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National Maternity Hospital, why Government’s deal with St Vincent’s Holdings is no good

On Thursday 5 May 2022 our Taoiseach Micheál Martin told our TDs a lot more about the deal our Government and Department of Health propose to make with St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, about building our new National Maternity Hospital that is set to be next to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.

We now have enough information, from the Government, to show to our TDs and Senators how the plan is ridiculously elaborate, is likely to go wrong, and is quite unlike the normal and natural plan for a democratic secular state to build a very important hospital for all the people. The documents which we can read do not guarantee that the new National Maternity Hospital will exclude prohibition of treatments of which the Roman Catholic church does not approve.

  1. The St Vincent’s Holdings CLG promises to do healthcare through St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, and the Healthcare Group clearly must follow the mission and core values of Mary Aikenhead its founder
  2. The Lease which the St Vincent’s Holdings has proposed to the State will cost us €10 per year, but if the State ever tries to buy the freehold, St Vincent’s Holdings will make us pay €850,000 rent per year
  3. There is enough information available now that a reasonable TD or Senator will vote against this deal, and will favour building our new National Maternity Hospital on freehold land entirely in our control through our Department of Health and our Health Service.

Visit, email, message, or call all the TDs and Senators in your constituency and tell them to stop this ridiculously twisted plan that is almost sure to let the Roman Catholic church limit the service that we and the next generations of people can obtain – and to instead build the new National Maternity Hospital on land which we and our Government own in freehold

CLG means Company Limited by Guarantee.

The Religious Sisters of Charity, and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (which the Sisters own, and which has owned St Vincent’s public hospital Dublin 4, St Vincent’s private hospital Dublin 4, and St Michael’s hospital Dún Laoghaire) in recent weeks have transferred the 3 hospitals and the adjoining land in Elm Park Dublin 4 to this new company St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. That land includes the land on which the National Maternity Hospital was to be built.

Here are 2 important facts, and it is the rent in the Lease which our Government told to our TDs that creates the greatest tie on how the new hospital will operate.

A Lease for 299 years, with annual rent €10, or, if the State does not follow 6 conditions, €850,000

You can read the 6 conditions in the Journal and in the Irish Times, and the Lease itself. Some newspapers have called these conditions 1 to 6, but in the lease they are (a) to (f).
Condition (f) creates the greatest limit, that the Health Service Executive (HSE) does not try to acquire the St Vincent’s Holdings’ interest, that is, does not try to acquire the freehold. Conditions (a) to (e) are about the State keeping a hospital there and not using the land for anything else.
Here is Condition (f) –
(f) the Tenant does not exercise a right pursuant to the Landlord and Tenant
Acts to (i) extend the term of the Lease (ii) acquire a reversionary lease or (iii)
seek to acquire the Landlords interest
.

Condition 6 reveals a great drive to tie our Government and State, particularly to stop the State owning the freehold, or to penalise us if we try to do that. If our Government succeeds in the future in buying the freehold, there will no rent, but if it tries and fails, the St Vincent’s Holdings’ will penalise us €850,000 per year thereafter for trying.

Clinically Appropriate, in the Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings

At page 2, section 3 “Main Object”, of the Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, the Main Object is to advance healthcare in Ireland, and provide patient care. Its patient care will comply with the laws of Ireland and with national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics.
At the foot of Page 2, section 4 “Subsidiary Aims” begins, while all the particular subsidiary aims are on Page 3.
At page 3, section 4.6, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG will be true to its core values – this means the core values of St Vincent’s Holdings.
(a) Human Dignity: respect the dignity and uniqueness of each person
(b) Compassion: accept people as they are, bring empathy and care to all
(c) Justice: act with integrity which respects the rights of all
(d) Quality: strive for excellence in all aspects of care
(e) Advocacy: speak for the voiceless, act with and for them to achieve the appropriate quality of care

You could consider if the appropriate quality of care is what the individual doctor would give, the care which the person who attends the hospital desires, if that is a termination of pregnancy; or will the St Vincent’s Holdings’ view of appropriate quality of care prevail, and a termination would then not be appropriate though that is what the person desires.
A person might also consider if the “national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics” are the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), or, are the guidelines of the Roman Catholic church (which is also international). We don’t know.
The Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG does not mention the Roman Catholic church or the Religious Sisters of Charity, or any principles which they have followed. We know that both the Church and the Sisters have had ethical rules that prohibit abortions, sterilisations, and in-vitro fertilisations (IVF).
At page 3, section 4.4, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG states that it will advance medical education, promote medical research and patient care in all areas of medicine through the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group …

