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Time to raise a ruckus on March 5th!

24 February 2022

In the run-up to the March 5th International Women's Day demonstration in Dublin there was a major row involving members of the National Women’s Council and representatives of the government.

Women politicians in the Government parties complained that they were excluded from a rally filled with members of the opposition parties and groups. The council replied that it was  a “moment of protest” designed to hold the Government to account.

Individual members of the Council expanded the message. The poor record of the government on a range of women's rights meant that it was completely inappropriate for coalition ministers to attend. For their part the government parties hinted darkly about the substantial funding the NWCI receives.

In the background lurks a major attack on women's rights. The coalition is moving forward with plans to launch a new National Maternity Hospital on Church land and under the control of a private company fronting for the Sisters of Charity. All the signs are that a major propaganda offensive is under way to reassure women and putany opposition to sleep.

A front page news story in The Irish Times sums up the claims. “New maternity hospital to provide all procedures allowed under Irish law,”

Yet St. Vincent’s Holdings is obliged “to uphold the values and vision of Mother Mary Aikenhead", the founder of the Sisters of Charity. Her view was that “the sanctity of life belongs to all persons from conception.”

Dr. Peter Boylan explains the contradiction.
Why is there "no abortion today in 9 HSE maternity units?” he asks. “That is because the staff have asserted conscientious objection because of their Catholic faith".

It's crystal clear that this is the route St. Vincent’s Holdings will take because this is the route they and the Vatican take across the world.

To add insult to injury the Sisters of Charity have launched a planning bid to cash in by rezoning a nursing home and convalescent home next to St Vincent’s hospital complex and the new national maternity hospital site

The order’s application to Dublin City Council comes less than two years after the closure of a nursing home and convalescent home led to big job losses. They liquidated the services in 2020 and  the order said funds were not available to pay over 200 staff a full redundancy package. Although they ran industrial schools and Magdalene laundries, the Nuns have made only minimal contributions to the victims of these institutions.

The vast majority if the speakers stand for a secular and public hospital. There's no doubt but that they will oppose the government’s plans. But will that be enough?

The government knows the level of opposition.  They are clearly intent on ignoring it. The various groups must put their money where their mouth is. They should call on the Green Party, part of the coalition government, to withdraw from the coalition if this deal goes through. A special focus is on Patricia King of the Trades Union Congress. ICTU is on partnership bodies at every level of society. We should ask her to make it clear that the unions will withdraw if this dirty deal goes through. Similarly we require a formal statement from Sinn Fein and Labour that they would overturn any deal with the religious if they were in coalition.

The new coalition behind the NWCI may not have the same reputation as the first Council on the Status of Women, which quickly became known as the Council for the Women of Status, but those government threats to funding are there in the background and activists should mobilise on March 5th to insist on a radical response to the sellout of the National Maternity Hospital.

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