Latest: Simon Harris: State's interest in Maternity Hospital must be fully protected

Update 6.10pm: The Minister for Health has said the State's financial and public health interest in the new National Maternity Hospital must be fully protected.

Simon Harris issued a statement following concerns that ownership of the facility - when completed at a cost of €300m - will be handed over to the Sisters Of Charity.

He said: “Before this project proceeds beyond the planning permission phase, three key criteria must be in place :

  • This new hospital must be developed in line with best international practice for maternity hospitals and be co-located with an adult acute hospital in order to ensure that women and infants have access to a full range of medical specialties.
  • The hospital must have clinical, operational and financial independence, with no question of religious interference and with a role for the Minister for Health of the day to guarantee this. This will ensure all relevant health services legally available in the Irish public health service must and will be available in this hospital.
  • The State’s financial and public health interest in this hospital must be fully protected. No private entity or religious order can profit in any way. The building can only be used for the defined purpose of providing public maternity, gynaecological and neonatal services. Robust contractual arrangements must be put in place to make sure that this is a reality.

  • He continued: “Today I met the Director General of the HSE on this matter and have requested that before any contracts are entered into, these three criteria must be satisfied in full. I have also formally written to the HSE on this matter. I expect all of these issues to be addressed as part of the detailed contractual arrangements which will be put in place in advance of construction investment.”

    More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling for the move to be reversed, while around 200 people protested at the Department of Health earlier today.

    Minister Harris said it is not true for people to claim the nuns will be running the hospital.

    But former Master of the National Maternity Hospital Peter Boylan isn't convinced.

    “The structure with the board has not been addressed by the Minister,” he said. “The board is inherently set up to generate conflict and that needs to be addressed. The hospital needs to be entirely independent.”

    The former Minister for Health, James Reilly has said he believes the arrangement with the Sisters of Charity will guarantee the independence of the medical practitioners at the new hospital.

    On Drivetime, he said the religious order will not have any remit, saying ownership of a building is no reflection of what is going to happen in the building.

    Senator Reilly said a new maternity hospital is needed and there is now an opportunity to progress.

    He said there won't be a question of the hospital not providing procedures that are legal in Ireland.

    He said the issue of redress is a separate issue, but a serious issue, saying the Sisters of Charity should "do their duty".

    "I am very happy that this new arrangement will absolutely guarantee the independence of the medical practitioners within the hospital. The nuns, nor the Catholic Church will have no remit; no say over what happens within that hospital. This is a public hospital and its ethos will be one of patient care and excellence in patient care."

    Update 5pm: There are calls for Simon Harris to intervene in the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital.

    The calls come after it emerged that full ownership of the facility would be given to the Sisters of Charity on whose land it is to be built.

    People protest outside the Department of Health in Dublin at plans to grant ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity religious order.

    Around 200 protesters gathered this lunchtime, calling for the nuns to have no part in the running of the hospital.

    Earlier the Labour Party Leader said the big issues surrounding the proposed new facility have not been addressed.

    Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, Brendan Howlin said it is 'unacceptable' that any private entity should receive such a huge volume of public money.

    Mr Howlin said the point is that a new hospital was needed and it should be co-located.

    He said he understood that why people, like Dr Mahony, who were desperate to have the facility, were willing to compromise on the governance issue.

    Mr Howlin said he didn't understand why the nuns were so insistent on having ownership, if the facility was to be completely independent.

    "It is unacceptable for that volume of public money to be allocated and owned by any private entity. The St Vincent’s Group is a private entity. It is an anachronism now, that harkens back to the past, for any modern maternity hospital to be owned by any religious order. It should be in public ownership, democratically controlled."

    Update 1.15pm: Dr Rhona Mahony, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital, has said she is happy to move her hospital to the grounds of St Vincent's Hospital under the stipulations of the current deal.

    Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, Dr Mahony said there was a triple lock in place to guarantee the NMH's autonomy and clinical independence remains intact.

    "There is a triple lock in place to guarantee absolute autonomy and independence of the clinical services we deliver. If this does not go ahead, and if we're going to mix this really important critical development for women with redress scheme, are we going to punish women further in this country by actually interfering and getting in the way of building a hospital that is so urgently needed for women."

    This includes the retention of the master-ship system, an entirely independent board - dedicated to the provision of maternity, gynaecological and neonatal services - and an independent company to run the facility.


    Dr. Mahony said she operates in a hospital that delivers more than nine thousand babies a year and that cares for the sickest women and children in a facility that was never meant to be a hospital and is 'totally unsuitable.'

    Dr. Mahony said she was shocked at suggestions by Dr Peter Boylan that nuns would run the hospital.


    This was not true, she said and that the services currently provided by the NMH would be continued.

    She called for people to get behind the hospital and said the current scaremongering and miss-information was not helpful.

    She added that the hospital will not turn anyone away for care and that the design of this hospital will ensure every patient has their own room and bathroom, meaning all women - whether private or public patients - will have the same facilities.

    The Chair of the National Maternity Hospital, Nicky Kearns, has said he is very surprised at the controversy surrounding the building of a new facility at St Vincent's Hospital.


    Mr Kearns said he is satisfied (as a solicitor) that the arrangements in place for the hospitals independence are legally water tight and sound.


    Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said the issue of redress did not feature in negotiations.

    Update 12.40pm: A group representing survivors of Magdalene Laundries is calling on the government to completely remove the Sisters of Charity from the development of the new maternity hospital in Dublin.

    The Magdalene Survivors Together group say although the Sisters gave the land for free, they believe they should not have any involvement in the running of the New Maternity Hospital because of the the hurt they caused in the past.

    They claim religious identity, ethos and inference will remain at the heart of every decision made in the Hospital.

    Spokesperson for the group Steven O' Riordan says his members are deeply concerned about the involvement of the nuns.

    Update: 9am: Over 50,000 people have signed an online petition in a bid to block the Government from handing ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity.

    The Government is now facing criticism and is being accused of showing a total disconnect with Irish women.

    A demonstration will also take place outside the Department of Health in Dublin this lunchtime against the move.

    To sign the petition click here.

    Earlier: A demonstration is taking place outside the Department of Health in Dublin this lunchtime in protest at Government plans to hand ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity.

    An 'Uplift' petition has also attracted tens of thousands of signatures in a bid to block the move.

    Councillor Éilish Ryan from the Workers Party, which is organising today's demonstration, says Irish women want well-funded, state-run public services, that are not owned by the Church, big corporations, or anyone else.

    "The damage that was caused by these religious institutions, in the past was very much facilitated by a state that didn't want anything to do with providing social services and public services.

    "I think if we continue to outsource our publc services, either to the church or to corporations, we will see similar damage continuing to happen into the future."

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