'Nuns are being discriminated against in maternity site row'
Nuns are being discriminated against and are facing "highly inflammatory" language in the row over the new €300m National Maternity Hospital, priests have warned.
The Association of Catholic Priests hit out at the language being used - claiming it may breach discrimination laws.
The ACP, which represents more than 1,000 priests in Ireland, said if some of the things that are being said publicly about nuns were said about other minority groups, they would be "clearly seen" as "in violation" of the laws on discrimination.
Representatives of the priests' group said "a group of mainly elderly women" were being "demonised in order to promote particular social and political agendas".
The ACP said that though they supported the view that where public money is being used to build and fund the hospital, it is important that it be in the ownership of the State, there was a lack of fairness and balance in the treatment of the Order of the Sisters of Charity.
"One of the most revealing measures of the health of a society is how it cares for its elderly citizens. Right now, some sections of Irish society are showing scant care or respect to this particular group of women," the statement signed by the ACP leadership team of Frs Brendan Hoban, Tim Hazelwood, Gerry O'Connor and Roy Donovan said.
They acknowledged that some of the institutions run by religious sisters in the past left a lot to be desired, and that people's lives were damaged.
It comes as the Irish Independent has learned Health Minister Simon Harris and his officials will hold a crunch meeting with St Vincent's Healthcare Group today, in a bid to come up with a formula to ease public disquiet about ownership of the hospital.
The hospital, which is being constructed by the State, will be sited next to St Vincent's public hospital on lands owned by the religious order. This has led to widespread public concern that the Catholic ethos could result in some services not being permitted - although both the merging hospitals say it will have complete independence.
Mediator Kieran Mulvey has previously said the land can't simply be gifted to the State as it is tied up in financial and legal agreements, and the campus would lose value.
One of the options put forward by the minister, to allow the building be leased while the Order of the Sisters of Charity continues to own the land, could be scuppered by banks involved in lending to the hospital. It may only be resolved by the religious order stepping aside from healthcare interests.