Latest: 'National Maternity Hospital needs to be owned by the State'

Update 5pm: Up to 1,500 people have protested in Dublin over the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital.

The 'We Own Our Hospitals' march was organised by Parents for Choice, together with Uplift, the National Women's Council, and Justice for Magdalenes.

Orla O'Connor, the Director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, said their message is clear.

She said: "The Government need to resolve this, we need to have the new National Maternity Hospital, but it needs to be owned by the State."

Protestors holding up the petition in Dublin today. Pic: Derek Speirs

The Minister for Health Simon Harris says giving him an extra month to examine the ownership model of the hospital will get it "absolutely right".

He maintains that the current plans would guarantee its autonomy and independence from any religious interference, but Sinead Redmond from 'Parents for Choice' is not convinced.

“Do we have any assurances that what has happened in other religiously owned and run hospitals, such as the Mater - where cancer trials have been pulled because they required women to use contraception?” she asked.

“The answer to all that is no we don’t.

“There is a general wrongness in this action and it should be really, really obvious to the government that this is not something that should happen, that it is obviously going to outrage people and that people don’t trust the Sisters of Charity to do what is best with their ownership of the National Maternity Hospital.”

She said it is a mark of disrespect to the survivors of mother and baby homes, “and to the people of Ireland, to give the Sisters of Charity ownership of our National Maternity Hospital.”

"As parents, we are protesting to protect our maternity care and our daughters' future care, and to ensure that healthcare facilities paid for by the people of Ireland are accountable to and run by the people of Ireland,” she said.

Campaign organisation Uplift presented [url=https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/block-sisters-of-chairty-as-sole-owners-of-national-maternity-hospital the petition[/url] printed on 50 feet sheets of card to the gathered crowd.

Siobhan O'Donoghue, Director of Uplift said: "We are sending a huge people-powered message today to Simon Harris that he has only one real choice regarding ownership of the National Maternity Hospital - it must be kept in public ownership".

The petition now signed by 103,607 people was collected over two weeks. Uplift vowed to keep the pressure on the minister until he guarantees that the hospital is to be kept in public ownership.

Mr Harris is due to report back to the Dáil at the end of the month.

Update 2.24pm: Large crowds have gathered in Dublin this afternoon protesting against plans to hand over ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity.

Several women's rights groups say the €300m taxpayer-funded building should not be handed over to a religious order.

Today's demonstration is organised by Parents for Choice, Uplift, the National Women's Council of Ireland and Justice for Magdalenes.

The groups say handing over the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital - to be built on the campus of St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin - to a religious order - is a mark of disrespect to Irish women.

They say that healthcare facilities paid for by the people of Ireland need to be accountable to, and run by, the people of Ireland.

Minister for Health Simon Harris says giving him an extra month to examine the ownership model of the hospital will get it "absolutely right".

He has maintained that the current plans would guarantee its autonomy and independence from any religious interference.

Earlier:

Women's rights groups will march through Dublin today to protest against any possibility of granting of ownership of the National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity.

The various groups including Justice for Magdalenes say the hospital belongs in public not private hands.

Sinead Redmond, speaking for Parents for Choice says the Health Minister has got it wrong.

"[There is a] general wrongness in this action and it should be really, really obvious to the Government that this is not something that should happen, that it's obviously going to outrage people and that people don't trust the Sisters of Charity to do what's best with their ownership of the National Maternity Hospital," she said.

A similar protest is also taking place outside Sligo Courthouse at 2pm today.


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