Author Archives: Bodger


A petition set up on Tuesday night by Denise Kieran on Uplift against the Sisters of Charity gaining ‘sole ownership’ of the new National Maternity Hospital has just passed the 75,000-signature target.

Make it 100,000.

Sign here.

Block Sisters of Charity Ad Sole Owners Of National Maternity Hospital (Uplift)

Yesterday Nun As Blind

Meanwhile, At The Department Of Health

68.613 And Counting

File photo. The former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan, has joined the tens of thousands of people who have signed a petition objecting to the Sisters of Charity nuns having any role whatever with the new National Maternity Hospital, which is due to be built on the St Vincents Hospital Campus in Dublin. End. 17/04/2013. Inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Expert witness, Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan pictured at Galway Coroners Court, sitting at Galway County Hall today for the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Photo: Laura Hutton/

RhonaMahoney17/04/2013. Enrollment of new solicitors in Blackhall Place. Pictured is the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who has said the Master of the High Court has no authority to speak on behalf of the court or its judges. Mr Justice Kearns said concerns about judicial independence expressed by the Association of Judges were well founded and he hoped every effort would be made to address these concerns with a view to resolving them as soon as possible. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland 

From top: The former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan; NMH chairman Nicholas Kearns  and From left: Kay Connolly, Chief Operating Officer of St Vincent’s Hospital, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Dr Rhona Mahony Master, National Maternity Hospital with a model of St Vincents University Hospital.

This morning on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke the handover of the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity was discussed.

Rhona Mahony, Master of Holles Street, and Nicholas Kearns, chairman of the National Maternity Hospital defended the decision and addressed criticism from former Master of Holles Street Dr Peter Boylan

Sean O’Rourke: “The concern over the ownership and governance of the new National Maternity Hospital to be located at St Vincent’s Hospital at Elm Park, continues to grow. The new Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has said the hospital will have complete clinical, financial, budgetary and operational independence, however on Morning Ireland earlier, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Peter Boylan, said that in his view it’s inappropriate for the State to invest 300 million Euro of taxpayers’ money into a new maternity hospital that would have a strong religious influence.

With me now in studio are the current Master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony and the Chair of the Hospital Board or he’s de facto the Chair, former President of the High Court Nicholas Kearns who both represented Holles St in the negotiations with St Vincent’s Hospital. Good morning to you both, you’re both very welcome to the studio. First of all, Mr Kearns, are you surprised by the controversy that has engulfed this move .. several weeks, a couple of months after it was announced?”

Nicholas Kearns: “Very surprised. In Holles Street we are surprised and disappointed in particular by Dr Boylan’s late intervention in such a public way in this whole matter, it’s very difficult for us to understand, he’s a serving member of the Board, a board which voted by an overwhelming majority to approve this agreement, this is in a sense nothing new, the idea of moving to the campus in Elm Park has been there since 2003, through all these years that followed Dr Boylan has been working in the hospital up to his retirement last year, the proposal has been there, nothing has been changed, when these latest round of negotiations began in 2016 we spent up to six months battling for exactly the kind of independence and safety of the ethos and practice of Holles St we could possibly obtain and we are satisfied and I am satisfied, Sean, as a lawyer that the arrangements we have put in place for independence are legally accurate and sound.”

O’Rourke: “And that agreement, has it been published?”

Kearns: “The full terms of it have not been published, this was an exercise conducted on a confidential basis throughout by [workplace mediator] Kieran Mulvey.”

“At this stage might help if the whole thing was published and put out there and people could decide.”

“In effect, the Minister has disclosed the key elements in these reserved powers and I was frankly surprised that people are not reassured by the binding nature of these reserved powers, can I just run through them quickly? Firstly, as one of the main objectives for the agreement it provides that under this arrangement the new company, the hospital in Elm Park, will provide a range of health services in the community as heretofore, such operation and provision to be conducted in accordance with the newly agreed clinical governance arrangements for the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park by providing as far as possible by whatever manner and means from time to time available for the health happiness and welfare of those accepted as patients without religious or ethnic or other distinction and by supporting the work of all involved in the delivery of care to such patients and their families or guardians including research or investigation which may further such work. Now just very quickly the reserved powers and then I’ll stop. Continue reading

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Minister for Housing Simon Coveney

You may recall how yesterday new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed the national average house price rising by almost 11% in the year to February.

Some economists have blamed the Government’s Help To Buy scheme for fuelling the sharp rise in prices.

Further to this…

Last Sunday.

Architect Maoilíosa Reynolds wrote an article for the Sunday Business Post in which he raised serious concerns about the Department of Housing’s seemingly disingenuous methodology when it comes to calculating house building figures.

He explained that official house completion figures are based on connections to the ESB network. To this end, the department says 14,932 new homes were “delivered” in 2016.

But, he said:

“There are significant problems with this. When a dwelling has been vacant for two years or more, the ESB network requires the owner to apply for a new connection (MPRN). This is a safety measure designed to make sure vacant units are safe and wired correctly. Using this method, existing completed Nama vacant units, part-completed ‘ghost estate’ units and local authority refurbished voids, when re-connected to the grid, are all classified as new completions. In the five-year census period, almost 20,000 existing houses have been re-connected and therefore officially reclassified as new builds.”

Mr Reynolds also raised concerns about how commencement figures are calculated – and crucially inflated – for large housing estates.

