CORK campaigners and politicians have called on the Government to put an end to maternity restrictions during a March for Maternity in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon.
Those directly affected by the current restrictions preventing partners from attending maternity services and those in support of the lifting of these restrictions took to the streets outside the Dáil in their hundreds.
Members of the Better Maternity Care campaign group, which is supported by Uplift, are calling for the Health Minister to meet with them to discuss the ongoing impacts of the restrictions and his commitment to end the exclusion of partners from full labour and emergency care.
Speaking to, campaigner Linda Kelly who is Director of Training and Development with Forsa Trade Union, said that there was an “incredible” turn out of hundreds of people at the march on Wednesday.
“There was a lot of political support there as well which was very positive as well in trying to get this fixed once and for all,” she said.
Ms Kelly, who had her second baby during Covid-19, told the crowd that the reason people were gathered outside the gates of Leinster House was so Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly would hear them, recognise their lived experience and do his job “by ensuring that all 19 maternity units revert to pre-pandemic access for one nominated support partner”.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, called on Minister Donnelly and his Cabinet colleagues to intervene.
“We are now almost 20 months into the pandemic, and yet women are still labouring alone, and seeing their partners leave them a mere hour after the baby is born.
“Lip service from the Minister and various other Government TDs is not enough. The reality is, that it is in the Government’s gift to intervene and set pre-pandemic access as an objective, and to ensure that women are being supported across all hospitals.
“Pre-pandemic access for partners is not an unreasonable ask – it just requires political will from the Minister to intervene and ensure this is being implemented,” he said.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said that it “seems bizarre” that a pregnant woman and their partner could sit in a restaurant together or get on a plane but a partner still cannot support their pregnant wife or girlfriend through childbirth.
He urged the Minister to listen to the stories of these women and their partners that were shared on Wednesday and to “swiftly intervene” to ensure a return to pre-Covid access for partners at all maternity hospitals across the country.
Cork South West TD Holly Cairns said: “I was delighted to be able to attend the March for Maternity calling for an end to the restrictions on partners attending maternity services.
“There was a range of speakers who shared stories of distress, fear, and anger as they were forced to endure labour and caring for their newborn alone. Women are separated from their partners for much of the labour, visiting hours have been severely curtailed and partners are still banned from attending ante-natal appointments.
“For over a year now, women and families have consistently called for consideration to be given the realities of the pregnancy journey and the essential role of partners.
“Back in May, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said there is “no good reason” in public health terms for maternity hospitals to restrict visits from partners. Then in June Minister Donnelly said that all of the State’s maternity units will be following the same visiting guidelines for patients’ partners. This still has not happened.
“These restrictions have been going on so long some women are going to have a second baby in these disgraceful conditions.
“The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Health have given me assurances however the restrictions have remained. I have raised this regularly in the Dáil, most recently again yesterday just before March.
“We are seeing the government urging maternity hospitals to ease restrictions, but this simply isn't good enough. The question now is who is in charge and what is the Government going to do about this?”