National Maternity Hospital, Dublin

Coordinates: 53°20′23″N 6°14′47″W / 53.339681°N 6.246308°W / 53.339681; -6.246308
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National Maternity Hospital
Health Service Executive
National Maternity Hospital, Ireland
National Maternity Hospital, Dublin is located in Central Dublin
National Maternity Hospital, Dublin
Shown in Dublin
LocationDublin, Ireland
Coordinates53°20′23″N 6°14′47″W / 53.339681°N 6.246308°W / 53.339681; -6.246308
Care systemHealth Service Executive (HSE)
FundingPublic hospital
Emergency departmentYes
SpecialityMaternity hospital

The National Maternity Hospital (Irish: An tOspidéal Náisiúnta Máithreachais), popularly known as Holles Street Hospital, is a large maternity hospital in Ireland. It is at the eastern corner of Merrion Square, at its junction with Holles Street and Lower Mount Street in Dublin. It is managed by Ireland East Hospital Group.[1]


An illustration of Antrim House prior to demolition

The hospital was established through charitable donations in 1894 and received a royal charter, in line with other maternity hospitals in Dublin, in 1903.[2] The Linen Guild, a charity to help mothers and babies in need of financial assistance, was established in 1912.[3]

Elizabeth O'Farrell, a member of Cumann na mBan, served as a midwife, training and working in Holles Street in the early years of the 20th century before carrying the white flag delivering the surrender at the Easter Rising in 1916.[4] The hospital became the first such facility to benefit from the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake which funded extensive redevelopment in the 1930s.[5] Antrim House, the former home of the Earls of Antrim on Merrion Square, was demolished to facilitate the construction of the hospital by G&T Crampton, in 1936.[6][7] A new Charter was received in 1936 altering the governance of the hospital such that it was administered by a board consisting of the Archbishop of Dublin (or a representative) as chair of the board, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, two City Councillors and two nominees of the Minister of Health.[8]

In 1998, Holles Street set up the Domino (Domiciliary Care In and Out of Hospital) and Home birth scheme through its team of community midwives.[9] The National Maternity Hospital Foundation, a charity which raises funds for a number of projects in the hospital with special emphasis on the neonatal intensive care unit, was established in 2012.[10]

Controversy over involvement of the Religious Sisters of Charity[edit]

In May 2013 it was announced that the hospital would relocate to the site of St. Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, a hospital founded by Mother Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the order Religious Sisters of Charity, in 1834.[11]

The new hospital was projected to cost €300 million, and be paid for by the Irish state.[12] The trust ownership of the hospital associated with the Sisters of Charity (an order of Catholic religious sisters) caused controversy.[13][14][15] The Sisters of Charity had been involved in scandals related to abuse in Magdalene Laundries. The proposed hospital transfer raised questions about the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland in the provision of healthcare in Ireland.[16][17]

In April 2017, a former Master of the NMH, Dr Peter Boylan, resigned from the board over the influence of the Sisters on the new hospital.[18] By 3 May 2017, a petition to oppose their becoming the sole owners had been signed by more than 100,000 people.[19] A protest of 200 people took place outside the Department of Health on 20 April 2017.[20][21]

The then–Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Rhona Mahony stated that the hospital would be independent and "the nuns will not be running this hospital, it will not be under Catholic ethos. It will be completely independent",[22][23] and privately complained that "the feminists are going to unravel this fantastic hospital for women".[24]

The Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran said that the Religious Sisters of Charity would have to obey the rules of the Roman Catholic church if they became owners of the National Maternity Hospital, and to follow teachings on "the value of human life and the dignity and the ultimate destiny of the human person".[24]

On 29 May 2017, in response to weeks of pressure and public outrage, the Sisters of Charity announced that they were ending their direct role in St Vincent's Healthcare Group and would not be involved in the ownership or management of the new hospital; the two sisters on the board resigned.[18] Dr. Rhona Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital, said: "The religious Sisters of Charity never sought to have a role in the operation of the new hospital and even in the absence of the Sisters planned withdrawal from clinical healthcare in Ireland the operational independence of the new hospital was always guaranteed under the terms of the Mulvey agreement which underpins all ensuing legal arrangements."[25]

In 2022, ownership of the order's shares in SVHG was transferred to a newly formed company, St Vincent's Holdings. Concerns continued to be expressed about control and procedures available should the transfer of the National Maternity Hospital go through, especially as statements indicated that some procedures would be performed only "where clinically indicated" - precluding in vitro fertilisation and elective sterilisation or abortion services.[26][27]

The current board of the National Maternity Hospital consists of 15 men (including a Roman Catholic priest), and ten women.[28]

Controversy over mistaken abortion[edit]

