Diarmaid Ferriter: St Vincent’s was built with public money

Irish Times

Diarmaid Ferriter

It is a pity the former master of Holles Street, Dr Peter Boylan, abstained rather than voted against the deal to relocate the national maternity hospital to the St Vincent’s campus. It reminded me of Fianna Fáil’s Des O’Malley choosing to make a stand on contraception when legislation liberalising access to it was being voted on in the Dáil in 1985 with his now famous “I stand by the Republic” speech. He only stood by it rhetorically; after his speech, rather than vote for the legislation he decried Fianna Fáil for opposing, he abstained, partly “out of deference to some of my colleagues”, the same reason Boylan offered for his choice.

Notwithstanding, there is a weight of history adding force to Boylan’s concerns and in response, the current master Dr Rhona Mahony was alarmingly dismissive – “nothing” she insisted, “must be allowed stand in the way” of the new hospital. Such a stance is unwise and insensitive. Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, former master of the Coombe who resigned from the board managing the project, was calm and measured in claiming the new hospital should be given possession of the site by the Sisters of Charity. He gave credit to the sisters for making their campus available, but reasonably asserted that it is completely inappropriate in this era that ownership of a publicly funded hospital would be entrusted “in any shape, way or form to a religious organisation”.

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