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Archbishop forced to stay hospital chair

By December 20, 2009News

Sunday Times – 20 December 2009

Justine McCarthy

The Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has been prevented from quitting the board of the National Maternity hospital even though he has not attended a meeting since becoming chairman nearly six years ago.

His position as ex-officio chairman of the hospital’s board of governors, which he inherited on his installation as archbishop in April 2004, has been criticised in the Dail by Ciarán Cuffe, a Green TD, as “not appropriate”.

A spokesman for Martin said the prelate has no interest in being a hospital governor and that he had previously tried to vacate the position, but was told it would necessitate an act of the Oireachtas.

Cuffe said: “In light of this news, I intend discussing it with the minister for health. In fairness to the archbishop, he has already indicated his willingness to work at new models of involvement in education and now it seems he’s willing to do the same at the National Maternity hospital.”

Martin is also the chairman of Crumlin Children’s hospital.

Since publication of the Murphy commission’s report on the Dublin archdiocese, which contained accounts of crimes against children committed by Fr Ivan Payne and “Fr Edmondus” (a pseudonym) who were both chaplains of Crumlin hospital, there have been calls for the withdrawal of bishops from chairing any hospital board.

Under the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin (Charter Amendment) Act 1936, the archbishop of Dublin automatically becomes chairman of the National Maternity hospital. The board also statutorily comprises three priests: the parish priests of Haddington Road and Sandymount and the administrator of St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, who acts as hospital chaplain. Martin’s spokesman said the archbishop considers the board “an anachronistic structure”.

The chairmanship of the National Maternity hospital could be drawn into debates about embryo safeguards, abortion and assisted fertility.

“The board structure of the National Maternity hospital is a throwback to another era. It should be concerned about medical ethics, not sexual morality,” said the Irish Family Planning Association.