Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the new National Maternity Hospital must be totally independent of the Church.
The government is planning to relocate the hospital from Holles Street in Dublin 2 to a site on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus. However, the plans were put on hold yesterday over concerns that the arrangement was being rushed and that the Catholic Church would have an influence on services.
A new not-for-profit company called St Vincent’s Holdings CLG has taken ownership of the land following the transfer of shares from the Religious Sisters of Charity. The construction of the National Maternity Hospital has been shrouded in controversy due to the order’s involvement.
St Vincent’s Holdings CLG said “bespoke governance arrangements” have been put in place to protect the clinical, operational and financial independence of the new National Maternity Hospital.
Deputy Pringle said the bottom line is that the new maternity hospital must be state-owned and state-operated.
“We cannot allow any religious ethos to interfere in the medical decisions made by our doctors and by women about their own bodies.”
The deputy said that he and his independent colleagues, Catherine Connolly, TD, and Joan Collins, TD, have raised these issues consistently over the term of the Dáil. There have been a number of motions brought to the Oireachtas calling for the new National Maternity Hospital to be owned by the state on state-owned land, including one brought forward by Deputy Collins that called for compulsory purchase of the site.
Deputy Pringle has also called for compulsory purchase of the site, and said he was completely opposed to the suggestion of the hospital being leased to St Vincent’s Healthcare Group or any other religious or private group.
He said: “The new National Maternity Hospital is being constructed with public money. It must be in public ownership.”
Deputy Pringle said: “Just this week we saw a leaked draft decision of the US Supreme Court that would overturn a constitutional right to abortion that people thought was settled nearly 50 years ago. That should be a lesson for us, about the need to remain vigilant in our protection of these rights and women’s safe access to them.
“In 2018, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the 8th Amendment. We must ensure that the rights that the Irish people supported in that referendum are protected. And we must ensure the new National Maternity Hospital, under state ownership, operates under a rights-based medical model,” he said.