Comments made by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett criticising the Sisters of Charity after the order moved to wind down a Dublin nursing home have been described as “blinkered”.
Mr Boyd Barrett – a People Before Profit member of the Dáil – described the sisters as “property magnates” who seem “to have lost any interest in the workers or the residents in the nursing homes” after the decision was made by the board of St Mary’s Centre in Dublin to close the nursing home.
Historian Gabriel Doherty, who has written about the contribution of religious sisters to Irish healthcare, told The Irish Catholic: “I think the most charitable commentary is that they are simply the reflex of an individual who appears to view every situation through the lens of anti-Catholic bias, and is, perhaps, too ideologically blinkered to respond to the actual tragedy that has unfolded in many care homes over recent months.”
Dr Doherty – who lectures in University College Cork – was referring to the disproportionate number of deaths of residents in nursing homes in the coronavirus pandemic.
“On the one hand he believes the nuns have no place in the provision of such social services, yet also criticises them for the manner in which they are withdrawing from same,” he said.
“The fact is that it was these nuns, in this as in so many other cases, who for decades made provision for the socially needy, when the state was either unable or unwilling to shoulder the burden of same, or indifferent to same.
“The exclusive focus on the negative aspects in the practice of that provision – and that there were negative aspects cannot be denied – has led many to generalise from these worst cases, and represent them not just as typical but invariable. But that was never the case, and it has not been the case now,” according to Dr Doherty.
He added that care homes were “effectively abandoned” by the State during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland “with horrendous consequences”.
“Yet the consequent damage (including many deaths) is seen by Mr Boyd Barrett as a reason why that same State should take over the running of those same homes,” he said.
Senator Rónán Mullen, responding to Mr Boyd Barrett’s comments, said the nursing home closure was part of a “sad story of decline in the ability of our religious orders and congregations to run health and care services of various kinds which they did for so long and so well in the majority of cases”.
He continued saying it’s also about a “growing culture of compliance and regulation”, and increasing dependence on the State for resources.
“Richard Boyd Barrett’s comments show up the oftentimes cruelty and irresponsibility of the hard left. Is he saying that the State should fund and run all nursing homes? Let’s have that debate.
“Is he saying that all privately-owned nursing homes should be seized by the State, instead of being bought out at a price that reflects the contribution of previous owners and donors and the latterday investment by the State?
“Or is it just religious-owned and managed facilities which he thinks should be seized by the State? If that’s his view then it’s another case of a politician’s views being clouded by his hostility to faith and religious belief,” Senator Mullen added.