Hundreds of people protested at the Dáil today voicing their concern about the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital.
any at the rally complained they felt the Government was not listening to them as the move to the St Vincent’s Hospital site in south Dublin looks set to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Politicians and medics who questioned the move attended the rally and said they felt the Government had failed to understand the public’s scepticism of the plan.
Much of this centers on concerns a Catholic ethos would influence healthcare decisions because the land where the hospital is due to be built was once owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity.
The nuns’ shareholding has been transferred to a charity which will oversee the running of the new hospital, and the religious order says it will have no involvement in the project.
Former master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Peter Boylan, said it was important correspondence between the religious order and the Vatican sanctioning the move is given public scrutiny.
Other speakers at the rally said people from other religious backgrounds should also have concerns about the ownership of the site.
Mr Boylan said he hoped the rally would help the Government take stock of concerns among the public.
He said: “The corporate governance structure is all wrong. Why should St Vincent’s own the National Maternity Hospital? With the company that is going to run it, why should the board be so imbalanced? Why should the chairman of the board come from St Vincent’s every three out of nine years? Why should Holles Street only have the chairmanship every three out of nine years? That’s wrong, that’s not independence.
“We have not seen any of the correspondence between Ireland and the Vatican and would you do a commercial deal without doing due diligence?”
He said there was public anger at the current arrangements.
Labor leader Ivana Bacik said she has also noticed this.
“It’s frustration, anger and frustration, and I suppose scepticism about the motives and the rationale underlying the proposal and decision to grant a leasehold. I think people have had enough and there is a sense of being at the end of their tether with the religious order, ”Ms Bacik said.
“Everybody in Government is telling us they wanted a freehold, they wanted outright ownership and that this wasn’t forthcoming from the religious sisters. It’s a compromise but to us it is not the optimal resolution. ”
St Vincent’s Healthcare Group wrote to Tourism Minister and Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin this week insisting abortion, gender affirming surgery, IVF and voluntary sterilization will all be available at the new hospital.
Ms Martin was the only minister refusing to support the project before being reassured by the letter signed by the group’s chair James Mention and clinical director Michael Keane.
However, many attendees at today’s rally said they would rather see the project delayed because they retained concerns about religious involvement at the site.
Wendy Halpin, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, said she would rather see the project delayed until the ownership of the site can be dealt with satisfactorily. She suggested a CPO of the land or relocating the new hospital elsewhere.
“I don’t think the Government is getting the message,” Ms Halpin added.
“We are very angry and don’t want the hospital built on a site we don’t own, especially with taxpayers’ money. Religion should be nowhere near women’s healthcare. ”
Many others at the rally held similar views.
“Religion should be kept as far away from this as possible,” said Jennifer Fagan from Newcastle in Dublin.
“I think there should be a new deal and new plans if the site can’t be publicly owned.”
Green Party councillor and former lord mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu said the concern is justified.
“A lot of people feel like they haven’t been listened to and this is what they are asking of Government and what I will be asking of my own government colleagues.
“There was talk of assurances during the week but if they are not in the agreement or addendum to the agreement then they have no effect.”