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Mid-West Humanists tell the Minister for Health to keep National Maternity Hospital in State ownership

Today Monday 22 05 2017 the Mid-West Humanists have emailed and also written by registered post to the Minister for Health about why the new National Maternity Hospital in Dublin should be in an organisation that the State owns and can fully control.


We show here the text of our email and letter.


Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary


To Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health


  1. The Mid-West Humanists (MWH) make this submission about the National Maternity Hospital
  2. Who the Mid-West Humanists are
  3. Mid-West Humanists’ reasons to meet includes the problems with state-funded hospitals not being under democratic control and thus not fair to the people
  4. To keep the new maternity hospital in State ownership is to make it possible for the people through the Oireachtas and Department of Health to fully control how the hospital will run. This will benefit all the people in the State, and will make governing the State easier both in running a hospital and during re-organisation of health services
  5. The historical ceding or divesting of hospitals and health services to religious organisations is no longer reasonable. While in the past people agreed with the religious leaders’ ideas how to run such services, a large part of the people now strongly disagree.
  6. Disquiet at past abuse of children has been a spur to people to speak to oppose giving the hospital to the Sisters of Charity, but the reason to have the State own it fully is about democratic control of health services
  7. Delay caused by seeking a plan to keep the new maternity hospital on land that the State will own may be regrettable, but people can wait a little more, and to keep the present plan will cause more trouble in the long run
  8. Conclusion
    It is the people’s health service, and it will be the best service if it is in control of State organisations


Dear Minister for Health

  1. The Mid-West Humanists (MWH) submit the following in response to the Department of Health’s plan to give the new National Maternity Hospital in Dublin to a religious order, the Irish Sisters of Charity, after the people have paid 300M€ to build the hospital.
  2. The Mid-West Humanists are a group of people, not inclined towards religion, who meet and have met each month since early 2008, people who live in the counties of Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary.
  3. Such humanists meet because they live in a society and a state that still have considerable biases towards religion, in spite of the population’s great changes away from their previous strong identification with religion.
    The MWH seek a secular society and a secular and democratic State that is fair to all people, the same whether a person has any one of the many religions or has no religion.
    Hospitals not in State control can obstruct democratic control over services.
    (The MWH support the right of every person to choose a religion, or no religion).
  4. The Department of Health plans to build a new, better, National Maternity Hospital (currently at Holles Street, Dublin 2). The Mid-West Humanists strongly oppose the plan to give the new hospital, after the people have paid 300M€ of tax to build it, entirely into the legal possession of a non-state organisation.
    The people pay income and spending taxes, and PRSI and USC, so that the Department of Health can give services to us to keep us healthy and at least partly cure our illnesses, when we get ill. It is generally State organisations (the Department, the HSE, and others) that own this service.
    To give the new hospital to an organisation not owned by the State, would make governing the Health Services more complicated, as the Department and the Health Services Executive (HSE) cannot direct a hospital which they do not own to run the health services in the way they can direct a HSE hospital. The state can only negotiate with a separate organisation that owns a hospital.
    Further, the Oireachtas cannot by an Act transfer such a hospital from one organisation to another. (The Health Act 1970 transferred hospitals and other services from local authorities to Health Boards, and the Health Act 2004 transferred them again from the Health Boards to the HSE).
    We expect the hospital, for which we will pay, to be under the democratic control of the Oireachtas and the Department of Health, so that future voters can properly control how services for the people are run.
  5. The State and government of Ireland have ceded or divested the control of hospitals (historically), because the successive governments thought that people fully agreed with the directions and the doctrines of the leaders of the religions (for hospitals in the control of religious organisations).
    But now at least 10% of the people have no religion; and substantial fractions of the people who still adhere to religions do not agree with the leaders of those religions both on some doctrines and on how hospitals and other health services should run.
    So the State spending our tax on hospitals to serve us should not involve the people’s hospital(s) being owned by independent organisations whose aims differ from the aims of the state and government.
    (A Catholic-owned hospital not working by Catholic ethics would be a first: none exist now).
  6. The Mid-West Humanists know that many people feel great disquiet at a hospital for the people and in principle belonging to the people being in the hands of a religious order whose members have abused children in institutions that the order operated. While this is a spur to people to examine who will own the new maternity hospital, the case for keeping the hospital under a Department of State or a statutory organisation is in order that the people through the Oireachtas can fully control how it is run and how it co-ordinates its services with other parts of the health services.
  7.   The new maternity hospital is needed, and the sooner it is available to those who need it the better. However, the many years that have passed since it was first planned will be wasted if it is in the hands of an organisation that has ideas about not providing certain services (sterilisation, contraception, in-vitro fertilisation, termination of pregnancy). An extra year or two to find a site that the State can own, or some other arrangement for the State to own the land, will save us from an intractable conflict between the State’s and the people’s desire for particular services and the independent hospital’s obstruction of such services. The people can wait a little more to let the State own the new hospital.
  1. Conclusion.
    The people count the health services (including hospitals) as the people’s services. The people should be able to control those services, as the benefit to the health of the people is the only reason that people agree to pay the share of tax that the State spends on health.
    To keep full control of the health services, all hospitals and other services must belong to organisations that the State can control and re-organise, both by legislation by the Oireachtas and by executive control by the Department of Health.
    Keep the new maternity hospital in an organisation that the Oireachtas and Government can fully control.



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