Having Nun Of It

Anthony McIntyre has some thoughts on the National Maternity Hospital controversy.

Right now the only thing that can be said of the Irish health system with any accuracy is that it is a mess - Irish Times.
As it stands Holles Street Maternity Hospital is a “dilapidated, antiquated building not fit for purpose” in which health professions "are practising 21st-century medicine in a building that is crumbling.” That a plan to move and modernise has for the past fortnight been the source of a voluble and contentious public discussion seems incongruous in a modern society. As the Irish Times Opinion Editor put it:

It is strange state of affairs when a former president of the High Court has to come out and publicly declare that a new maternity hospital will not be run by nuns. But such is the level to which the debate about the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) moving to the St Vincent’s hospital campus has descended.

Women in Ireland have a right to the best medical care available and have justifiable fears about it being compromised in deference to an authoritarian religious institution. More progressive countries in the Global North and Central and Eastern Asia will likely look on aghast that there is even a suggestion that pregnant women in the 21st Century risk having their health care dictated to by women whose attire and attitude is more akin to a bygone age.  The image nuns project – or which is manipulated and manufactured by their critics – through their formal dress and religious opinion is one of witches, rather than health professionals, who favour magic over medicine.

Having a teenage daughter who might at some point need to avail of maternity services, I took to expressing the view that hospitals should be a safe space for Irish women by prioritising patients over priestcraft. I was amused to find myself treated to the accusation that I was an anti-Catholic bigot. That at least was a fresh addition to the repertoire of pejoratives I have experienced over the years.

In spite of this blinkered buffoonery, the debate should not, however, descend into one of exercising bragging rights over the Catholic Church where virtue signalling becomes a form of reverse discourse employed to allow some self-indulgent expression of Schadenfreude. The focus should remain firmly on asserting the rights of women to have their health care safeguarded from any form of superstition, religious or otherwise. Many who are happy for The Sisters of Charity to own a maternity hospital would howl if the same privilege were to be bestowed on the Islamic Centre. 

Doubtless, the sharp, at times strident, tone that has emanated from opponents of the move has been fuelled by the recent exposé of The Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours in Tuam, where:

No one, apart from a handful of Catholic extremists, denies that conditions in the home were grim, and that the women and children who lived and died there were gravely wronged.

Consequently, if as a result, "nuns in Ireland have been so stereotyped in Irish public debate that they have been reduced to the role of the villain in an old-fashioned Hammer horror movie", they have provided their detractors with an abundance of ammunition. 

No society should allow pregnant women to fall into the hands of religious institutions when there is  a serious conflict between religious teaching and best health care practice and where the religious opinion of nuns is considered more important than the health of women.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

7 comments to ''Having Nun Of It"

  1. These bastards are a generation down (not by their own making)from the dickeydodgers who so cruelly abused women and children from the moment the state gave them carte blanche,they fought and squirmed at every inquiry into their abuse and even though they were found guilty and ordered to pay compo ,they as far as I,m aware have still not paid out in full,even though their acquired wealth is in the ££billions,that the state would even consider giving these pervs the keys to a maternity hospital beggars belief,esp when a bishop states that"the catholic ethos should prevail"its a full on certainty that the abortion or the need for it will arise either through medical issues or rape or incest ,both of which the catholic church know so much about ,then we may have problems with young women being giving contraception advice "keep a smartie between your legs" that has,nt worked ,indeed giving these proven pervs and abusers the keys to a maternity hospital is akin to letting the lunatic,s run the asylum ,my honest opinion is that dickeydogers should do what they are best suited for ie, as a substitute for peat briquettes, sin é.

  2. I thought the Good Sisters did a fine job in administering the Laundries and it's occupants especially considering the difficult circumstances of dealing with so many harlots!
    I for one would have absolutely no hesitation in sending someone else's daughter in to their safe keeping!

  3. Niall your a cruel cunt are you sure your not a priest

  4. Niall

    Are you trying to steal my crown of chief mischief maker? I wonder what the 1916 Societies have to say about this? That is to my mind the danger of talking about a new Ireland under the banner of a century old mindset.

  5. Abortions a tricky one, on the one hand im all for murder,but on the other im against giving women any choice.(haha)

  6. Marty,
    I have never been insulted so much in my life, priest indeed! How dare you Sir! I take no exception to being referred to as 'cunt'

    Certainly not, that crown would never fit my head! Keep up the good work!

  7. I remember a nun in the maternity ward in Letterkenny General Hospital some 30 odd years ago. She was a tyrant and made my wife, who was non religious even back then, feel terrible. If anyone who experienced the after effects of pethidine would know what it would be like to wake up to a repressed hag in a penguin suit reprimanding the mother for trying to breast feed her first born. (oh that's disgusting hide it away). My wife could not stick the abuse and I had no choice but to take her out early.


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