AN IRISH maternity hospital chief has said nuns' ownership of a new €300m unit in Ireland is a 'technical detail' as criticism for the decision continues to roll in.
The Sisters of Charity are one of 18 religious congregations who managed residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan Commission and was party to the 2002 €128million indemnity agreement with the State.
After the Ryan Report in 2009, the Sisters of Charity offered to contribute a further €5million towards the €1.5billion redress costs incurred by the State involving former residents of the institutions.
But according to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report last month the order have contributed just €2million of their 2009 offer.
Late last year Ireland's Department of Health said the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street in Dublin and St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group – of which the Sisters of Charity are a major shareholder – had agreed a new governance structure.
The move would establish a new company called The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park.
Scroll down for what Father Ted creator Graham Linehan had to say on this story...
The new €300million, state-funded hospital will be built on land owned by St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
Rhona Mahony, the current Master of Holles St maternity hospital, was speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland when she defended the relocation of the maternity unit.
"The new maternity hospital on the campus of St Vincent's will be an independent company, with an independent board that will be dedicated solely to the gynaecological, maternity and neonatal services.
"The new hospital will continue to perform all of the procedures that we perform today.
"There will be contraception, there will be IVF, in the case of substantial risk to life, we will continue to perform termination of pregnancy, just as we do today.
"The nuns will not be involved in the governance or operation of this hospital, it will be an entirely independent entity.
"We will not be practicing with any Catholic ethos, it's absolutely clear in the agreement," Ms Mahony said.
But when pressed by presenter Audrey Carville on the reasons why a religious order would agree to running a hospital with independent clinical practice that performs procedures that could go against their Catholic ethos, Ms Mahony said the ownership was a "technical detail."
"St Vincent's are a healthcare group, they are making available a primary clinical piece of land on their land for women and babies, so that they can access the tertiary care in a setting that gives them the care that they require.
"The nuns do not want to run this hospital, but the nuns are happy that women and infants in this country will have access to medical and diagnostic services that will save women's lives and will allow access to the best possible healthcare.
"There will be no branch of Catholic ethos for the nuns, this is a separate company," she said. "The ownership of the hospital is a technical detail because they own the land."
London-based Phyllis Morgan, the Senior Outreach Coordinator of Britain's Irish Women Survivors Support Network and a survivor herself, told The Irish Post: "To me, having nuns in charge of a hospital would be wrong. They would judge mothers that aren't married, and who are they to judge anyone?
"It doesn't sit well with me because nowadays it doesn't matter if a woman's not married but the nuns would still be so judgemental of unmarried women.
But she added: "I have to say, my experience of the Irish Sisters of Charity was very good. I did spend a few years being brought up in a place run by the Sisters of Charity in Dublin and I found they were a lot better than others.
"In one respect, it would be run well but I feel a bit uneasy about it being a maternity hospital," Ms Morgan said. "It comes back to the mother and baby homes and how the mothers were treated there."
Father Ted writer and director Graham Linehan spoke in Dublin this week against the order becoming the majority owners of the new maternity hospital, saying Ireland isn't take women's reproductive health seriously.
"Our second pregnancy had no complications, it went fine, but our first one didn't," he said.
"We were lucky enough to be in England when it happened, and it made the next few days - hard as they were - a lot easier knowing that we were in a place that took women's reproductive health seriously.
"Then I got back to Ireland and I realised I was in a country that didn't take women's reproductive health seriously, I was ashamed I brought my wife here.
"Now that we all know what happened with the Magdalene Laundries, now that we all know what happened with the mass graves in Tuam, there's no way we're going to go back to that state," he said.
A protest petition to halt the Sisters of Charity owning the new maternity hospital started online last week, and has accumulated over 90,000 signatures.