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Monday 11 December 2017

Over 20,000 people sign petition seeking to prevent Sisters of Charity owning new maternity hospital

A photo of the new hospital released by the Department of Health
A photo of the new hospital released by the Department of Health

Amy Molloy and Allison Bray

Over 20,000 people have signed a petition seeking to prevent the Sisters of Charity from becoming the owner of the new National Maternity Hospital.

Survivors of the Magdalene Launderies, which were run by the controversial order, have spoken out about the fact the order still has to pay millions of euro in compensation to victims of institutional abuse - despite agreeing to do so more than 15 years ago.

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, issued a statement last night saying that the new €300m hospital will be independently run.

However, the Sisters of Charity own the land at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin 4 where the hospital is being built.

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.

At the time of writing, the petition has been signed over 20,000 times.

The campaign, called 'Block Sisters of Charity as 'sole owners' of National Maternity Hospital', cites how 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.

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.

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?"

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