The Constitution of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group starts with this –
Preamble: St Vincent’s Hospital, the first hospital of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, founded by Mary
Aikenhead as part of her mission to provide Service to the Poor. It was funded by a fellow Sister’s
dowry, was established in a house on St Stephen’s Green in 1834.
In the continuation of the fulfilment of this mission St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group will strive to:

– followed by Core Values that are similar to those in St Vincents’ Holdings’ constitution.
I think that Mary Aikenhead’s mission and core values were to give healthcare according to the principles (and limits) of the Roman Catholic church.

Thus it is clear that we have no guarantee that the new National Maternity Hospital will have secular ethics and a secular version of what is clinically appropriate, though the draft NMH Constitution‘s Principal Object explicitly excludes any religious ethos. The HSE wrote this draft. However, the NMH Constitution can hardly stand legally higher than the Lease which allows our Health Service to possess the land.

A List of Procedures that will be Permitted in the new Hospital could not include reproductive procedures that have not yet been developed

To ensure the continuation of all present procedures, in the present National Maternity Hospital, which the Roman Catholic church prohibits, some people have proposed a list, and the Lease or Contract would specify these as to continue to be performed.
This will not deal with reproductive procedures that have not been invented yet. It is possible that testes and ovaries grown in laboratory containers, from stem cells from one person of a gay couple, could be done. This would let the couple both be biological parents of their child. You might imagine some other procedure that can’t be done now, but will become possible in the future.

Thus the solution of a list of particular procedures to definitely be allowed will not be a solution to the interference of Roman Catholic ethos in the hospital.

So – visit, email, message, or call all the TDs and Senators in your constituency and tell them to stop this ridiculously twisted plan that is almost sure to let the Roman Catholic church limit the service that we and the next generations of people can obtain – and to instead build the new National Maternity Hospital on land which we and our Government own in freehold

Tell all you TDs to keep National Maternity Hospital in State ownership

Whether the new National Maternity Hospital will be in the full control of the State and its Health Service, or that a separate company tied to Roman Catholic medical ethics will control it (on land that the State does not own), is surely the biggest decision to make about this our State running in a secular way in the lifetimes of the present people of Ireland.

The existing hospital is in Holles Street, Dublin 2.

Our Government’s plan has been to build the new maternity hospital next to a general hospital in Dublin city, so that maternity and gynaecology services would be better if patients could move quickly to and from the general hospital. In emergency cases this saves lives. The Government decided to put the new maternity hospital on land next to St Vincent’s general hospital in Dublin 4.

In May 2017 the Mid-West Humanists wrote to the then Minister for Health Simon Harris that the new National Maternity Hospital must be in the full control of the State while it provides health services to the people of Ireland.

Since then, all that has changed is that the Sisters of Charity have said that their organisation will cease to operate St Vincent’s hospital, and that St Vincent’s hospital and a new hospital on the land next to it will now be controlled by a new company, called St Vincent’s Holdings. However there is nothing to show that it will not have the same ethics as any other Roman Catholic healthcare institution.

Since 1970 our State has paid the whole cost of many new, enlarged, and modernised hospitals. Some of these have been controlled by secular bodies somewhat independent of our health services, some by Health Boards and now the Health Service Executive, and some new structures and equipment have been entirely in the control of organisations tied to religions. Some of the

We the people of Ireland, and certainly we the humanist people of the Mid-West region, know that Roman Catholic religious ethics about healthcare would not allow contraception, sterilisation, in-vitro fertilisation, and termination of pregnancy.

We want a hospital that will provide all treatments that are within the law: a hospital with secular ethics as it provides services for all people with no reference to whether any person has one religion or another, or has no religion.

Every TD and Senator has a vote, so visit all your TDs and Senators

There has been plenty of public suggestion that our Government apply to compulsorily purchase the land, on which the new hospital is to be built. The Government have not decided to do this.

On 20 January 2022 the Dáil debated and passed a motion that the State make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for the land on which the National Maternity Hospital is to be built. Our Government did not oppose this motion. We await the Government’s action.

To make it more likely that the State will compulsorily purchase the land for the maternity hospital, every person who supports this CPO should visit all the TDs in their constituency and say that the TD should vote for such an Order.

This is not to suggest that you visit one TD, perhaps the TD that you consider represents you.

