Thursday 21 September 2017

'Religion has no place in Irish hospitals' - survivors appalled nuns will own site of new maternity hospital

Minister Simon Harris said the hospital will be independent Picture: Tom Burke
Minister Simon Harris said the hospital will be independent Picture: Tom Burke
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries are appalled that the controversial Sisters of Charity order that ran the notorious workhouses will still own the new National Maternity Hospital - even if it is independently run.

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, issued a statement last night insisting that the new €300m hospital at Elm Park in south Dublin, will be "operated by a new company with an independent board and will be clinically and operationally entirely independent in line with national maternity policy".

But Steven O'Riordan, chair of Magdalene Survivors Together, said rather than the State paying the order for the land, the nuns should be required to hand the proceeds back to the State and have nothing to do with the hospital.

Survivors are infuriated that the order still hasn't lived up to its legal and moral responsibilities to pay millions of euro in compensation to victims of institutional abuse - despite agreeing to do so more than 15 years ago.

The order has yet to fulfil its obligations under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement in which the Sisters of Charity and 17 other congregations which ran residential institutions for children agreed to pay the State €128m towards redress for widespread abuse inflicted on children in their care.

The order still owes the State another €3m from a commitment it made almost a decade ago in 2009 to pay another €5m towards redress.

Mary Murphy (78) spent four years in what she described as "hell on Earth" as a virtual slave in the Stanhope Street laundry run by the Sisters of Charity.

Now she is demanding that the Government reverse the controversial decision.

"Religion has no place in Irish hospitals. Just as it had no place in interfering in my life," she said.

She and other victims of abuse at the Church-run institutions reacted with shock and anger last night after learning that St Vincent's Healthcare Group - which is owned by the order - will be the "sole owner" of the new hospital which will be partially funded from the sale of the current national maternity hospital on Holles Street.

"Do they think we're fools?" asked Margaret Sullivan, who survived the Sean McDermott Street laundry.

"They say one thing and they do the complete opposite. What happened to getting the religious orders to pay up for the abuse we suffered? Why haven't the religious orders apologised, why don't they take responsibility for their actions?"

Kieran Mulvey- the former chairman of the Workplace Relations Commission, who acted as a mediator between Holles st and St Vincent's  - said the money owed by the sisters of Mercy didn't come into negotations.

He stressed that he sympathises with victims and said that the Sisters of Mercy own land at the site but won't have an active hospital governance role.

Speaking on Today With Sean O'Rourke, he said: "That's a separate process and a separate issue.

"I was solely concerned with the relocation of Holles St to St Vincent's campus ad put in appropriate arrangements that would be mutually accepted by all concerned.

"Number one they own the land on the campus, number two they have no real active role active role except on th board of St Vincent's Healthcare but I don't anticipate that the nuns themselves will sit on that board...

"In affect the State has a very prominent position in regards to protecting any investments on the campus."

Mr O'Riordan said the Magdalene survivors simply don't trust the order.

"The ultimate issue is the order still has ownership of the hospital," he told the Irish Independent.

"It's fine to say that it's independent. But the survivors were also told years ago that the laundries were a safe place," he said.

Health Minister Simon Harris also said the new hospital will be completely independent of the order.

Speaking earlier yesterday, he said the hospital will have full clinical, operational and financial independence.

But Workers Party councillor Éilis Ryan claimed that Church ownership of the hospital will have a direct impact on women. "Every week, another story emerges of the extraordinary harm done to women by the Church, with State complicity, in this country. What good is it to agree, finally, to remove archaic, Church-written clauses from our Constitution, if we hand over women's healthcare to that same Church?"

Irish Independent

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