“He commented that the lease/license agreements effectively excluded the influence of the nuns, the pope, the ayatollah or anyone else.”
His rather stubborn response to the capital’s first citizen’s request to see a document detailing a €1 billion taxpayer investment sums up why the new National Maternity Hospital is in trouble.
Housed in a cramped relic of a bygone era, the National Maternity Hospital is housed in a building in Dublin city center run by dedicated staff.
The planned new facility will bring the existing services into a contemporary environment and operate within the framework of state law. But the voices of women and activists who helped change the law in the abortion referendum four years ago deserve more respect than they are shown.
Instead, some of those who campaigned to repeal the Eighth Amendment are given a condescending slap on the head and urged to keep quiet about their ill-informed views.
dr Peter Boylan faced a barrage from the pro-life campaign during that referendum for being an influential activist – and he even had to be saved in a live TV debate by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
dr Boylan, former champion of the NMH at Holles Street, is now portrayed as a fuddy-duddy. Claims that he doesn’t understand the details of the planned move come from the hospital. It’s undignified.
The minutes of meetings of the NMH board also provide information about why the project is in danger. The current Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, has taken her role on the board very seriously.
Referring to the hospital’s shared location on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus, she has argued that “women’s views need to be heard”.
Last July, she asked a series of questions about the collocation plans, including whether the board would have “view of the Vatican’s alienation documents.” She was referring to Vatican documents that gave permission to the religious order that owned St Vincent’s Hospital, the Religious Sisters of Charity, to transfer its stake to St Vincent’s Holdings, a charity that now oversees the hospital .
The chairman of the new maternity home’s co-site committee, Stephen Vernon, replied to the mayor: “He found that the divestment was practically irrelevant based on the legal ownership structures that were put in place and negotiated.
“He noted his desperation at the continued ‘fake news’ being reported around the issue. He commented that the lease/license agreements effectively exclude the influence of the nuns, the pope, the ayatollah, or anyone else,” the transcript reads.
Mr. Vernon, an English tycoon, is one of the founders of Green Property Group and has extensive experience in property development.
His CV, which is very impressive on the assets side, makes no mention of an understanding of the legacy of the religious ethos in relation to women’s health care in this country.
The new National Maternity Hospital is more than just a construction project. It is a symbolic development of the state after generations of women have been abandoned by the political, religious and health establishment. It will be the largest single investment in women’s healthcare to date. But a project the nation should be proud of is now under suspicion amid concerns over religious interference.
The Vatican documents have taken on something of a Da Vinci Code-style mysticism. Equally puzzling is why the documentation cannot be made public just to allay fears that any Catholic Church conditions are attached to the hospital’s services.
Due to its archaic structures, the official chairman of Holles Street is the Archbishop of Dublin, who does not play an active role. Archbishop Dermot Farrell has asked to be “kept informed of important matters,” according to board minutes. With such a direct connection to the hierarchy, it is surprising to hear that NMH management has never actually seen the Vatican’s correspondence – even out of morbid curiosity and to allay concerns.
Undeterred, the mayor continued to explore the details of the hospital plans. She herself is skeptical of the plan, but the points she raised at board meetings often reflect the debate that is now taking place in public. A little more time to consider their concerns would have been worthwhile as the government and the hospital share equal efforts to get this worthwhile project off the ground.
It’s worth noting that Councilor Gilliland’s predecessor took a less practical approach.
Green Councilor Hazel Chu was Dublin’s Lord Mayor and NMH board member when the agreement, now signed by the government, was actually finalized. Cllr Chu was then chairman of the Executive Committee of the Greens.
In government, the Green Party is performing somersaults over the NMH deal, with Tourism Secretary Catherine Martin expressing her reservations about the cabinet but now saying she is reassured, while backbencher Neasa Hourigan is unconvinced.
The Board of Directors of NMH held a special meeting on May 12, 2021 at 8 a.m. solely to discuss NMH’s move to the St. Vincent campus and the key paperwork associated with it – the License to Operate, the Corporate Constitution and the Coordination Agreement.
Cllr Chu was not present at this meeting to raise concerns. She says notification of the meeting was received by the mayor’s office two days beforehand, “but we’re not sure if the request for the meeting was brought to me before or after the meeting.”
The social democratic city councilor Patricia Roe was also on the board at the time. Her party is also extremely critical of the plan. She was “unable to attend at this time” and resigned from the board two months after joining for professional and personal reasons.
No wonder the Holles Street board thought there was no problem when the critics were silent.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/smug-and-dismissive-attitude-to-maternity-hospital-critics-adds-to-project-suspicions-41652606.html Complacent and dismissive attitude towards critics of maternity hospitals increases the suspicion of the project