Sunday 19 November 2017

RTÉ rejects conflict of interest claims in Miriam interview on new hospital

Miriam O’Callaghan and Dr Rhona Mahony holding baby Ariane Cooke, daughter of model agent Jules Fallon, in 2012
Miriam O’Callaghan and Dr Rhona Mahony holding baby Ariane Cooke, daughter of model agent Jules Fallon, in 2012
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ has insisted that Miriam O'Callaghan - a patron of the charity that backs the National Maternity Hospital - was "fair and impartial" in her coverage of the controversy about its planned relocation to the St Vincent's campus.

O'Callaghan didn't mention her own support for the National Maternity Hospital Foundation (NMHF) during a 'Prime Time' broadcast that covered the row.

On Tuesday, she interviewed Dr Rhona Mahony and Dr Peter Boylan, who have been at loggerheads over the move to St Vincent's that would see the Sisters of Charity own the site of the new maternity hospital.

The current Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Mahony, supports the move. She insists the new hospital will have "clinical autonomy" and the care offered there will be free from religious influence.

Dr Boylan, one of Dr Mahony's predecessors in the job, has raised fears that treatments like IVF will not be allowed due to the Catholic ethos at St Vincent's.

O'Callaghan's charitable work for the maternity hospital's foundation in recent years includes attending its 2012 launch and hosting a fundraising fashion show.

Last night, RTÉ issued a statement saying that the editors of 'Prime Time' were "happy" that O'Callaghan conducted both interviews with Dr Mahony and Dr Boylan "in a fair and impartial manner".

It said that both doctors are members of the board of the NMHF, but the broadcast "focussed solely on the location of the new physical hospital and its governance and was not related to the foundation".

The statement said O'Callaghan is patron to a wide number of charities and that she "has a particular interest in supporting charities which help sick children".

It added that it has been "widely publicised" that she has been a patron of the NMHF "for over five years in a purely pro-bono capacity".

"She is not a board member of the charity or involved in its running and only supports its fundraising initiatives," the statement said.

During Tuesday's broadcast, O'Callaghan visited Dr Mahony at the National Maternity Hospital's current location at Holles Street. Among the questions she asked was if Dr Mahony was "so desperate" that the hospital move due to the age and conditions of the current premises that she's "blinded to the problems that will and may exist in Vincent's?"

Dr Mahony said this was "absolutely not the case" and insisted the new hospital will be independent. Later, in studio, O'Callaghan asked Dr Boylan if he was suggesting "that one day a nun is going to run into a operating theatre in the new maternity hospital and stop a procedure taking place?"

Dr Boylan said "no, that's not going to happen", but argued that the new hospital's board would include members who are "fundamentally opposed" to treatments it would offer adding: "That's a recipe for conflict."

Irish Independent

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