Suspicious minds told they just gotta have faith in maternity hospital

“I just feel that we’re in the middle of something weird,” mentioned a clearly perturbed Bríd Smith, asking the Government to carry off on making a ultimate choice on relocating the National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

And she was proper.

It did really feel like we have been in the course of one thing bizarre when the Minister for Health and a supporting phalanx of clinicians and legal professionals have been grilled in regards to the possession, governance and independence of the brand new hospital on the Oireachtas well being committee.

It was an odd encounter: the extremely suspicious dealing with the extremely convincing. One facet armed with comprehensible misgivings and bitter expertise and the opposite with clear solutions and a compelling perception within the significance and urgency of their mission.

There was concern from each side too.

Politicians worrying in regards to the church stealing affect over girls’s reproductive selections by way of intelligent contractual stealth. Medics anxious to allay these issues whereas praying their hopes for a world-class maternity hospital might be realised.

Questions over the co-location deal which might see the brand new NMH sited subsequent to St Vincent’s acute hospital in Elm Park led to the Cabinet suspending final week’s anticipated choice to log out on the settlement to permit for the discharge of background paperwork and additional dialogue.

The well being committee’s first of two conferences this week was notably intriguing. It could have stirred up conflicting emotions for individuals with robust views on spiritual interference in girls’s lives, and vivid recollections of the Repeal the Eighth referendum on abortion.

Legal settlement

The authorized settlement between the NMH and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHC) could be very convoluted. The SVHG, not the State, will personal the land on which the brand new hospital is constructed.

The SVHG is only one step faraway from the nuns who owned and dominated all the things till lately. And they’ve firms inside firms ruled by separate firm constitutions, with references to Mother Mary Aikenhead and discuss in some quarters of hyperlinks to the Vatican.

Any Irish lady (or man) with an consciousness of the church’s unhealthy curiosity in controlling girls’s lives down by way of the a long time must be suspicious. But are we actually in a scenario, nowadays, when the State and the ladies of Ireland threat being stitched up like kippers by the secular successors to the Sisters of Charity?

Stephen Donnelly arrived into Wednesday morning’s committee assembly sporting a human flak jacket of senior scientific and authorized consultants prepared to soak up any question too harmful or troublesome for him to deal with.

Three of those witnesses proved to be his secret weapon: Rhona Mahony, former grasp of Holles Street, Mary Brosnan, director of nursing and midwifery in Holles Street, and Prof Mary Higgins, advisor obstetrician and gynaecologist in Holles Street.

These three girls have been main lights within the Together for Yes marketing campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Their discovered and compassionate contributions to the talk made a significant distinction to the end result. And right here they have been, heroines to so many who supported repeal, urging committee members to help the relocation plan, marshalling all their arguments to persuade them why it’s so a lot the correct factor to do.


When requested, not one had any worries about attainable spiritual interference within the operating of the brand new hospital. Nearly 70 per cent of voters trusted them throughout the referendum. In Leinster House, they have been asking passionately for that belief once more.

“I really, really dislike this assumption that there’s nuns out there who are somehow going to mind-influence me to stop me providing the care that is respectful for women and transgender men,” mentioned the formidable Higgins.

“There is no way, absolutely no way that I would ever countenance moving women to an institution” with a non secular affect, mentioned Mahony.

“We do appreciate that people are worried and concerned and want to ask questions. We hope that with this debate everyone else in the country will be satisfied as well. We totally support this,” mentioned Brosnan.

Donnelly was at pains to recognise this concern. “I believe that this ultimately comes down to a deep-seated mistrust of institutional Ireland based on an appalling track record when it comes to the church and women’s reproductive health,” he instructed the committee.

This sense of fear and distrust was articulated brilliantly by Smith, who sought to maneuver away from the outdated cliche of “nuns in long veils traipsing the corridors” laying down the ethical legislation.

“When we talk about a religious interference, we mean a deep-seated, deep-rooted prejudice and inbuilt thinking about women’s health that goes into the heart of the civil service, into the heart of the health service, into the heart of the political establishment. And it’s something you can’t see. It doesn’t wear a veil but it does traipse around our bodies and our lives all the time.”

Meanwhile, upstairs within the Dáil chamber, there was only one query on the maternity hospital situation, in distinction to the day past when it dominated.

For the second day in a row, Mary Lou McDonald urged the Taoiseach to persuade the St Vincent’s Group to provide, not lease, the land to the State.


Micheál Martin repeated that is not possible to occur for causes to do with the administration of the complete campus – the hospitals and different services might be interlinked, sharing entry and services. He mentioned the brand new hospital must be constructed after years of prevarication.

“I don’t see a big mystery. I don’t see a big conspiracy there. Genuinely, I don’t,” he instructed the Sinn Féin chief, who replied she by no means mentioned there was.

“What’s the issue so if there isn’t a conspiracy? We have to, at some stage, take people at good faith in relation to this,” Martin mentioned.

Back on the committee, HSE authorized representatives have been backing up the Taoiseach’s claims {that a} 299 -year long-term leasehold settlement “is effective ownership”.

One of them defined that it’s like anyone shopping for an residence – it isn’t constructed on their land however no person disputes that they don’t personal the property.

The medical doctors harassed that every one procedures carried out in Holles Street corresponding to terminations and tubal ligation might be performed within the new hospital.

Prof Higgins defined that the usage of the time period “clinically appropriate” within the authorized settlement was to “futureproof” medical procedures. “I don’t know what things we are doing at the moment which will not be acceptable in 20 years’ time.”

The testimony given by the witnesses in favour of the St Vincent’s transfer was spectacular. They answered the questions put to them throughout the four-hour session with openness and readability. Their explanations behind the tortuous authorized frameworks sounded convincing.

Above all, the eagerness proven by the three senior Holles Street girls throughout the repeal marketing campaign got here by way of once more of their look earlier than the committee. They really need this to occur.

Ten members of the board of the HSE agree with them. Two have dissented. Midwifery administrators from Ireland’s maternity hospitals have voiced their help for the transfer.

On Thursday, Prof Peter Boylan, former grasp of Holles Street, one other stalwart of the Together for Yes marketing campaign, seems earlier than the committee to inform them why he has very grave reservations in regards to the deal because it stands. He could also be proper, through which case lots of very credible persons are flawed.

As Bríd Smith mentioned, we’re in the course of one thing bizarre.

Maybe Elvis had it proper. We can’t go on endlessly with suspicious minds.

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