Hundreds of people protested outside the Dáil today expressing their concern at the move of the National Maternity Hospital.Some participants at the rally complained that they felt the government was not listening to them as the move to the site of St Vincent’s Hospital in south Dublin is expected to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Politicians and medics questioning the move attended the rally and said they felt the government had failed to understand public skepticism about the plan.
Much of this focuses on concerns that a Catholic ethos would influence healthcare decisions, since the land on which the hospital is to be built was once owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity.
The nuns’ share has been transferred to a charity that will oversee the running of the new hospital, and the congregation says it will not be involved in the project.
The former head of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan said it was important correspondence between the Congregation and the Vatican sanctioning the move would be subject to public scrutiny.
Other speakers at the rally said people of other religious backgrounds should also have concerns about ownership of the site.
Mr Boylan said he hoped the rally would help the Government take stock of the public’s concerns.
He said: “The corporate governance structure is completely wrong. Why would St. Vincent own the National Maternity Hospital? Why would the board of directors be so unbalanced at the company it will lead? Why would the CEO come from St. Vincent every three years out of nine? Why should Holles Street only preside every three years out of nine? That’s wrong, that’s not independence.
“We have not seen any correspondence between Ireland and the Vatican and would you enter into a commercial deal without due diligence?”
He said there was public anger at the current regulations.
Union leader Ivana Bacik said she also noticed.
“It’s frustration, anger and frustration, and I assume skepticism, as to the motives and reasons behind the proposal and decision to award a lease. I think people have had enough and feel they are at the end of the religious order,” Ms. Bacik said.
“Everyone in government tells us they wanted land ownership, they wanted full ownership and that was not expected of the nuns. It is a compromise, but not the optimal solution for us.”
St Vincent’s Healthcare Group wrote to Tourism Secretary and Green Party vice-leader Catherine Martin this week, insisting that abortion, gender-affirming surgery, IVF and voluntary sterilization will be available at the new hospital.
Ms Martin was the only minister to refuse to back the project before being reassured by the letter, signed by group chairman James Mention and clinical director Michael Keane.
However, many at today’s rally said they would rather see the project delayed as they remain concerned about religious involvement at the site.
Wendy Halpin, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, said she would prefer the project to be postponed until ownership of the site could be settled satisfactorily. She suggested a country CPO or moving the new hospital to another location.
“I don’t think the government gets the message,” Ms Halpin added.
“We are very angry and do not want the hospital to be built on land that we do not own, let alone with taxpayers’ money. Far from being the health care of women, religion should be.”
Many other participants in the rally held similar views.
“Religion should be kept as far away from that as possible,” said Jennifer Fagan from Newcastle in Dublin.
“I think there should be a new deal and new plans if the site can’t be publicly owned.”
Green Party councilor and former Dublin Mayor Hazel Chu said the concern was justified.
“Many people feel that they have not been listened to and that is what they are asking of the government and what I will ask of my own government colleagues.
“Assurances were discussed during the week, but unless they are in the agreement or addendum to the agreement, they have no effect.”