Friday 15 December 2017

The Peter and Rhona show overshadows real issues

It has been all about the optics but we should not let our hunger for human drama obscure the bigger picture

Clash of personalities: Peter Boylan (pictured) and Rhona Mahony have been at the centre of the great National Maternity Hospital debate Photo: David Conachy
Clash of personalities: Peter Boylan (pictured) and Rhona Mahony have been at the centre of the great National Maternity Hospital debate Photo: David Conachy
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

This is Ireland. So it is perhaps not surprising that it came down to personalities. In one corner is Rhona Mahony, a feminist icon for Mna na hEireann, or a pushy, over-ambitious, self-regarding woman, depending on whom you listen to. In the other corner is Peter Boylan, an attention-seeking troublemaker or the only person left in Ireland with any integrity, with the calm and stillness of an experienced medic - again, depending on whom you listen to.

Rhona Mahony was probably winning up to this time last week. While there had been protests about the handing over of the National Maternity Hospital to the nuns, many women overrode any concerns they had about the bigger picture because they trusted Rhona to do the right thing. If she was up for it, the reasoning went, then it must be a good thing.

It was an unusual glitch that I observed with many younger feminists I spoke to in the last week that they put their faith in Rhona over concerns about the Church having anything to do with maternity services in this country. There is a certain type of young woman who comes over all breathless about Rhona Mahony. She is a leader to a certain tribe. She is our Sheryl Sandberg, if not quite our Germaine Greer. And it's not surprising. Rhona Mahony is an incredibly impressive woman. She is, by all accounts, a great doctor, but also a fantastic political operator with a vision for the National Maternity Hospital, and the kind of rare talent that has allowed her to bring that vision as far as she has.

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