The National Maternity Hospital  - Secular Sunday #542 || 15 May, 2022


The National Maternity Hospital

Atheist Ireland joined protesters outside the Dáil yesterday to call for the new National Maternity Hospital to be publicly-owned and secular. The Government plans to approve on Tuesday that the State will lease the land and have a minority stake in its governance.

The very fact that the Government has to try so hard to reassure us that the hospital will be safe from the influence of the Catholic Church is itself evidence that the State should own and directly run the hospital.

Whatever assurances it might seem to give, the Catholic church simply cannot be trusted. Not only did they commit appalling crimes against women and children, but State tribunals found that its Bishops positively lied to and deliberately misled them to cover up those crimes.

Atheist Ireland campaigns for a secular healthcare system based on compassion, human rights and the medical needs of patients. The State should remove, not reinforce, the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in our healthcare provision.

We also campaign for a secular education system that treats everybody equally regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs; the end of the religious oaths in our Constitution that prevent a conscientious atheist from being President, Taoiseach, or a Judge; and changes to other laws that discriminate on the ground of religion.

As always, you can help Atheist Ireland to continue our work on these secular issues by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland here.

- Secular Sunday Editorial Team


Éire Aindiach

Éire Aindiach

Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at

Atheist Ireland News


The National Maternity Hospital must be public and secular

There will be a rally outside the Dáil at 2pm this Saturday, 14 May, organised by the Our Maternity Hospital campaign, of which Atheist Ireland is a member.
The very fact that the Government has to try so hard to reassure us that the hospital will be safe from religious influence is itself evidence that the State should own and directly run the National Maternity Hospital.
The State should not cede control over this essential public service to any private body, never mind to a charity associated with the Catholic church, which has an appalling record of human rights abuses and an ethos that opposes reproductive rights for women.
Whatever assurances it might seem to give, the Catholic church simply cannot be trusted. Not only did they commit appalling crimes against women and children, but State tribunals found that its Bishops positively lied to and deliberately misled them to cover up those crimes.
This included inventing different accounts of meetings about child abusers, and using a theological concept called ‘mental reservation’ to justify arguing that when they said they cooperated with the police, they never said they ‘fully’ cooperated.
We should not trust any deal approved by the Vatican, which is the headquarters of a global religion that poses as a quasi-State when it suits its purposes. Its primary mission is not to provide healthcare, but to evangelise people into Catholicism.
Politicians always assure Atheist Ireland that, if they were starting from scratch, they would not have given the Catholic church the influence it has over our schools. So why are they even involving this church in the planning of our new National Maternity Hospital?
Atheist Ireland campaigns for a secular healthcare system based on compassion, human rights and the medical needs of patients. No religious values should be imposed on patients who do not share those religious beliefs.
The State should remove, not reinforce, the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in our healthcare provision. The best way to ensure this is that the State should own and directly run the National Maternity Hospital. Read online...

Waiting for the rally outside the Dail for the National Maternity hospital to be public and secular #MakeNMHOurs


Calling concerned teachers

If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at


List of Atheist Ireland Submissions



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Be Good without Gods

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Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

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Thank you for your continued support


