Hundreds of people attended a rally at Leinster House calling on the government to reject the current plan to develop the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on private land, in favor of a deal that saw the state take full ownership. received.
Opponents of the plan, which is to be submitted to the cabinet for approval on Tuesday, continue to express concerns about possible outside interference in the hospital’s operation despite reassurances from the captain of the NMH, the government and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).
Under the plan, the Sisters of Charity have transferred their shares to SVHG, which will lease the land on which it is proposed to build the new NMH for 299 years.
Peter Boylan, a former master of the NMH and a staunch critic of the deal, told the protest it was “foolishness of the highest level” for the government to agree to the deal without all correspondence between the religious order, the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Vatican.
“I would like to challenge the Catholic Church to confirm that they have agreed to the transfer of the sisters’ assets for the construction of a hospital in Dublin, which will facilitate procedures that are directly contrary to Catholic teaching.
‘I won’t hold my breath. Their [the Vatican’s] technique is to say nothing, deny, block, make obscure comments and explanations, and so on. It’s a well-worn path. They’ve been at it for 2,000 years,” he told the crowd of about 1,000.
Current master Shane Higgins said this week he was “alarmed by the combination of emotional misinformation and misunderstandings that prevail” in discussions about the new hospital.
At a press conference on Friday, Mr Higgins reiterated that there would be no religious ethos in the new NMH.
“We do not believe there will be any impact on the services we provide through a Catholic ethos, or any other ethos for that matter.”
Government sources confirmed that a legal codicil is underway that would clarify a statement in the documents that procedures would be available at the hospital where “clinically appropriate and legally permitted”.
Mr Higgins said NMH would support defining the term “clinically appropriate” or removing it.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Saturday the government owes it to Ireland’s women and newborn babies to build the NMH, now and in the future.
There was already clarity about what legally permitted services would be available at the hospital, he added. The HSE’s operating license to the hospital “gives that guarantee,” he said.
In addition, “the constitution of the hospital is very strong to ensure that without any doubt all legally permitted services will be available in the hospital”.
Previously, Secretary of Second and Higher Education Simon Harris suggested the additional codicil would be “welcome” as a way to reassure opponents.
He said the recent debate over the ownership of the site “has been very helpful” in raising concerns about the agreement between hospital owners St Vincent’s Holdings CLG and the state.
Asked whether such a legal codicil should be added to the agreement, Mr Harris said any further clarifications and assurances the government could provide would be welcome.
Speaking in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Harris said: “I think the Government will now reflect on all the major issues that people have raised, especially that phrase ‘clinically appropriate’.
“It was always a sentence meant to show that the National Maternity Hospital would be just that – a maternity hospital. But I think any additional clarifications or assurances the government can offer when it makes a decision on Tuesday will be welcomed by many.” welcomed.
“The government is listening, the government will think. I want to see the progress of this project, I really do, and I expect a decision to be made on Tuesday. We will think about how we can provide the highest level of assurance between now and then.”
Green Minister Catherine Martin supported the move of the new NMH for the first time on Friday.
In a statement, Ms Martin said she had received reassurances from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, the NMH, the HSE and SVHG.
In a letter sent to Ms Martin by St Vincent’s Hospital, the Chair, James Menton, confirmed in writing that the following procedures would be available in the new NMH: “Termination of pregnancy, voluntary sterilization (tubal ligation) , gender affirming care, fertility and assisted human reproductive treatments.”