Doherty: 'Massive mistrust' over Catholic church influence with NMH

Regina Doherty says threatening to revoke the hospitals licence will leave nobody to run it
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.32 5 May 2022

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Doherty: 'Massive mistrust' ov...

Doherty: 'Massive mistrust' over Catholic church influence with NMH

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.32 5 May 2022

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One Fine Gael Senator says she doesn't mind who owns the land of the new National Maternity Hospital, but that the Catholic church should not be involved.

Regina Doherty was speaking amid continuing concerns about religious influence over the new hospital because the State will not own the land it is built on.

Earlier Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the clinical independence protections for the new facility are legally "bulletproof".


While St Vincent's Hospital Group say all clinical procedures permissible under Irish law will be available.

Senator Doherty told The Hard Shoulder that is not good enough.

"It's all very convoluted, but the one thing we absolutely have to do is - number one - build this hospital.

"But bring the women of Ireland with us by reassuring them that the legal imperatives that are in the association clauses... that they do absolutely guarantee that we will get non-interference and the delivery of a state of the art service.

"I'm not hung up on whether the nuns own the land, because it's a very valuable asset and I can totally realise why they want to keep it.

"But what I am hung up on is that we have a massive mistrust in this country, for very good reasons, when the Catholic church had influence in the delivery of services for women and babies and girls.

"And it's going to take a while for that trust to be brought back.

"But a very clear, communicated campaign over the next couple of weeks to explain articulately what exactly the Memorandum of Association does legally for us, what the lease arrangement does legally for us."

She adds: "We have generations of mistreatment of women and girls and babies in this country by people who don't have the trust of the Irish people.

"We need the legal guarantees and we need it explained to us... in simple language".

'What happens in 299 years?'

Senator Doherty also criticised claims that a 299 year lease amounts to ownership.

"What happens in 299 years time? We're supposed to believe the hospital will be dilapidated at that stage, and sure we won't need it.

"The Rotunda [Hospital] will be 300 years in 25 years time - it's not that inconceivable that we want a question answered that what happens in 299 years and one day.

"These are all questions that need to be answered by the Minister and indeed by all of the Cabinet".

'Nobody licenced to run it'

She says suggestions that the license could be revoked if services are not offered at the new hospital make no sense.

"What does that do? That leaves them with an asset that's enormous and no licence to run it.

"We've 11 hospitals in Ireland currently giving the legal services that are available in Ireland, and yet we still have eight that don't.

"And we don't the control or the power over those eight to tell them what to do.

"We've a lorryload of GPs who won't give services that are legal and available in Ireland.

"What gives me the reassurances in these Memorandums of Association that we will be able to compel the hospital to do it?

"And telling me that 'We're just going to compel them to do it, it's in the deal' and if they don't we'll take the licence off them doesn't give me a hospital with longevity.

"It means that we would have a wonderful new state of the art hospital with nobody licenced to run it".

And she says the legal framework should be independently assessed.

"It would be genuinely lovely to see it peer reviewed.

"I think we need guarantees from peer reviewed, legal experts to say 'Yes the McCann Fitzgerald agreement is watertight'.

"With the Minister coming out and saying 'I have my golden share, it'll be grand - I'll revoke the licence, it'll be grand'.

"That doesn't instill longevity to me, that means he has a stick - but I don't want a stick".

Doherty: 'Massive mistrust' over Catholic church influence with NMH

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Main image: Senator Regina Doherty speaking on the Plinth outside Leinster House in November 2011. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov /

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Catholic Church Influence Lease Legal Framework NMH National Maternity Hospital Regina Doherty Stephen Donnelly

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