Speaking in the Seanad today on Statements on the New Maternity Hospital, Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly spoke about the stranglehold that the Catholic Church has had on Irish society. She went on to say “I think it’s important to point out, those who have been heckling others today, and those who have been defending the Catholic Church, and saying that the Catholic Church has a right to be involved in healthcare are anti-choice”.
She continued “I’m not a religious person, I’m not catholic. I have a right to go into a State hospital and to have the kind of care that I want and that I am legally entitled to in this country. Someone else has a right to go into a church and to pray, they have religious freedom.
“The whole point of this is that the government is in a difficult position, and probably successive governments have been in a difficult position, because fundamentally our schools, our hospitals, they have been under religious control for so long that it is very much part of the legal basis upon which they are founded. To move from that into something else that is completely State owned is very very difficult, and it has taken eight years to get to this point”.
Speaking about the findings of the Mulvey Agreement Senator O’Reilly voiced her concern that the agreement states that the religious orders shall not have undue influence. “That’s the concern, I think it’s ‘undue influence’. They shouldn’t have any influence. So that agreement, which we are actually saying is the basis for this hospital, is the concern. I’m not convinced that it’s as straight-forward as some people are pointing out to actually move into a different situation.
“I know that the Minister and the Government are trying all they can, and that there are ongoing negotiations. Really what we want is to be assured that every single avenue is being chased up because absolutely the land should be in State ownership. I think most of us here would say that the land should be in state ownership and how we get to that point is the problem. How do we get to the point where the 90% of our schools, that are also owned by the Catholic Church, in one way or another, whether through another company or not are put in to State ownership? It’s not an easy task. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that at least most of us are on the same page and know what we want to happen. I’ve brought forward motions myself in relation to contraceptives. I have worked for a long time in relation to repealing the 8th Amendment. So I think most of us are coming at this with the best of intentions”.
O’Reilly asked the Minster “what steps are being taken to ensure that we can move, not just this hospital, but Irish society into a different place, because we are quite entitled to feel that we have been let down for generations by the Catholic Church, because we have been. But we also need to make sure that the hospital is built, because it’s eight years to long. These negotiations are eight years to long and we still don’t have any groundwork done on that site. I think CPO could take the same length of time again and that is my main concern with CPO”.
O’Reilly concluded “If the Church was to do the decent thing and to earn back the respect of the women in this country, which it has lost, then it would give the land to the State. I think people within the Catholic Church might like to think what kind of pressure they can put on their own church”.