Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 May 2022

National Maternity Hospital: Statements


1:55 pm

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I know there is, because I was in it after I gave birth to my child. It is not a Nightingale ward. The Minister of State is in the Department of Health. At the very least, she should please get the absolute basics right. When issues and questions arise, it is thrown out that, for example, the religious have left the scene, or there are loads of Nightingale wards, but there are none. The Minister of State should withdraw that statement and correct the record, because there are not any Nightingale wards in the National Maternity Hospital. There is one inappropriately large ward. Nobody is disputing that we need a new national maternity hospital. I have never worked in the National Maternity Hospital. I have represented workers who have worked in it, I have given birth in it, and my grandson was born in it, so I have an association with the hospital. I am an Irish woman, the same as the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, and I have an interest in ensuring the new national maternity hospital is built on land that is controlled by the State. That is why people have concerns.

Five years ago, the Dáil passed a Sinn Féin motion unanimously, with the support of everybody. The motion stated very clearly that we must ensure that the new national maternity hospital is built on the St. Vincent's Hospital campus as quickly as possible; remains entirely in public ownership; and is legally guaranteed independence from all non-medical influence in its clinical operations within the laws of the State. The Minister of State supported it, as did the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly. There was cross-party support. There were concerns over religious influence at the time, which is why we proposed the motion. There were concerns that the hospital and the clinicians would not be able to operate freely and provide all legally permissible services. Those concerns have continued. We would not be here having this debate if those concerns had gone away. We simply would not be using our time to have this debate if all of those concerns had been allayed. Does the Minister acknowledge that concerns remain? Does he acknowledge that people have genuine, heartfelt concerns about the building and location of this hospital? We all want the hospital built. Nobody is disputing that. Everybody wants to see it. The hospital was not fit for purpose in 1995 when I gave birth to my daughter in it. We all want to see the new hospital built, but we need to get it right. It will cost €1 billion. Given the Government that we have, we will probably be looking at €1 billion in the rear-view mirror at some point. It is a lot of money. There is a huge amount riding on this. People have genuine concerns.

I do not want to let this opportunity go without mentioning Sheila Hodgers. I think of her often. She died in a hospital. She was not killed by a nun, by the way. There were no nuns running around. That is not what people are afraid of. She was killed by an ideology, by an ethos. She died and her baby died. For her and for all of those women who are put into the National Maternity Hospital as it stands now, we have to get this right.

In June 2021, the Taoiseach said that when the State is making a significant investment, it should own it "lock, stock and barrel". I rarely agree with the Taoiseach, but I agree with him on that. We will not own it. Could the Minister outline what he will do between now and Tuesday? Who will he be talking to in terms of the genuine concerns he has acknowledged have been raised? Who will he be meeting and how will he ensure those concerns are addressed? Is it his plan to meet the St. Vincent's Hospital Group?

If so, what will be on the agenda and when will he inform us of the outcome of that meeting?


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