He wrote:

“In larger, estate-type projects, the established practice is to lodge one commencement notice for an entire scheme which may not be completed for several years. A 400-unit estate which begins building today may only deliver 50 units in 2017 – but all 400 will be counted as commenced this year. As a result, estate commencement numbers are inflated.”

As for residential planning permissions, he wrote:

“Up to 40 per cent of residential permissions do not get built for various reasons – lack of finance, ‘value-add’ exercises or extensions to existing permissions.”

Bizarrely, Mr Reynolds explains that one metric can be trusted and that’s the Department of Housing’s own detailed database called the Building Control Management System (BCMS).

He explained:

“A presentation by Department of Housing representatives to Engineers Ireland last month disclosed BCMS completion figures – not published on the Department’s website – for 2016. According to the presentation, there were just 3,505 certificates of compliance issued for all building types (not just residential).

In some instances, a single certificate of compliance covers more than one unit, so it is thought that the true number of homes represented by completion certificates could be as much as 30 per cent higher. But the reality is we don’t know.

Assuming the 30 per cent figure is correct, this means that certificates of compliance may represent 4,556 units delivered, a figure that includes 243 local authority and 400 units for conversions of existing non-residential to residential (Department’s own estimate). Add in average figures for one-off housing commencements at 2,972, a maximum delivery number of 7,528 is reached, or just 50.4 per cent of the official figure of 14,932.

This is best-case scenario. The number is likely lower, as BCMS tracks all building types, but does not disaggregate residential from other activity.

This means that in 2016, new-build output was half the official figures and a minimum of 7,404 existing vacant, refurbished voids and ‘ghost estate’ units reconnected to the grid were double-counted as new completions.”

Why housebuilding figures aren’t reliable (The Sunday Business Post)

Further to this.

Keelin Shanley was speaking to the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on RTÉ’s News At One this afternoon when she raised the matter of Ireland’s official housing figures.

Keelin Shanley:If you want to solve a problem, the very first thing you have to do is quantify that problem and know exactly what you’re dealing with. There has been discrepancy over figures that are coming out. We see 4,400 new home transactions over the last 12 months, comparing to a figure of 15,000 coming from the department. Can you explain the difference here? Because a number of experts have tried.”

Simon Coveney: “No, look, we measure new house completions that same way now as we have done every year since the 1970s. It’s based on ESB connections so , in other words, when somebody comes into a house, they put in place an ESB connection to actually insure that that house has been lived in, that is what determines new completions. Last year, it was over 15,000. The year before just over 12,000. This year the anticipated figure will be about 19,000. And so…”

Shanley: “So, ESB connections, rather than new homes put in place. These can be homes being brought back in or…”

Coveney: “I can only, like, you know, I mean, if we, you know, if figures were showing a different result, you’d ask me a different question. All I can do is use the same methodology that we’ve always used. To measure new completions, so that we can see improving trends. And we are seeing a dramatic increase in house building activity in Ireland, mainly around the cities. It’s only starting in other…if you look at Co Galway, one of the biggest counties in the country, only one housing estate built in the last six years. If you look at a county like Tipperary, not a single housing estate built in the last five or six years. And we’re about to have 200 houses built outside Clonmel. So we are seeing increases. It is ramping up quickly but it will take time for that to turn into new homes, good quality communities and housing estates and significant [inaudible] needed in city centres.”

Talk over each other 

Coveney:Planning applications, for example in Dublin, for apartment complexes is up more than 200%. So the willingness is there. But look, we can’t…”

Shanley: “There is a lag..”

Coveney: “…ignore the fact that, but over the last six or seven years, we had a broken economy and at the heart of that was a broken construction sector we had a banking sector that didn’t function, many, many developers and builders went out of business. 200,000 people lost jobs on building sites. In the last 12 months there’s an extra 13,000 people working on building sites so we are rebuilding literally from a very, very low base. It is going to take some time to deliver a response on that, but it’s happening.”

Shanley:Minister, nobody disputes that, we’ve seen it. And that’s fair enough. I think everybody accepts that there is a lag. But even so, over the last 12 months, that figure of 4,400 new home transactions or 15,000 completions from the department, it’s still a very long way off from what’s actually needed and that’s with time. You know, they’re the most recent figures….”

Listen back in full here


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This lunchtime.

Hawkins House, Dublin 2.

A protest against the Sisters of Charity gaining ‘sole ownership’ of the new National Maternity Hospital.

It follows an online petition, against the Sisters of Charity getting sole ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital, gaining almost 60,000 signatures.

Earlier: 51,645 And Counting

Thanks Graeme Kelly


Top pic via Nicola McCafferty,


Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall  has called for an immediate halt to the hand-over of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity

Deputy Shortall said:

“The decision about the ownership and governance of the new National Maternity Hospital was made in secrecy and lacks any transparency and public accountability.

There are too many unanswered questions from the Minister and we need to see an immediate halt to the current process so that these questions about the ownership and the issue of ethos can be addressed. The Five questions I have are:

What is the justification for gifting a €300 million hospital, paid for with public money, to a private interest?

Why not just lease the site from the Religious Sisters of Charity?

Will the Minister publish the details of the agreement that was reached over the governance and ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital?

What assurances will women have that a Catholic ethos will not determine the range of medical interests available to them in the new hospital?

What will the exact composition of the new corporate entity be and why does the St Vincent’s Healthcare group have any place in that structure?