Each of the 3 or 4 or 5 TDs in your constituency has a vote in the Dáil, so you can influence all of them by visiting and by stating your firm view. Every Senator also has a vote, so please also visit each Senator in your area.

Visiting is work, but it is worth a lot when the TD or Senator hears what you seek from you in person. Some people send emails or letters, but a visit achieves a lot more.

Census 2022: if you are not religious, mark “No Religion”

The Census of all the people in the Republic of Ireland is to be on Sunday 03 April 2022.

Question 12 is about the religion of each person.

The Mid-West Humanists, with the Humanist Association of Ireland, and with Atheist Ireland, ask all people who do not practise any religion to choose the option “No Religion” when replying to Question 12.

Here is a copy of Question 12, in the Census of 2022.

The Central Statistics Office have improved the question from the version of several past Censuses, to some degree. It is now more probable that a person who has no religion will choose the appropriate answer, because “No Religion” is now the first option.

For your information, we show the 2016 version of Question 12 at the end of this article, with our view why the 2022 version has improved Q12 somewhat, and how it should be improved further.

Why it is important to answer Question 12, Religion

Our Government uses information about the people, from the Census and from other sources, to help to plan how government services are distributed and administered – health, education, justice, social services, and others.

If the number of people said to have “No Religion” in the Census is close to the actual number in Ireland, the Census will have done the maximum to have Government services changed so as to be good and fair to people with no religion, as well as to people of all the various religions.

Some important errors to avoid at Question 12

The partly improved 2022 version of Question 12 most probably will lead to a larger proportion of people being marked as having no religion, even if the actual proportion has not increased. (The actual proportion surely has increased: Ireland has in fact become more secular than it was in 2016). Yet people could still make some mistakes.

In Question 12 in the Census of 2016, the open box where a person can write the name of their religion (“Other”), was before “No Religion”. Some people wrote “Atheist”, “Humanist”, “Jedi”, and some other words that are fairly surely not religions. At least those who wrote “Atheist” and “Humanist” had no religion, but they were not included in the number of people with no religion that the Central Statistics Office announced (the results of the Census).

We do not know if some of those who wrote “Jedi” and similar words had no religion, or if they were making a joke.

To maximize the number of people that the Census will say have no religion, that is, to report the number truly – if you are not religious, do not write in the box for “Other” religions. Mark the box “No Religion” when replying to Question 12.

If another person in the household is completing the Census form

An official person delivers the Census form and collects it after the Census day. This person is called the Census enumerator. The enumerator arranges one person per household to fill in the form. This person is then called Person No 1.

If you are not Person No 1, that person might enter some or all of the information about you without asking you, or incorrectly. We believe that some persons who were Person No 1 in past Censuses wrote the religion that he or she thought was the religion of other persons in the household, when that was not the other person’s true religion (or irreligion).

If you are not sure that Person No 1 will respond to Question 12 as you desire, you can ask the enumerator for a Census form for you alone. This is your right in any case, if you want to keep matters private, and you do not have to prove to the enumerator that the Person No 1 will record your details incorrectly.

Why it is important to mark “No Religion”

Many of our Government’s services have been and still are administered with a bias towards religion, with a bias towards all the people who live in Ireland having some religion, and in many instances with a bias as if nearly all the people belong to the Roman Catholic Christian religion.

The Mid-West Humanists have since 2013 campaigned to various branches of our Government to abandon these biases in particular aspects of the Constitution, laws, and methods of administering services. It has been quite difficult to convince TDs and Senators, and to convince the Constitutional Convention (2013), whom we met, that there is any need to make the Constitution, laws, and services secular.

Ministers and TDs are a lot more open to adapting how the Government serves the people, to fit with people of new religions (that is, religions that are only starting to have many adherents in Ireland), than they are to fit with people with no religion. In the Census of 2016, there were 468,400 persons (just under 10 percent of the population) recorded as having no religion, and this was greater than the number recorded with all the religions, other than Roman Catholic, together. Yet adaptations to the religions that are newer to Ireland seem to interest our Government more.

The Mid-West Humanists, with the Humanist Association of Ireland, and with Atheist Ireland, ask all people who do not practise any religion to choose the option “No Religion” when replying to Question 12.

Question 12 in the past, how it was faulty, and how to improve it fully

Here is a copy of Question 12, in the Census of 2016.

