Archbishop Martin defends Sisters of Charity and calls for ‘voluntary element’ in NMH

Archbishop Martin defends Sisters of Charity and calls for ‘voluntary element’ in NMH Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has defended the Sisters of Charity and believes there should be a voluntary component to the new National Maternity Hospital.

This comes as the Sisters of Charity released a statement last month saying they intend to end their involvement in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

There was criticism over the nuns’ involvement in the hospital, with many saying a religious ethos would affect the future procedures that would be offered in the upgraded facility.

Archbishop Martin said that the nuns have helped many people in poverty access education and healthcare.


“What sprung from those extraordinary women in the 18th Century was a great tradition of caring for the poor. St Vincent’s hospital was the first hospital in Ireland that was run by women,” he said.

“I think we shouldn’t forget that tradition, and we shouldn’t be making comments that simply the nuns brought a negative contribution, but we have to move on to a new situation.”

He added that a hospital with a voluntary element helps to provide a positive ethos, not a religious ethos in particular, which ensures the best happens in a hospital.

“I think it’s better than the one that tends to be bureaucratic and distant, and I think the important thing is there’s a board in the NMH that carries out that tradition,” he said.

He admitted that currently the National Maternity Hospital is not a Catholic hospital, and that he sees nobody asking that it should be.

However he said that the sisters would certainly want the broad tradition of their foundress to be maintained, which would be quality healthcare for the poor, and a tradition of “enriching and protecting” the dignity of people in hospital.

He added there are areas in the Church’s teachings that are quite clear, and that “the protection of unborn, and need for protection of the mother, is a good policy and guide” for the new hospital.