103,000 sign petition to stop nuns owning maternity hospital
Around 1,500 people marched in Dublin city centre yesterday against the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital being given to the Order of the Sisters of Charity.
The protesters gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, before marching to Government Buildings and handing in a petition with 103,607 signatures.
The demonstration was organised by the National Women's Council of Ireland, Uplift and Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Stillbirth.
Among the crowd was Gerry Kelly (75), who travelled up from Waterford for the march.
Mr Kelly said he was "fed up with the Church and its influence on the State".
"Taxpayers' money going into the hospital does not equal religious ownership of the new hospital.
"I came up for the day just for this and it's just one big issue which is part of a number of problems with the Church," he said.
Also in attendance were Aoife McArdle (43) and her three-year-old daughter Clara, from Phibsborough, Dublin.
Ms McArdle said the issue "disturbed her greatly".
"I work every day and want to support my daughter in anyway I can and I can't help it if the Church will have a say in the running of the National Maternity Hospital.
"The Church has to go by canon law. How are they supposed to run a maternity hospital then?
"The two don't go hand in hand," she said.
The order currently owns the land at St Vincent's Hospital and are the shareholders of the St Vincent's Healthcare Group, which the Department of Health has stated will be the "sole owner of the new hospital".