By David Young, PA
Hundreds of people protested outside the Dáil on Saturday to demand full public ownership of the site of the new National Maternity Hospital.
The demonstration came amid continuing controversy over the proposed ownership arrangements around the relocation of the hospital.
The Government is facing mounting pressure to buy the site of the new hospital outright over concerns around ownership and governance.
The facility is to be moved from its existing location at Dublin’s Holles Street to a site at Elm Park co-located with St Vincent’s Hospital.
Today at the Dail the message was simple and clear - Public money, public hospital on public land. Delivering first class services to women - no theological interference. #MakeNMHOurs pic.twitter.com/VM3IW4l92O
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) June 26, 2021
That land is owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity order.
The order has said it intends to gift the 29 acres of land to the Irish people, with ownership being transferred to a new independent charity, St Vincent’s Holdings.
Critics of the arrangements have questioned the independence of that charity and raised concern whether the hospital will operate under a Catholic ethos, with resultant consequences for the provision of abortion services.
Under current plans, the Government will fund the development of the new hospital building, which it will own, but it will not own the land on which it is built.
Very large demo outside the Dail calling for #MakeNMHours. We need our National Maternity Hospital and all our healthcare to be fully public as part of a National Health Service. pic.twitter.com/0pTLpVnFbJ
— Paul Murphy (@paulmurphy_TD) June 26, 2021
St Vincent’s Healthcare Group has rejected calls to sell the land, saying it must own it “for the delivery of integrated patient care”.
Prominent academic and activist Ailbhe Smyth was among those who addressed Saturday’s event on Kildare Street.
“We are fighting for a very simple thing – a maternity hospital free of religious ethos, influence, impact and practice,” she said.
Ms Smyth added: “Why does this seem to be so much to ask for in a secular state in 2021.”