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NMH Board Member Resigns

23 August 2021

St Vincentís Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin. Photograph Nick Bradshaw / The Irish Times

Last month former High Court President Justice Nicholas Kearns resigned from the board of the National Maternity Hospital after six years in the role.

Despite a statement that this was planned since May this resignation will be viewed as a response to Kearn's heavily criticised handling of the rising concerns of some governors who are making their voices heard regarding fears of how the Sisters of Charity organisation might impose their Catholic ethos upon services and procedures at the planned but not yet built new National Maternity Hospital.

Kearn's handling of a meeting just 3 weeks before he resigned has been widely reported as controversial. Doctor Peter Boylan, a former board member and leading campaigner in the fight to put the new hospital under state control put his concerns to Justice Kearns at the meeting. Kearns dismissive attitude did not go unnoticed and some governors have raised their voices and said it was unacceptable.

A letter from one of the governors Dr Frances Meagher protested at what she perceived as Kearn's biased attitude at any comments or questions that raised concerns about subjects like the consultation process.

Other governors are now raising concerns about how plans for the hospital are proceeding.

In May two new appointments were made to the board of the NMH. Pat McCann founder of the Dalata hotel group and former Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

Since Kearns resignation McCann has taken over as the de facto chair of the committee which is undertaken by the deputy. This has been the case since the actual chair person, Archbishop of Dublin Dermott Farrell had decided to stop taking part in the decision making of the board.

Noirin O'Sullivan was seen as a "reformer" of note as Garda Commissioner who resigned in 2017 citing an endless round of hearings and enquiries on corruption and incompetence as the reason.

It would be a reasonable speculation to say she has been brought in to try and manage an increasingly embarrassing situation for church and state.

Just a few weeks ago there was a demonstration of thousands in the centre of Dublin.

The willingness of of experienced professionals and governors to question what is happening shows that the public campaign is making an impact.

Cracks are beginning to show.

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