“Everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric about the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH),” says Simon Harris


Everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric about the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH), Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said after being asked about the increasingly polarized and personal debate on the issue.

We need to tone it down here. We need to dial this down – and we need to start talking facts,” Mr Harris said, standing alongside his party colleague Heather Humphreys, who was one of a number of ministers calling for a pause on the issue in Cabinet this week.

After Ms Humphreys repeated her concerns at an event in Dublin, former Health Secretary Harris said: “There are valid questions, as my colleague says.

“People want answers, and that’s a good thing. That is a healthy thing in a democracy.”

On reports of a backlash in Fianna Fáil against Fine Gael’s “hypocrisy” which has sought to blame current Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly for the ongoing controversy – when co-hosting the NMH at the St Vincent site was always an idea of Fine Gael – Mr Harris commented: ‘This is not about party politics, quite the contrary.

“The Minister of Health is now doing a very good job in making all the information public,” he added.

“I really believe we can use the next few weeks to put together all the information and answer any questions that women, men and people in Ireland have. Then the government can make the decision.”

The delay in approving the project was “a collective decision by the cabinet,” he said.

“It hasn’t split along party lines, and it certainly hasn’t split along gender lines.”

Minister Humphreys said she was not present last night at the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, where criticism of women ministers and Fine Gael was voiced, believed to be directed at her and Justice Secretary Helen McEntee, who was opposed to proceeding immediately with development supports by green colleague Catherine Martin.

“I can say that there was a discussion in Cabinet and we decided together that we would have a two-week window to discuss this very important issue,” she said.

“I think it’s important that our decisions are transparent and that we govern in public.

“We’re going to be hearing from a lot of people over the next few days and I think that’s important. There is a lot of public discussion out there and we can allay some of the concerns people have about the independence of the hospital and any procedures that are being conducted.

“So I think this two-week window is a good opportunity.”

Mr. Harris was asked about the personalized comment, not only on the political level, but also on the medico-legal field.

He replied: “There are some very strong views on this. And there’s a lot of information out there that needs clarification, and this pause gives us an opportunity to explain and allay those real fears.

“I am very happy that this is taking place – and it will be brought to the Government in two weeks and we can make a decision.”

Mr Harris said it would have been “a lot easier politically” to build the new hospital on a greenfield site.

“But it’s not about making it politically easy. The point here is to ensure that if something goes wrong, a woman has access to the very best treatments through co-location.

“As a health minister in this country, you’re informed of every maternal death and you get a report on every one. You never forget that.

“So this is about outcomes for women and it’s about outcomes for babies.” “Everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric about the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH),” says Simon Harris

Fry Electronics Team

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