Monday 21 August 2017

Hundreds to gather in Dublin city centre for National Maternity Hospital march

An artist's impression of the proposed new National Maternity Hospital
An artist's impression of the proposed new National Maternity Hospital

Hayley Halpin

A protest against the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital being given to the religious order the Sisters of Charity is set to take place in Dublin city centre today.

The demonstration is being organised by the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Uplift and Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Stillbirth.

The march will gather at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm before demonstrators make their way down to Leinster House.

Uplift created a petition aimed at the Department of Health to block Sisters of Charity as "sole owners" of the National Maternity Hospital. The petition has received over 103,000 of 125,000 signatures.

Denise Kiernan, creator of the petition, is set to be one of the speakers at today’s march.

Founding Director of Uplift, Siobhan O’Donoghue told Independent.ie that this campaign is the biggest their community has ever ran.

"Today we’re unfolding our viral petition which has been signed by 103,700 people over the past two weeks. We are keeping the pressure on Simon Harris for the next few weeks to come up with an alternative solution," she said.

"This rally today is part of a longer term campaign that started a number of weeks ago that we’ll continue until we secure the maternity hospital in public ownership. It’s a very visual form of communicating to the minister and his colleagues that we’re not going away and we’re not going to stay quiet," Ms O’Donoghue said.

The Sisters of Charity currently own the land at St Vincent’s Hospital and are the shareholders of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, which the Department of Health have stated will be the "sole owner of the new hospital". The €300 million hospital is due to be built on their land in Dublin 4.

Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor said that their organisation are rallying today because there is an "urgency with having this hospital", however they believe it cannot be in the ownership of a religious institution.

"We’re very clear on that. This is going to cause problems down the road and we’ve heard from people in the medical profession that there isn’t a hospital in the world owned by a Catholic order that performs things like IVF and performs abortions beyond the risk to the life of the women.

"We know this is going to be happening down the road in Ireland, so it makes no sense to have a hospital that’s going to have serious ownership issues and ethical issues in the future," Ms O’Connor told Independent.ie.

The controversy came to light in March.

Since then, the former master of the Holles Street hospital Dr Peter Boylan resigned from the board of the National Maternity Hospital.

Explaining his decision on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Dr Boylan said he felt like a "lone voice" on the hospital board and couldn’t "remain a member of a board that is so blind."

Dr Boylan was one of three board members, along with Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr and Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Mac Donncha, who voted against the re-endorsement at the meeting.

The agreement between St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital outlines independence of the maternity hospital will be protected through a new Designated Activity Company providing maternity services.

Health Minister Simon Harris has insisted the hospital will have medical independence and that the need for a new hospital should outweigh any concerns members of the public had over the site’s links to the Catholic Church.

"The agreement reached between the two hospitals endeavoured to address issues, in terms of clinical independence, in terms of ownership.

"What I want to say to people today is these are issues that we will tease through," he said.

In relation to Minister Harris’ statements on the independence of the hospital, Ms O’Donoghue told said: "Any of the statements about independence, whether that is from the hospital itself, Holles Street, or the Minister has actually added confusion or doubt. It would be the only hospital in the world that wouldn’t be governed by canon law."

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