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Leah Farrell/
Sisters of Charity

St Vincent's creates list of Catholic iconography to return to orders after shares transfer

St Vincent’s University Hospital has developed a lengthy list of crucifixes, paintings, statues, St Brigid’s crosses, busts, and stained glass.

THE HOSPITAL AT the centre of controversy over the building of a new national maternity hospital has created an inventory of religious artefacts and images at their main hospital which may have to be removed or returned to the religious order they belong to.

St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin has developed a lengthy list of Catholic iconography around its buildings after the shareholding of the Religious Sisters of Charity was transferred to a charitable trust last year.

In internal emails from May last year, the group’s director of operations asked a number of colleagues if they could establish how many religious items there were around the complex.

Gerry O’Brien wrote: “Following the share transfer … I’d like for each of you to prepare an inventory of the above, where each item is numbered and which describes what the artefact is, where it is, and includes a photo (mobile phone quality is fine).”

In response, one of his colleagues attached a 10-page list saying it included all items they’d been able to spot around the hospital.

“Hopefully we have captured a large percent but there is a chance that some may have been missed that we [did not] identify before all are removed,” said an email.

There were also some items that had already been in storage which were for collection by the Religious Sisters of Charity but were not included in the inventory as they were not on display.

The 10-page list of items included photographs of crucifixes, paintings, statues, several busts, two St Brigid’s crosses, and stained glass.

The artefacts were in locations including corridors, nurses’ stations, lobby areas, around the church chapel, and outside the mortuary.

There had also been a large statue located at the Merrion Road end of the boulevard but this had been “removed some time ago”, according to an email.

St Vincent’s originally refused to release any of the records relating to their plans for how to manage religious items following the share transfer.

They said: “As the deliberations are ongoing and the information is incomplete and not yet fully developed, it may cause undue concern among staff and the public.”

The inventory – and staff emails – were subsequently released following an internal review under Freedom of Information legislation.

The hospital had been at the centre of a lengthy controversy last year over the co-location of the new National Maternity Hospital on the site at Elm Park in Dublin.

Concerns were raised by some that a Catholic ethos would persist and possibly compromise the hospital’s ability to carry out procedures such as termination of pregnancy and sterilisation.

However, the legal transfer of the religious group’s shareholding to a new holding company allayed some fears with the land being leased to the state for 299 years and full state ownership of the maternity hospital building itself.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital said: “An inventory of all religious artefacts is being undertaken as no such inventory exists with a view to deciding on their future ownership.”

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