Hundreds attend rally demanding full public ownership

Hundreds of people have attended a rally at Leinster House calling on the Government to reject the current plan for developing the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on privately owned land in favor of a deal that meant the State had full ownership.

Opponents of the plan, set to go before the Cabinet for approval on Tuesday, continue to raise concerns about possible external interference in the operation of the hospital despite reassurances from the master of the NMH, the Government and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

Under the plan, the Sisters of Charity have transferred their shareholding to SVHG, which will lease the land on which it is proposed to build the new NMH for 299 years.

Peter Boylan, a former master of the NMH and a persistent critic of the deal, told the protest it was “folly of the greatest height” for the Government to agree to the deal without seeing all the correspondence between the religious order, the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Vatican.

Wendy Halpin and daughter Daisy (12), from Leixip, Co Kildare, participating in the ‘Our Maternity Hospital’ protest outside the Dáil on Saturday, to oppose Government plans to press ahead with what was termed giving away the new National Maternity Hospital to a private company run by nuns. Photograph: Tom Honan

“I would like to issue a challenge to the Catholic Church to confirm that they have agreed the transfer of the sisters’ assets for the building of a hospital in Dublin which will facilitate procedures which are directly contrary to Catholic teaching.

“I won’t be holding my breath. Their [the Vatican’s] technique is to say nothing, to deny, to block, to issue obfuscating comments and statements and so on. It is a well worn path. They have been at it for 2,000 years, ”he told the crowd of approximately 1,000 people.

The current master Shane Higgins said this week he was “alarmed by the combination of emotive misinformation and misunderstanding that prevails” in discussions about the new hospital.

At a press briefing on Friday, Mr Higgins restated that there would be no religious ethos in the new NMH.

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