News & Media

Fours years on from first questions about new National Maternity Hospital and Govt only waking up now

18 June 2021

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services

Labour leader and spokesperson on health Alan Kelly has said it is extremely worrying that the Government are only now alive to the fact that the governance of the new National Maternity Hospital is dangerous and potentially damaging for the future of maternity healthcare in this country. Having first raised the issue in the Dáil in 2017, Deputy Kelly said we now need urgent answers from Government as to how they will address this issue.

Deputy Kelly said:

“Despite the best efforts of clinicians and staff in our health services women are continuously let down by Governments in respect of maternity care in Ireland. In 2021, it is extraordinary that we are debating whether a religious order or the State should own a taxpayer-funded institution charged with providing maternity care to the women and young children of this country.

“I have continuously raised this since 2017, and I’m confused as to why the Government are only now admitting that there is a problem. In 2017, I outlined the potential concerns about clinical independence of a maternity hospital associated with a religious ethos. I raised the need to ensure a maternity hospital that could provide IVF, abortion, gender reassignment surgery and any other procedure currently prohibited by the Church. Indeed, experts like Dr Peter Boylan have consistently raised concerns about the proposed governance arrangements for the new hospital.

“So there are now three questions that the Government needs to answer and needs to answer now. Is the Government prepared to provide a guarantee as to the future ownership and operation of this hospital?

“Would the Government be willing to take time to put in place the appropriate legal arrangement to ensure the land is owned by and not leased to the State and is operated by the HSE through a board of directors appointed by the Government and public, rather than by any hospital group?

“Will the Taoiseach commit to forming an Oireachtas committee solely to address these questions and, if necessary, grey areas and concerns relating to the hospital's development and governance, or else instruct a committee to do so?

“The influence of Catholic teaching arguably has no bigger impact than it would under maternity services. Unfortunately we have a long and harrowing history of seeing what happens when religion is allowed to dictate how we deliver care and medical treatment in this country.

“It is wholly inappropriate that the Catholic Church would retain any influence over decisions relating to women and our healthcare. We need to ensure that Ireland is a truly secular and pluralist society, a true republic in which the church and State are separated.”