing masks.

The rally aims to get a commitment from the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that the National Maternity Hospital will be completely publicly owned and secular.

Jo Tully, Marie O’Connor, and Ailbhe Smyth are campaign speakers at the event. A number of TDs, and representatives of women’s groups such as the National Women’s Council and Termination For Medical Reasons are also speaking at the event.

Tully told The Journal that the reason they are protesting is to “assert that we are not going to accept the Government’s plan as it stands to build the maternity hospital on land that isn’t owned by the State, and is leased back by the private company to the state”.

She said the two main problems the campaign group have, is that the hospital will be built on private land, and secondly that private land is owned by a company with a Catholic ethos, which is “unacceptable” in 21st century Ireland. 

“I think people are absolutely shocked at what has been revealed in the number of weeks. The opposition has been lead by Peter Boylan, but he has been a lone voice in this.

When asked how many people they were expecting today, Tully said that when the Mulvey report was published in 2017, there was “outrage” over it and a major demonstration took place on O’Connell Street, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition against the Sister of Charity’s involvement.

“[Then] the nuns then said they were relinquishing control of the whole site to the Irish people, but they haven’t – what was done was they set up a private company and gifted the site to themselves, it’s absolutely Catholic in its essence. I think people will care hugely about it.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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