More than 57,000 people have signed a petition seeking to prevent the Sisters of Charity in Ireland from becoming the owner of the new National Maternity Hospital.
According to this report, survivors of the notorious Magdalene Launderies, which were run by the order, have highlighted the fact the order still has to pay millions of euro in compensation to victims of institutional abuse – despite agreeing to do so more than 15 years ago.
These laundries – often described as “prisons” by the women who worked in them – were established in the 18th century for Ireland’s “fallen” women and remained in operation until 1996, when the last laundry closed.
An estimated 30,000 women and girls are thought to have been institutionalised for a myriad of reasons, but mainly for having children out of wedlock. They were forced to work long hours in poor conditions for no pay.
The petition says:
Show the state we will not allow the abuse of our babies, children, and women to be swept under the rug … The Sisters of Charity is one of 18 residential institutions that is highlighted by the Ryan report 2009 to have been responsible for child abuse. They still owe €3 million (£2.5-m) to the redress scheme for its survivors. The Sisters of Charity, along with three other religious congregations, were responsible for the management of Magdalene Laundries.
In 2013 they stated they would not be making ANY contributions to the State redress scheme to the women who had been subject abuse in the Magdalene Laundries. The Department of Health now want to give “sole” ownership of the new €300 million (£250-m) State-funded National Maternity Hospital.
However, the Sisters of Charity own the land at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4 where the hospital is being built.
Steven O’Riordan, chair of Magdalene Survivors Together, said rather than the State paying the order for the land, the nuns should be required to hand the proceeds back to the State and have nothing to do with the hospital.
The order has yet to fulfil its obligations under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement in which the Sisters of Charity and 17 other congregations which ran residential institutions for children agreed to pay the State €128m towards redress for widespread abuse inflicted on children in their care.
Kieran Mulvey- the former chairman of the Workplace Relations Commission, who acted as a mediator between Holles st and St Vincent’s – said the money owed by the sisters of Mercy didn’t come into negotations.
He stressed that he sympathises with victims and said that the Sisters of Mercy own land at the site but won’t have an active hospital governance role.
Speaking on Today With Sean O’Rourke, he said:
That’s a separate process and a separate issue. I was solely concerned with the relocation of Holles St to St Vincent’s campus and put in appropriate arrangements that would be mutually accepted by all concerned.
Number one they own the land on the campus, number two they have no real active role active role except on the board of St Vincent’s Healthcare but I don’t anticipate that the nuns themselves will sit on that board…
In affect the State has a very prominent position in regards to protecting any investments on the campus.
O’Riordan said the Magdalene survivors simply don’t trust the order.
The ultimate issue is the order still has ownership of the hospital. It’s fine to say that it’s independent. But the survivors were also told years ago that the laundries were a safe place.
Health Minister Simon Harris also said the new hospital will be completely independent of the order and that the hospital will have full clinical, operational and financial independence.
But Workers Party councillor Éilis Ryan claimed that Church ownership of the hospital will have a direct impact on women.
Every week, another story emerges of the extraordinary harm done to women by the Church, with State complicity, in this country. What good is it to agree, finally, to remove archaic, Church-written clauses from our Constitution, if we hand over women’s healthcare to that same Church?