Census IRL 2016 Q12 Religion

The question is “What is your religion?” This biases a person away from considering if he or she has no religion. The new question in 2022 allows that a person may not have any religion, but it still has a bias that to have a religion is the normal or usual (default) state of a person.

The option “No Religion” was the last option in 2016. People who are asked to pick one of several printed options give some attention to the first option, and they consider whether it is correct, and then a smaller amount of attention to the next option, attention reducing further as the person scans down the list. Often a person becomes tired of reading the options. This leads to a bias towards options nearer the start of the list.

We are fairly sure that, in all the years up to and including 2016, this led to people who were not really religious choosing one of the religions at the top of the list. The name of the religion may have reminded people of the religion of their childhood, and the person now had an option which they could mark, before the person saw that “No Religion” was available at the end of the list.

Accordingly, the Mid-West Humanists, as Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association of Ireland, are fairly sure indeed that the number of people who chose “No Religion” in the Census of 2016, as well as in several previous Censuses, was substantially less than the true number of people with no religion.

While the version of the Religion question in the Census of 2022 is better than that in 2016, the sensible version would split it into 2 questions –
Q12a – Do you practise a religion? No [ ] Yes [ ]
If you answered Yes to Q12a-
Q12b – What is your religion? – Write the name of the religion here [ ]

Tom Curran to speak in Limerick on End of Life Choice(s)

On Thursday 23 May 2019 at 20:00, Tom Curran will speak at a public meeting in the Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street, Limerick.

Tom Curran’s partner Marie Fleming had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It had become so bad that –
(1) she was in very great pain and her quality of life was very low; and
(2) the power remaining in her limbs was so small that she could not on her own take steps to end her own life.
Tom at the start of 2013 asked a judge in the High Court that the judge would declare that he would not be prosecuted if he helped her to end her life, while such end was her wish.

The judgement was that the present law without doubt prohibits such assistance. Marie died at the end of 2013.

Since then Tom has campaigned for changes in the law so that people in similar situations can receive help so that they can end their life, but only where it is that person who wishes to end her or his life.

The Mid-West Humanists thank Tom for coming to Limerick to speak about this and related matters. We hope that all persons whom this subject interests will attend.

Here is our poster about this meeting.

Poster Mid West Humanists Tom Curran 2019 05 23

Mid-West Humanists campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution

We should remove Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution of Ireland

We should bring Abortion Services home to Ireland

At their meeting in January 2018 the Mid-West Humanists decided that democracy means that the Dáil and Senate should let the people vote on removing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. (At this date, the Government has said there will be a Referendum on this in May 2018.)
We write about how the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3) was added to the Constitution in 1983, the social and political climate connected with this, and its later modification in 1992. We also show Article 40.3.3 (page 172 of the PDF version of the online Constitution).

The Mid-West Humanists composed a leaflet of information for voters, including reasons to vote Yes (to remove Article 40.3.3), at the meeting in February 2018. You can read Repeal the 8th Amendment on our Aims and Media page.

We have another post on why the Mid-West Humanists are campaigning publicly. We welcome comments there, or on this post, or in our Facebook group.

On the Streets

Some Mid-West Humanists have been on the streets, starting in Limerick city centre on Saturday 24 February2018, to give our leaflets to the public. We expect to be on the streets in Limerick again on Saturday 03 March 2018, when several other groups will also be campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
We hope to campaign on further dates in the same and in further places.

 

Constitution of Ireland 1937
Article 40.3.3

8th Amendment, 1983

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Added 1992 (13th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

Added 1992 (14th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

History of Article 40.3.3

This subsection of Article 40 was added by Referendum in late 1983, after a small set of people pressed both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to do so, in the campaigns for the general elections in 1981, spring 1982, and autumn 1982. This set of people told the politicians that they feared the Supreme Court would declare termination of pregnancy a constitutional right, as the United States of America Supreme Court had declared in 1973; and that they feared that the Dáil and Senate would pass a law to permit abortion, as the United Kingdom Parliament had passed in 1967. Continue reading

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

Contents

  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 Continue reading

Election Candidates’ intentions on Secular Constitution, Laws, Regulations

The General Election is to be on Friday 26 February 2016.

The Mid-West Humanists suggest that voters who favour a secular society ask General Election candidates if they support the following changes to enable a Secular Society.

You can download the Mid-West Humanists’ leaflets from our Aims and Media page, if you wish to give a leaflet to a candidate.

You can read the particular Acts mentioned, and the Constitution, on the Irish Statute Book online.