Atheist Ireland Committee


Call to Action


Message from Our Maternity Hospital #makeNMHOurs

Dear Friend
With the government set to railroad approval for the new National Maternity Hospital plan, please email your govt. TD’s, Senators and all Cabinet members now and tell them why you want the hospital to be publicly owned and controlled and built on public land.
The Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to approve their plan. It is imperative that the decision to approve is deferred as there are too many unanswered questions and ambiguities around the plan.
Below are some points for you to use to argue for deferring the decision on Tuesday. These points highlight just some of the issues.
The State will not own the building, in spite of what Stephen Donnelly says, the first schedule of the lease agreement states this.
The HSE will have a Leasehold interest, but they will never own in freehold. Leaseholds are subject to conditions and some of these conditions are unclear because of how they interact with the Vatican's grant of approval to the religious Sisters to transfer their ownership. Even though ownership may be many steps removed from the Catholic Church, it is ultimately Vatican land and as Dr. Peter Boylan has pointed out, there is no Vatican owned land anywhere in the world with hospitals on it that allow procedures and treatments that are against Catholic ethos.
Clinically appropriate
Ambiguous language open to interpretation.  The minister claims this was put in at the request of the HSE, so it can be removed without affecting the deal or it can be defined with a list of procedures including but not limited to and listing the controversial procedures. It should never have been put in. Medical treatment must have a Rights Based approach. Women must have control over the procedures and treatments that the hospital is legally required to provide, not what the doctor believes is 'clinically appropriate' Savita would not have died if her expressed need for an abortion had been respected rather than the medics belief that it was not clinically necessary.
Golden Share
Granted to the Health Minister.  We do not know who the future health ministers will be over the next 299 years, what if a minister appointed is opposed to full reproductive, gender and sexual healthcare. Look how Roe v Wade is under threat because of a conservative Supreme Court. The same thing could easily happen here.
Sisters of Charity
Reneged on their offer of gifting the land to the state in 2017. They have now transferred their assets after consultation with the Vatican, into a Vatican approved limited company with charitable status. The company called St Vincent's Healthcare Group will be the landlord, the landlords will also have a seat on the new board of the National Maternity Hospital.
Board of the new National Maternity Hospital
This will consist of 3 members from SVHG, 3 from the National Maternity Hospital and 3 nominated by the minister for health, so called public interest directors who are bound by law to protect the interests of the company, not the public.  The board can have a quorum of 2 members present or by proxy. The quorum of 2 members can make decisions binding on the NMH.
The Minister for Health could nominate three very conservative members opposed to full reproductive, gender and sexual healthcare as could the SVHG.

We really appreciate your support and your taking the time to contact the govt and particularly the Cabinet. You can find your representatives here.


Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.

Blogs & Opinions




National Maternity Hospital: It Is Time For A Rethink At The Top


By Niall Stokes

It is profoundly wrong for the State to be in a position where it is scrabbling around to find some kind of fig leaf to disguise the fact that it is fundamentally perverse – and potentially dangerous – to hand any kind of ownership of the National Maternity Hospital, or the site on which it is being built,  to vested religious interests or private individuals.
Most of the time I agonise over what to say in The Message. And over how to say it. I edge towards a theme. I allow things to simmer. I read some. Think about it. Then I read some more.
I am looking for additional facts. For statistics. For hard information. I want to see if there are twists or turns in anything that has been said, or done, whether by this side or that in a debate or argument, which might lead to a deeper insight. The objective is to try to go beyond the obvious. To understand the nuances. To get as close as possible to the heart of the matter.
You could say that I have an agenda and I have. To one degree or another, we all do.
Over the years we develop a set of political and philosophical beliefs and commitments. For me, these include the conviction that the role of public policy must be for the State to do everything reasonable within its power to achieve the greatest possible equalisation between citizens across all levels of society, in terms of education, opportunity, income and wealth.
It should treat all of the children of the nation equally. It should embrace difference and diversity. It should not bake privilege into arrangements. It should not – it must not – favour one religion over another. Or over a rejection of all religion. People are entitled to their beliefs. They are not entitled to have them privileged at the expense of others, in the operation of national or State institutions.
The republican ideal is to create a society of equals, in which we all have a say via the ballot box. Over the age of eighteen we have a vote that we can cast in a democratic exercise that ultimately leads to the formation of a Government.
In this regard, we are lucky in Ireland. We have a particularly balanced and representative electoral process. The Irish system of multi-seat constituencies and proportional representation – which allows voters to express their preferred choices in a sequence from first down to last – may not be perfect. On occasion, it delivers quirky results. Winning and losing candidates can be separated by as little as a few votes.
But, in terms of representing fairly and accurately the collective will of the people, it knocks into a cocked hat the hopelessly unbalanced first-past-the-post system used for General Elections across the UK; and even more so the crazy electoral college system, which completely skews the results in US Presidential elections, to the extent that a resounding majority for a Democratic candidate in the popular vote can  still result in a significant defeat, as happened when Donald Trump was elected ahead of Hillary Clinton.
Conservative, largely rural places like Montana, Nebraska and Utah are grossly over-represented in electoral college votes. Liberal, coastal states, with big populations, like New York and California, are totally under-represented. Everyone with a brain knows this. And they also know that this grotesque distortion is just the start of it. That at every level, the way the system works in the US, the incumbent regimes in individual States can stack the deck in their favour. Read more...


