Tag Archives: Róisín Shortall

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Roisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats

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Article 44 from Bunreacht na hÉireann

The Minister for Health’s announcement that he will re-examine the proposal to hand ownership of the publicly-funded National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the privately owned St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is to be welcomed.

However, I would like to raise a matter of grave concern, hitherto overlooked, which needs to be addressed before any agreement on relocation can proceed.

At present, Article 44.2.5 of the Constitution confers on every religious denomination “the right to manage its own affairs, own, acquire and administer property, movable and immovable, and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.”

In the past the Supreme Court has emphasised the level of autonomy that this Article gives to religious organisations. It has been interpreted as conferring on religious institutions the right to apply their own doctrines in institutions under their ownership. It has also been successfully used to defeat well-founded cases taken against religious denominations under civil law.

For example, in a significant judgment in the 1979 case of McGrath and O Ruairc v The Trustees of Maynooth College, the Supreme Court cited Article 44.2.5 while upholding the right of the Bishop trustees of the college to dismiss two priests from their teaching posts because they wanted to leave the priesthood.

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) is an institution set up by a religious denomination, the Religious Sisters of Charity. As the company’s foundation document makes clear, SVHG is legally dedicated to providing healthcare, “in keeping with the mission of the Catholic Church,” and its facilities operate within that ethos. If the new National Maternity Hospital is part of the St Vincent’s group, it too will come under the umbrella of the Constitutional provision.

In return for being handed sole ownership of the new €300 million maternity hospital, SVHG says it will enter into agreements guaranteeing the clinical independence of the new hospital and permitting it to perform any medical procedures that are lawful in the land – presumably including abortions and various types of contraception including sterilisations.

However, I believe that if the current deal goes ahead, there will be inevitable conflict in the future over how much control St. Vincent’s is to have in the new hospital.

In light of Article 44.2.5, how can we be sure that in any future dispute over the interpretation or implementation of agreements on the new hospital, the courts would not favour the religious denomination and its Catholic ethos?

In the event of a dispute, it seems that the Supreme Court would have to ensure that the Constitutional protection for the religious order must prevail. A court might find it had no option but to favour the Constitution over any other civil contract or agreement, however solemnly and publicly it had been agreed upon by all the parties concerned.

In a prescient piece in this newspaper yesterday, Fintan O’Toole reminded us that a 1982 High Court ruling upholding the right of the Holy Faith nuns to sack school teacher Eileen Flynn because her lifestyle was not in keeping with the Catholic ethos of the order has never been overturned.

In my view, this grave constitutional complication is yet another reason why all parts of the deal that give St Vincent’s Hospital Group ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital should be dismantled, so that the new hospital remains in the hands of those who will pay for it and who will be relying on its services, the Irish public.

Róisín Shortall TD
Social Democrats
Leinster House
Dublin 2

State funds and private healthcare groups (The Irish Times letters page)


TDs Stephen Donnelly, Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

TDs Catherine Murphy, Róisín Shortall, and Stephen Donnelly have agreed to launch an exciting new political venture. Speaking today the three TDs confirmed they have been engaged in ongoing discussions for some time. An event will take place on Wednesday to outline further details.

In a joint statement the three TDs said: “We are excited to be working together to offer a new credible political choice to the Irish electorate.” No further comment will be made until the event on Wednesday.

There you go now.

Speaking in the Dáil last night Dr Reilly said Swords and Balbriggan were identified as high priority areas by the HSE five years ago. But both “lost out” after Minister of State Róisín Shortall increased the weighting attached to deprivation in selecting priority locations in which centres would be built.

“Multiplying the deprivation index by three, they lost out. They were swept from high priority to low priority. Under the original priority system both would have been in the top 35. However, under the new system with an altered weighting system they ended down the list.”

Just a minute there, Bottler.

According to documents obtained by the Irish Times:

…Balbriggan ranked 44th and Swords 127th in a draft list compiled last June – before Ms Shortall ordered officials to increase the weighting attached to deprivation.


Reilly gives different explanation for adding sites to list (Paul Cullen, Harry McGee, Niamh Sweeney, Irish Times)

(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)

A dangerous game…

THE FAILURE of senior Labour Ministers to back Róisín Shortall in her dispute with Minister for Health James Reilly was the deciding factor in her decision to resign as Minister of State, according to supporters.
The last straw for Ms Shortall came on Monday night when Labour leader Eamon Gilmore publicly backed Dr Reilly over his party colleague in a row about primary care centres, according to sources close to the former junior minister.
Her resignation has plunged Labour into its biggest political crisis since it entered Government in February 2011.

In fairness, that February 2011 crisis was a doozy…

Tánaiste’s backing for Reilly was ‘last straw’ for Shortall (Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

(Leon Farell/Photocall Ireland)

FINE GAEL and Labour Ministers have closed ranks behind Minister for Health James Reilly following the latest damaging row with his Labour Minister of State, Róisín Shortall.

As Dr Reilly defended his decision to add two locations in his constituency to a priority list for primary care centres, Ms Shortall publicly called on him to explain his rationale. Three times when questioned by reporters yesterday, she declined to express confidence in the Minister.

In a barbed response, Dr Reilly pointed out that his junior minister had voted for him in the Dáil no confidence vote on Wednesday, adding that “actions speak louder than words”.

There were no contacts between the two politicians yesterday.

*medium popcorn, bitter lemon, sour grapes*

Coalition Ministers close ranks behind Reilly in Shortall row (Paul Cullen/Martin Wall, Irish Times)

(Mark Stedman/EamonnFarrell/Photocall Ireland)