Top Priority Changes

Secular Education

Does the candidate agree to vote for the following new laws, or to support the Minister for Education changing the regulations: –

  1. Repeal Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000. At present, this states that a school giving education in an environment that promotes religious values can prefer to take a child with a particular religion over others. If this section were repealed, Section 7(2) would prohibit discrimination in a school under the 9 grounds described in Section 2 of the Act. Religion or its absence is one of the 9 grounds.
  2. Amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998. At present it allows an employer to prefer a job candidate over another candidate in a way similar to the Equal Status Act (above), if the employer is a religious, educational, or medical institution. Ask that “educational, or medical” be removed, and that “religious” as applied to an institution be defined strictly as when the institution’s only purpose is a religious purpose.
  3. Amend Section 15(2)(b) of the Education Act 1998 so that schools would not be required to have their own “characteristic spirit” (you may hear people speak of “ethos”), and that instead all schools would be required to respect the human rights of children.
  4. That the Minister for Education and Skills would send a circular letter to all National Schools, directing that Rule 69(b,c,d,e) in the Rules for National Schools 1965 is still in force, and thus that National Schools must follow the System of National Education (as each National School’s Lease directs). Rule 69 and the schools’ leases require that a pupil must not receive, nor be present at, any religious instruction of which the child’s parents or guardian have not approved; and that the timetable must make it easy for children to be absent from the school during such instruction.

Constitution

Does the candidate agree to vote for a referendum to let us the people decide the following: –

  1. Remove the sentence that makes Blasphemy an offence – Article 40.6.1.i, 3rd paragraph.
  2. Remove mention of a god from the declaration on starting work as a judge (Article 34.5.1), as President (Article 12.8), or one of the Council of State (Article 31.4). Tell the candidate that to give a judge a choice of a declaration with god and a declaration without god would be a mistake – judges would be marked as religious or not religious and some parties in court cases would see them as biased. Tell the candidate you seek one declaration with no mention of a god.

Other secular changes

Secular Health Services

Does the candidate agree to vote for new laws, or to support the Minister for Health changing regulations, so that all hospitals and professionals that receive public money to provide health services for people (which is generally without any reference to the religion of a patient) must provide all treatments that are within the law? This would stop hospitals, doctors, or pharmacists refusing to provide, for example, certain forms of birth control, by saying it is contrary to their ethics.

Constitution

Does the candidate agree to vote for a referendum to let us the people decide the following: –

  1. Remove Article 40.3.3 (the 8th Amendment, that prohibits nearly all terminations of pregnancy)
    This request, like the other requests for referenda, does not mean that either you as a voter or the candidate (if elected) would vote for removal on referendum day. In asking the candidate for a referendum, you are only asking for reasonable democracy.
  2. Remove the following words that involve god and religion
    1. Remove words about the Trinity and Jesus Christ from the Preamble.
    2. Remove power deriving under God from Article 6.
    3. Remove homage, worship, reverence, respect due to God, that is, remove Article 44.1.
    4. Remove the glory of god (glóire Dé) from the Epilogue.

You can read the particular Acts mentioned, and the Constitution, on the Irish Statute Book online.

You can download the Mid-West Humanists’ leaflets from our Aims and Media page, if you wish to give a leaflet to a candidate.

February meeting cancelled because of ROSA Limerick Election Candidates’ Debate

Special Notice on Cancellation of meeting 17 February 2016

We became aware only on 11 February of another meeting at exactly the same time, that would be of great interest to many Mid-West Humanists, connected with the General Election on 26 February. By Saturday 13 February we decided to cancel our meeting, so that Mid-West Humanists can attend-

General Election Candidates’ Debate (Limerick candidates for election to the Dáil) – organised by Rosa Limerick, who campaign for the reproductive health and other services for women.

Date                    :          Wednesday 17 February 2016

Time                   :          20:00

Place                   :          Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street, Limerick

One of Rosa Limerick’s 3 main subjects for the Dáil Candidates is about Public Services, “Do you think that in the areas of health and education the State should provide support to people of all faiths and none equally? How is that possible in the current system?”

This is an opportunity to put the case for secular education and health services to candidates for election to the Dáil. It is unfortunate for the Mid-West Humanists that this will not include candidates in Clare and Tipperary, but the message for secular services will receive some publicity.

Rosa Limerick have welcomed people such as the Mid-West Humanists to attend, people who would tell the candidates the value of secular education and health services, and people’s entitlement to these.