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  • Southside

Protests set to continue over maternity hospital plan

Monday, 24th April, 2017 8:00am
Protests set to continue over maternity hospital plan
Protests set to continue over maternity hospital plan

CAMPAIGNERS against a controversial decision to hand over the new maternity hospital to the Sisters of Charity religious order have vowed to continue their protest until it is reversed.

Under the current plans, the new facility will occupy a site next to the existing St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin 4, which is owned by the St Vincent's Healthcare group, of which the Sisters of Charity are a major shareholder.

There was widespread shock and indignation last week when it emerged that the religious order would be involved in the new hospital.

A petition to block the Sisters of Charity from becoming the sole owners of the new National Maternity Hospital has grown by tens of thousands while one Southside TD told how her office had been inundated with emails and calls.

A demonstration was staged last Thursday outside the Department of Health, while another protest was due  to be held at Holles Street Hospital on Saturday.

Last week, the Minster for Health, Simon Harris, issued a statement insisting that the order would not be running the hospital but this has failed to satisfy those who have been angered by the move.

"I've encouraged all of those opposed to this to protest,” said Deputy Brid Smith (PBP). “This is the only way we can register our opposition and get the Government to reverse this move."

The Southside TD said the issue had again highlighted the need for wide sweeping changes that would see a complete separation of Church and State.

“I am calling on Minister Harris to reverse this decision immediately and to bring all of our hospitals out of the control of religious orders,” she added.

“We need the Church out of our hospitals, out of our schools, out of our wombs and out of our lives.

“Until then we will not relent in our campaign of opposition.”

A petition, started by a member of the campaigning group Uplift, is calling for the Department of Health to rethink their plans to hand over the €300 million State-funded hospital to the order “at the centre of such horrific abuses, such as those that took place in the Magdalene Laundries”.

A spokesperson for the group, Emily Duffy, said: “This is an issue that people in Ireland are clearly outraged about - it’s rare we see a petition go viral so rapidly. It shows that people are deeply troubled by the State’s utter disregard for the many victims of abuse which took place in institutions run by orders such as the Sisters of Charity.” 

The group also highlighted the fact that the Sisters of Charity still owe €3 million towards the redress fund for abuse survivors. 

Ms Duffy added: “At a time when the Government claims it won’t be able to expand the redress scheme because of huge financial implications for the State, the refusal of the Sisters of Charity to pay their fair share is even more offensive and damaging to survivors and their families.”

One member of the public who contacted our offices stated: “I am appalled to learn that the new maternity hospital to be built on the site of St Vincent's Hospital, at a cost of €300 million to the taxpayer, will be handed over to the Sisters of Charity.

“It defies belief that this Government would want any religious order running any hospital, taking into account all that has come out in the last number of years about religious orders and the Church and how they treat women and children.”

Last week, Minister Harris acknowledged the backlash against the decision by saying he had heard “legitimate questions and opinions in recent days”.

“Questions have been raised about financial benefits to the Sisters of Charity due to the maternity hospital being developed on their campus,” he stated. “Let me very clear: there will be no financial gain to any religious order from the development of this hospital. Legal arrangements will be put in place which will 100 per cent protect the State’s investment.”

He added: “I have heard people say that nuns will be running the hospital. Not true. I have heard that nuns have been gifted the hospital. Not true. I have heard people talk about nuns and redress.

“I have previously said that the religious orders must step up and pay what is long overdue. However, I think it is wrong to conflate redress with the decision to build the desperately-needed new maternity hospital.”



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