Two HSE directors criticise unsatisfactory National Maternity Hospital ownership deal


By Daniel McConnell

The two dissenting HSE board directors who opposed the National Maternity Hospital deal have broken their silence.
In a joint statement to the Oireachtas health committee, obtained by the Irish Examiner, Professor Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin say that St Vincent’s Hospital's claim that they must retain ownership of the land “is unsatisfactory” and runs contrary to the argument that the location of the underlying freehold ownership has no bearing on the governance or operation of the hospital.
The duo added that at the time of the HSE board decision on March 14, 2022, the transfer of shares in St Vincent's Hospital group from the religious Sisters of Charity had not occurred, “and we held concerns regarding realisation of that transfer”.
While the shares have since been transferred from the Royal Sisters of Charity to a new company, St Vincent's Holding CLG, we believe that in the interest of the public trust and confidence in this new project, there should be absolute clarity on the separation of Church and State,” their statement says.
This would have been better achieved if the State owned the land on which the hospital was built, in line with the recommendation of the Day Report in 2018, they argue.
The pair said they also have “concerns about the governance of the new hospital arising from the nomination by St Vincent's Hospital Group of three directors to the board of the new National Maternity Hospital”.
“It is not clear why retaining freehold ownership of the premises has resulted in an agreement that enables St Vincent's Hospital group to nominate one-third of members of the National Maternity Hospital board, as well as the chair of that board on a rotating basis every three years,” their statement says.
They also say that although the agreed clause in relation to services will facilitate the provision of all legally permissible services at the new maternity hospital, “boards also influenced the culture, values, and ethics of the entity they govern” .
This gives rise to legitimate concerns for us about the potential influence of ethos,” they state in their comments to the committee.
"We do not wish to make any further public comment, as is now a matter for Government."
Minister's plea to Cabinet
Their letter comes as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly addressed the Fine Gael party as to their concerns and was said to be “pleading” to them to support the proposal.
It is understood that TDs Emer Higgins and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, and Senator Regina Doherty, raised concerns. Read more...


Coalition apology for ‘historic wrong’ of illegal birth registrations


By Cormac McQuinn

The Government has apologised to people impacted by the illegal registration of births with the practice described as a “historic wrong with deep and enduring impacts”.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman made the formal apology in the Seanad ahead of a debate on the Birth and Information Tracing Bill 2022 – a proposed law aimed at allowing people to access full birth certs and other information.
Before outlining the details of the Bill, Mr O’Gorman said he believes it is “timely to acknowledge the anguish experienced by those who have been affected by illegal birth registration.”
He said in 2018 a the long-suspected practice was confirmed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
It discovered documentary evidence of specific cases of illegal birth registration in St Patrick Guild.
Mr O’Gorman said that since then other reports like the one produced by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes laid bare “aspects of our nation’s past which were shrouded in shame and secrecy.”
He said: “The stigma experienced by unmarried mothers and their children was fundamentally wrong.
“The shame was not theirs. It was ours and it remains our shame.
“In the case of children affected by illegal birth registration, what happened was a historic wrong with deep and enduring impacts.
“Those who were knowingly involved in illegal registration of births committed a grave offence, which robs children of their identity and their right to an accurate birth registration.”
Mr O’Gorman said: “I can only imagine the deep hurt and anguish that people must have experienced on learning of their illegal birth registration, on learning that the foundations upon which their entire identity is based, are false.
“For this I am truly sorry and I apologise on behalf of the government.
“I deeply regret the anguish experienced by those who have been affected by illegal birth registration.”
Mr O’Gorman said apologies carry little weight unless backed by practical responses to remedy the rights violation in question. Read more...


A saga marked by subterfuge and best resolved by simple CPO.


