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Correspondence: NMH and abortion rights

31 May 2022

Where do we go from here?

Many thanks for your assessment of the campaign for a publicly owned National Maternity Hospital. I have seen no similar assessments by other socialist groups and there seems to be a general belief that the decision in cabinet, followed by a token Dail vote calling for public ownership that was ignored by the government, is the end of the matter.

The issues won't go away. Abortion rights and the right to effective public services are central issues and a balance sheet of the campaign will help us prepare for the future.

Overall the campaign was successful in bringing about public awareness of government plans to handover the new NMH to a private religious charity.  This in turn led to a growing awareness of the need to separate Church and State and that religion should have no role in our public services.  It brought to the fore the abuse legacy of the nuns which resonated with the public.

I think you were a little harsh in relation to the socialist groups.  Their support helped to raise the profile of the campaign although they did focus on the Dail and stopped short of a broader mobilisation.

The role of the NGOs was similar. We relied too heavily on NGOs.  It was correct to involve them.  We had from the outset got them to sponsor the campaign and to support campaign initiatives. However, by and large they didn't mobilize for protests nor to any extent on social media. NGOs are largely funded by the government and thus are unlikely to engage   with a campaign strenuously criticising government policy.

The campaign bears some responsibility for the limited mobilisation.  We needed an open campaign with every possible group represented, yet the main sentiment was against political parties and a fear of them taking over.

The issues haven't gone away. It took 70 years to eat away at Roe vs Wade in the US. Four years was enough in Ireland.  The fight is the fight for the right to choose. It must be fought by women and by the working class mobilised on the streets.

Tied up within the issue of women's rights is the private profiteering from public services, with the church a central partner in health and education.

Today the government have won a victory on a mountain of lies. We must take every opportunity to revisit their claims and hold them to account, especially the barefaced lie that women's rights will be respected.

Yours in sisterhood,

Socialist and Feminist


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