The National Maternity hospital will have full clinical independence, Enda Kenny said today.

 

He also said that the Sisters of Charity religious order will not have a majority on the board of directors.

 

The Taoiseach addressed the Dáil today following the backlash that has engulfed the government's decision to grant ownership of the hospital to Sisters of Charity. The €300m proposed maternity hospital was due to become part of the St Vincent's Healthcare Group when it moves from Holles Street to St. Vincent's University hospital.

 

The controversy arose because of the Sisters of Charity's role in the state redress scheme for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries. The Sisters of Charity was one of 18 institutions highlighted by the 2009 Ryan Report as being responsible for child abuse. They have paid less than half of the €5m they owe to survivors of institutional abuse.

 

 

He said Minister for Health Simon Harris is being given a month by the government to hold discussions with all parties involved over the ownership deal. Kenny was replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said Harris was 'a rabbit caught in headlights' over the issue. 

 

Harris said the government would be pursuing a stake in the hospital, in a statement released Sunday.

 

As the debate over the Eighth Amendment wages on and the decision by the Citizen's Assembly to replace the constitutional ban on abortion being reached last month, many are questioning the place of a religious order in a national health service. 

 

One of the country's leading obstetricians and former Holles Street master, Peter Boylan first raised concerns about the transfer of ownership, before bowing down to pressure and resigning from the board. He was seen as a 'lone voice' but insists others felt reservations about the move too. His opposition led to public outcry and media attention, a petition to block the deal that has been signed by over 100,000 people and a demonstration outside of the Department of Health in Dublin.

 

 

The second high-profile resignation from the board happened last week. Professor Chris Fitzpatrick resigned from the board of the new National Maternity Hospital, sharing Dr. Boylan's reservations over the ownership deal. Fitzpatrick was Master of the Coombe Women and Infants Hospital from 2006 to 2012

 

In a powerful op-ed for the Irish Times, Prof Fitzpatrick admitted culpability as an obstetrician/ gynaecologist in Catholic Ireland. He wrote, "Like many, I have also been part of a grand collusion that has existed between the general public, church and State for the provision of educational, healthcare and other essential public services, and, as such, bear my share of responsibility for the decisions that we have made – and the ones that we have avoided. "

 

He also confirmed that terminations of pregnancies have long taken place in Ireland as a necessary medical intervention, before the Protection of Life Bill in 2013: "Having worked as a consultant for over 20 years in Ireland, I have direct experience of terminating pregnancies in order to save the life of the mother. These interventions have taken place in Irish maternity units long before the recent legislation, in accordance with ethical clinical practice."

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