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Nuns 'cannot prevent' lawful abortions in new Dublin hospital

One of the Republic's most respected consultant obstetricians has said nuns will not be able to stop lawful abortions or contraceptive treatment in the new National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.

A deal with the Sisters of Charity proposes that the new €300m facility will be built on the St Vincent's Hospital campus in south Dublin, which the religious order owns.

Amid furore over nuns potentially determining clinical care at the hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street, said medical care at the new hospital will be entirely independent.

"Can we get real about this," the leading consultant said.

Dr Mahony said contraceptive treatment or abortions when a woman's life is at risk will be carried out at the new campus when it opens in about four or five years' time.

"At the moment in Holles Street, we provide services to women. This includes contraception. We have about five terminations a year, otherwise women would die.

"This will continue in the new hospital.

"The clinical independence is absolutely copper-fastened."

It has been reported that the Sisters of Charity will be the sole owner of a new company, the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park DAC, while the identity and ethos of the current National Maternity Hospital will be retained.

The proposal to give the Sisters of Charity ultimate ownership of a €300m public hospital also provoked anger as the congregation has yet to pay €3m of redress for victi ms of institutional child abuse.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris insisted during the week that the new National Maternity Hospital will have "full clinical, operational, financial and budgetary independence, free of any religious or ethnic influence".

He said "reserved powers" have been set out in the agreement to guarantee independence.

Dr Peter Boylan, a board member of the National Maternity Hospital and former Master at Holles Street, had questioned whether clinical care at the new National Maternity Hospital, including terminations or IVF treatment, would be influenced by the nuns' religious beliefs.

"The state is investing €300m of your money and my money in a new maternity hospital.

"It's inappropriate that that hospital should have a strong religious influence, particularly from the Catholic Church, with all its bad history in relation to women's healthcare," he said.

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