The resounding two-thirds majority vote in the 2018 repeal referendum vote was undeniably a vote for both abortion rights, and more generally for a progressive, secular Ireland. Building on the Marriage Equality vote that affirmed LGBTQ rights, it represented a watershed rejection of the cruel church-state nexus of repression of the past.
A total insult
The very idea that in the 2020s, most especially after the grassroots abortion rights mass movement achieved such a victory, that there is even a possibility that a newly built National Maternity Hospital w.ould be anything other than 100% public, secular and progressive is outrageous. It emphasises the continued backwardness of the political establishment in this state.
Furthermore, an elite cabal in the medical and media establishment has, ostrich-like, ignored all the warning signs that something’s awry with the dodgy deal with the Sisters of Charity – of Magdalene Laundry infamy. This illustrates the fair-weather nature of the friends of the movement one will find in establishment feminism, as this ilk does include a handful of figures who were vocal for repeal.
Government assurances that the Sisters of Charity and Catholic Church would have no influence on the new hospital always rang hollow but now they’ve been utterly exposed. Campaigners have uncovered the fact that the much lauded €10 per annum lease of St. Vincent Holdings to the state can be ratcheted up to €850,000 by St. Vincent’s if any term is breached. Two years ago the Sisters of Charity were being feted by Government spokespeople for gifting the land to the state! It has also been uncovered that the correspondence from the Vatican to the Sisters of Charity about this deal is totally secret and the Government is blindly entering an agreement without knowledge of the same. It’s scandalous!
Attempts to undermine the timely truth-telling interventions from Dr. Peter Boylan to repeatedly insist that vital procedures for women and trans people of course will not be carried out while the Church can stick their oar in, have not washed. Add to this the consistent campaigning by ‘Make NMH Ours’ activists has exerted pressure on the Government, causing wobbles within Government, embarrassing some female ministers and Green Party TDs in particular. But the movement needs to be stepped up, including with more demonstrations backed and built for by all feminist, LGBTQ and migrant rights activists and trade unionists to demand a scrapping of the deal and a 100% publicly owned, secular and democratic new NMH.
Seize church owned land
Talk of compulsory purchase orders of the potential NMH land in Elm Park that means compensation to the church based on market value is problematic. Why should significant public funds be handed over to a religious order sitting on such prime located land? How can this possibly be justified? This land must be seized by the state with no compensation for an institution that has caused so much pain and suffering to women, the LGBTQ community and working-class people generally, would be more appropriate. Or else the hospital could be located on public land beside Tallaght University Hospital or Connolly Hospital.
The NMH scandal has exposed the political establishment yet again. Alongside the housing crisis, climate catastrophe caused by a for-profit system, it points to the urgent need for radical change. We need to build a united movement of the working class and oppressed to fight against a capitalist system built on oppression, backward ideas and rule of private profit. If you want to build a socialist alternative to this rotten set up, then join us today.
- Public, secular and progressive NMH – it must be 100% publicly owned.
- NMH should be democratically run – no establishment figures, church representatives nor political appointees on the board – it should be made up of trade union representatives of the medical and ancillary staff; of users of the service, including migrant and Traveller women representatives, and representatives of the trans community.
- For the full separation of church and state. All church owned land on which public services, or potential public services reside, along with all private hospitals, should be brought into public ownership, with no compensation. For a secular, public, one-tier national public health service.
- Build a united working-class movement that fights against this cowardly and backward political establishment and against the rule of their oppressive capitalist system. Fight for a democratic, secular and socialist society, built on solidarity and compassion, where its wealth is democratically and publicly owned and used for the benefit of all.