Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 January 2022

National Maternity Hospital: Motion [Private Members]


7:05 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank my colleague, Deputy Joan Collins, for bringing forward this very important motion on the ownership of the proposed new national maternity hospital. I welcome the fact that the Government will not oppose this motion calling for the compulsory purchase of the site. I take this opportunity, however, to strongly urge the Government to change its position and to acquire the national maternity hospital site by CPO as soon as possible. It is one thing not to oppose a motion; it is another thing to actually do something to make it a possibility. I know, if I may say so, that if it were up to the Minister of State who is here, this would be done, but the Minister, by not being here, shows what is likely to happen.

Hospitals should be state-owned and state-operated. We have to end the constant privatisation of our services. The new national maternity hospital is being constructed with public money. It will be built on publicly owned land. It must be in public ownership. It is our money so it must be our hospital. It poses the question why the State would invest €800 million of public money in a new national maternity hospital and not establish who owns the site. I know that this Government would love to privatise all services in the country in order that it would no longer be accountable for anything, but when we hand over leases to outside bodies and let them run our essential services, we give over control over how they are run and what services are provided. We have seen time and time again the failure of private bodies to provide adequately the services we need in this country. When it comes to healthcare, we run the risk of allowing other bodies to decide to be selective as to which healthcare services will be offered.

That is completely unacceptable. I have very serious concerns about who the hospital will be leased to and I am completely opposed to the suggestion of it being leased to the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group or to any other religious or private group. The possibility of the Catholic ethos overriding legislation is very concerning. I cannot stress enough that the church has no place in women's healthcare. We have given the Catholic Church in this country far too much control for far too long. We can no longer allow it to have a say in our healthcare or in anything else. This country has experienced enough pain at the hands of the Catholic Church. Such an agreement would only be a step backwards. Women, in particular, have suffered enough and the church still has much to answer for regarding the violence it perpetrated against women and the decades of hurt and shame that it created.

Despite the fact that the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group has stated that there will be no religious or Vatican influence, we know well that should it be given the lease for this hospital, it will not provide full healthcare to women. We know this because out of the many hospitals on land owned by the Catholic Church throughout the world, there is not a single one that provides abortion services. The church not only opposes the provision of abortion services, but it also opposes the provision of the likes of IVF and surrogacy services. Dr. Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital, posed a question. He stated: "Give me just one example, anywhere in the world, of a hospital built on Catholic-owned land that provides abortions, IVF and gender reassignment surgery and other procedures absolutely prohibited worldwide by the Church's universal healthcare directives?" I pose the same question. Four years after posing that question, Dr. Boylan is still waiting for an answer. Why? It is because no such hospital exists.

To not provide these services would deny women the full and safe access to healthcare that they are entitled to in this country. No religious ethos must be allowed to interfere in the medical decisions made by our doctors and by women in respect of their own bodies. This country decided that those days were well over when we voted to repeal the eighth amendment in 2018. I urge the Government not to put us back to a time when women did not have those reproductive rights.

We still have a very long way to go when it comes to women's healthcare in this country and we continue to fail women every single day. We need to be taking further steps to ensure that women's healthcare is prioritised and not overlooked. We cannot afford to let things continue the way they are going now. Certainly, we cannot allow ourselves to take any backward steps. Catholic misogyny and religious control no longer have a place in this country and we cannot allow them to have any future place in this country. Only full public ownership and governance can guarantee a full service of reproductive healthcare. I cannot stress enough that the new national maternity hospital must be public and secular. That is what this motion intends to deliver.


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