By Marie O’Connor

After an unedifying week marked by an unrelenting stream of propaganda following the unexpected deferral of the Cabinet decision, yesterday’s poll in the Sunday Independent shows that the plurality of respondents (excluding ‘uncertains’), 45 per cent, believe there will be religious interference in the new hospital.
Predictably, the role of offshore intermediaries, Stembridge Ltd and Porema Ltd, in St Vincent’s Holdings received scant attention, despite the association of these companies with over 200,000 offshore entities named in the Panama Papers. Documents released by the HSE earlier this week bear out the global ambitions of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. Under the constitution of the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park, Dublin 4, the company is empowered to carry on its business in “any part of the world”.
The government has finally published what purports to be “a full set of legal documents” in connection with the State’s proposed investment in the new facility. Missing maps and unattached schedules leave the bundle incomplete. Even more concerning is the omission of documents that define St Vincent’s control over the new facility and enshrine its Catholic ethos. 
The public-private mix
The dysfunctional public-private mix in our publicly funded ‘voluntary’ hospitals will deepen if the government signs off on these plans. As many as 40 per cent of  Holles St Hospital consultants work in St Vincent’s hospitals. The new maternity hospital incorporates five private-practice suites (in defiance of Sláintecare principles). Consultant obstetricians average €500,000 per annum per head in private obstetric fees alone (not counting private income from gynaecology). St Vincent’s Healthcare Group has a history of being liberal, if not lax, in adhering to public pay guidelines. The Group is unlikely therefore to enforce the existing cap on private practice.
Proposed ownership structure
A large majority of people, 60 per cent, are opposed to the proposed ownership structure for the new facility, as the Sunday Independent poll shows. The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park is to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. Wholly-owned subsidiaries are wholly-controlled by their parent companies. The new hospital company has two parents: St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of St Vincent’s Holdings. Both companies are successor bodies to the Religious Sisters of Charity. Their constitutions have been omitted from the ‘legal framework’, for some unfathomable reason.
The lease published last week shows that the nuns’ company, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, will continue to own the lands and the hospitals vested in it by the congregation. These assets will also be owned by St Vincent’s Holdings. Why St Vincent’s Group needed a second ownership vehicle is unclear.   The lease also shows that St Vincent’s Healthcare Group will own the buildings to be built on the land that it owns. The rent, set at €850,000 per annum — abated to €10 for observing six conditions — is being used as a mechanism of control. Read more...


Emotional speeches at protest against potential Catholic Church involvement in the National Maternity Hospital


By Yasmin Kelly

The Government has attempted to reassure Irish people that the National Maternity Hospital will be completely free of religious influence if it moves to co-locate with St. Vincent's Hospital on the South side of Dublin But a huge number of people fear that the insidious nature of religious influence is likely to prevail in the long run, if the plan goes ahead...
A large crowd gathered today outside Dáil Éireann, calling for the new National Maternity Hospital to be fully secular.
The emotional demonstration was held amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the potential influence of a Catholic ethos within the planned new hospital.
The National Maternity Hospital (NMH) is currently located at Holles Street in Dublin’s city centre. While the 130-year-old building is considered no longer fit for purpose, there is a huge groundswell of concern over the failure of the State to take ownership of the land on which the hospital is being built.
The proposed new site, alongside St. Vincents Hospital, was owned by the Sisters of Charity. They have passed ownership over to a newly created company. However the State has not had sight of the documents which passed between either the nuns or the St. Vincent's Hospital Group and the Vatican – who had to approve the sale of the land by the nuns. Today’s protest demonstrated a deep-rooted anger Ireland’s history of letting women down – the fear being that this decision will give teh Catholic Church influence over the ethos of hte National Maternity Hospital, and enable it to influence clinical decisions made there.
Anne Conway, who organised the rally, said: “We are not going back to a Catholic State. We are going to fight for the hospital to be built on land owned by the State.”
Anger and distress filled the air as speakers told stories of the difficulties surrounding growing up in a country that had been brainwashed by religion.
“I was eighteen when contraception was legalised in this country, but only with a prescription and only for married people. And I was twenty-two when the eighth amendment was inserted into our constitution. And I was still twenty-two when Anne Lovett died in Granard at fifteen years of age. And I was twenty- three when Joanne Hayes was charged with murder for being a single woman who had a baby out of wedlock. I was twenty-nine when marital rape was criminalised in this country. And I was fifty-seven when the eighth amendment was repealed. So I know, all too well, the influence that the Catholic Church has had on our legal systems, our health systems, and our education systems in this country,” explained Bernie Linnane, chair of the “Our Maternity Hospital" Campaign.
Even with politicians, such as Simon Harris, insisting that “the nuns are gone” and that the new plans hold Irish women’s best interests at heart, the State will not own the land – which it has leased for 299 years. Read more...





Should Courts Assess the Sincerity of Religious Beliefs?


