1,500 protest at sisters' ownership of maternity hospital
More than 1,500 people marched in Dublin city centre yesterday against the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital remaining in the hands of religious order the Sisters of Charity.
The protesters gathered at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Street before marching to government buildings.
The demonstration was organised by the National Women's Council Of Ireland, Uplift and Parents For Choice In Pregnancy And Stillbirth.
Among those attending were Aoife McArdle (43) and her three-year-old daughter Clara, from Phibsborough in Dublin.
Ms McArdle said the issue "disturbed her greatly".
"I work every day and want to support my daughter in any way I can and I can't help it if the Church will have a say in the running of the National Maternity Hospital," she said. "The Church has to go by canon law and how are they supposed to run a maternity hospital then, the two don't go hand in hand."
Lorraine McCarron (37), from Glasnevin, joined the march with her daughter Rowan (10).
"It is absolutely ridiculous. It's a huge issue and not just about the hospital," she said.
"The whole health service needs to be looked at properly. I have a daughter and I worry about the country she will grow up in."
Eamon Reid (74), from Howth, said he was out marching against the hospital ownership.
"I remember in 1951 when the Mother and Child Bill was being brought in by Noel Browne and ultimately led to his resignation following opposition from the Catholic Church. In 66 years the State hasn't moved on," he said.
The Sisters of Charity currently owns the land at St Vincent's Hospital and is shareholder of the St Vincent's Healthcare Group.
The €300m hospital is due to be built on its land in Dublin 4.
Director of the National Women's Council Of Ireland, Orla O'Connor, said that the organisation felt it needed to act yesterday because there is an "urgency with having this hospital".
However, it believes it cannot be in the ownership of a religious institution.
"We're very clear on that. This is going to cause problems down the road. We've heard from people in the medical profession that there isn't a hospital in the world owned by a Catholic order that performs things like IVF and performs abortions beyond the risk to the life of the women," Ms O'Connor told the Herald.
"We know this is going to be happening down the road in Ireland, so it makes no sense to have a hospital that's going to have serious ownership issues and ethical issues in the future."