By Linda Greenhouse

It was no surprise back in March when the Supreme Court ruled that Texas had to oblige a death-row inmate’s wish for the company of a pastor who would pray with him and touch him as the lethal cocktail dripped into his veins. Such execution-chamber companionship was “part of my faith,” the inmate claimed, and if anything could penetrate the Court’s wall of indifference toward the death penalty, it figured to be religion. The vote was 8–1.But there was in fact something unexpected about the decision in Ramirez v. Collier: The lone dissenter was Clarence Thomas. Furthermore, Justice Thomas got it right.
Although I don’t often find myself in agreement with Justice Thomas, I have been hoping for a dissenting opinion like his as I’ve watched the Supreme Court’s majority nurture an expanding theocracy that seems to have no stopping point. Justice Thomas is usually an avid part of that majority. This time, however, he ventured where I can’t remember any other justice, liberal or conservative, having the nerve to go: He questioned a religious claimant’s sincerity. His colleagues had granted relief, he complained, “for a demonstrably abusive and insincere claim filed by a prisoner with an established history of seeking unjustified delay.”
Adam Serwer: Conservative justices suddenly discover the limits of religious liberty
Why did Justice Thomas, of all people, jump off the theocratic bus? Perhaps he was just reacting to the facts of this case: John Ramirez, sentenced to death for murdering a father of nine in a robbery that netted him $1.25, made a series of escalating demands as his execution date approached, first for his pastor’s simple presence, though he at that point disclaimed any desire for touch; then for a laying on of hands; and then, 17 days before his scheduled execution, for audible prayer.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote that Ramirez had displayed “ample” sincerity, offered a history lesson in his majority opinion. He traced the pedigree for pastoral comfort during executions, offered by George Washington to condemned prisoners during the American Revolution, by the federal government to the conspirators in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and by the post–World War II Army to Nazis hanged for their crimes.
Justice Thomas was not impressed. “Whether Ramirez’s supposed belief is ‘traditional’ is irrelevant,” he wrote. “The relevant issue is whether Ramirez himself actually believes that it is part of his faith to have his spiritual advisor lay hands on him.” The evidence, Justice Thomas concluded, “cuts strongly in favor of finding that Ramirez is insincere.”
Whether Justice Thomas intended to make a larger point, beyond the confines of this case, about the role of sincerity in evaluating religious claims for special treatment is irrelevant as well. What matters is that he put into play an issue that both liberal and conservative judges have too willingly overlooked for too long. Read more...


Too Much Church in the State


By Maureen Dowd

During her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett tried to reassure Democrats who were leery of her role as a “handmaid” in a Christian group called “People of Praise.”The group has a male-dominated hierarchy and a rigid view of sexuality reflecting conservative gender norms and rejecting openly gay men and women. Men, the group’s decision makers, “headed” their wives.
Justice Barrett said then that she would not impose her personal beliefs on the country. “Judges can’t just wake up one day and say ‘I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion’ — and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” she said amicably. “It’s not the law of Amy. It’s the law of the American people.”
Yet that’s what seems to be coming. Like a royal queen, she will impose her will on the world. It will be the law of Amy. And Sam. And Clarence. And Neil. And Brett.
It’s outrageous that five or six people in lifelong unaccountable jobs are about to impose their personal views on the rest of the country. While they will certainly provide the legal casuistry for their opinion, let’s not be played for fools: The Supreme Court’s impending repeal of Roe will be owed to more than judicial argumentation. There are prior worldviews at work in this upheaval.
As a Catholic whose father lived through the Irish Catholics “need not apply” era, I’m happy to see Catholics do well in the world. There is an astonishing preponderance of Catholics on the Supreme Court — six out of the nine justices, and a seventh, Neil Gorsuch, was raised as a Catholic and went to the same Jesuit boys’ high school in a Maryland suburb that Brett Kavanaugh and my nephews did, Georgetown Prep.
My father was furious that Catholic presidential candidates Al Smith and J.F.K. had to defend themselves against scurrilous charges that, if they got to the White House, they would take their orders from the pope.
One must tread carefully here. A Catholic signed on to the Roe v. Wade decision and another was in the court majority that upheld it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Catholic, has expressed support for Roe, and Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative Catholic, may be working for a compromise decision that can uphold Roe.
Still, this Catholic feels an intense disquiet that Catholic doctrine may be shaping (or misshaping) the freedom and the future of millions of women, and men. There is a corona of religious fervor around the court, a churchly ethos that threatens to turn our whole country upside down. Read more...

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