In early 2019, a couple was advised that the baby the woman was carrying had a fatal foetal abnormality, Trisomy 18. An abortion was performed at the National Maternity Hospital sometime after 15 weeks. A series of genetic tests later found that was not the case, and that there had been a misdiagnosis. Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín stated that the family were shocked “by allegations that the medical professionals signing off on the abortions have a commercial interest in the companies that produced the fatally insufficient test”. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated the government would conduct an independent review.[29]


The hospital, which is the national referral centre for complicated pregnancies, premature and sick infants, delivers over 7,000 babies per year.[30] The number of births it handles has increased by 50 per cent since the early 1990s.[11]

In June 2019, the Holles Street Hospital began work on an extension to the labour and delivery unit while awaiting relocation to the new facility which is not expected to be completed until 2024.[31]

Former masters[edit]

List of former Masters:[32]

  • 1885–1893 William Roe
  • 1894–1908 P J Barry
  • 1909–1922 Andrew J Horne
  • 1923–1924 R T White
  • 1924–1931 P T McArdle
  • 1932–1941 J F Cunningham
  • 1942–1948 Alex W Spain
  • 1949–1955 Arthur P Barry
  • 1956–1962 Charles F V Coyle
  • 1963–1969 Kieran O’Driscoll
  • 1970–1976 Declan Meagher
  • 1977–1983 Dermot W MacDonald
  • 1984–1990 John M Stronge
  • 1991–1997 Peter Boylan
  • 1998–2004 Declan Keane
  • 2005–2011 Michael Robson
  • 2012–2018 Rhona Mahony
  • 2019–present Shane Higgins


  1. ^ "Six hospital groups 'most fundamental reform in decades'". Irish Medical Times. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Departmental bodies". Dáil Éireann. 19 February 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  3. ^ "The Linen Guild". National Maternity Hospital. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  4. ^ Frances Clarke and James Quinn (2015). "O'Farrell, Elizabeth" (PDF). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  5. ^ 'Dublin since 1922' By Tim Carey, Hachette Ireland, 2016.
  6. ^ "National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, 1st and 2nd section". 12 June 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  7. ^ "A short history of Merrion Square". Turtle Bunbury. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  8. ^ National Maternity Hospital, Dublin (Charter Amendment) Act 1936 (No. 2P of 1936). Enacted on 22 May 1936. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 16 May 2021.
  9. ^ "The Domino Scheme Explained". 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Our Mission". National Maternity Hospital Foundation. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  11. ^ a b Reilly, Gavan (27 May 2013). "National Maternity Hospital to leave Holles St in €150m move". Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  12. ^ Boylan, Peter (21 April 2017). "Peter Boylan: New maternity hospital should not be given to Sisters of Charity". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  13. ^ O'Toole, Emer (20 April 2017). "The Sisters of Charity presided over abuse. They must not run a maternity hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  14. ^ Harrison, Shane (20 April 2017). "Anger over nuns' role in National Maternity Hospital". BBC News. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  15. ^ Molloy, Amy (20 April 2017). "National maternity hospital explainer: The nuns, the €300m in taxpayer's money, and the suddenly-quiet health minister". Irish Independent. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  16. ^ O'Toole, Fintan (25 April 2017). "Church control of hospitals maintains myth of charity". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  17. ^ McGarry, Patsy (25 April 2017). "The RTÉ campus may be a better site for the National Maternity Hospital". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b Henry McDonald (29 May 2017). "Sisters of Charity give up role in Dublin maternity hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  19. ^ Quinn, Jack (19 April 2017). "Petition to block religious ownership of National Maternity Hospital exceeds target". Newstalk. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  20. ^ Burns, Sarah (20 April 2017). "Hundreds protest over National Maternity Hospital ownership". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  21. ^ Molloy, Amy (20 April 2017). "'This is an insult to abuse survivors' - Protesters on the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital". Irish Independent. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  22. ^ Clarke, Vivienne (20 April 2017). "National Maternity Hospital 'will be completely independent' - Mahony". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  23. ^ Clarke, Vivienne; Cullen, Paul; Minihan, Mary (26 April 2017). "Rhona Mahony: New hospital will revolutionise healthcare for women and children". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  24. ^ a b McCarthy, Justine (23 April 2017). "Bishop says new hospital must obey the church". The Sunday Times. p. 1. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  25. ^ Burns, Sarah (8 February 2018). "Construction of new National Maternity Hospital to begin later this year". The Irish Times.
  26. ^ Duffy, Rónán (28 April 2022). "Sisters of Charity transfer share of hospital group to charity, lifting obstacle to NMH plans". The Journal. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  27. ^ O'Regan, Eilish (3 May 2022). "Former master of National Maternity Hospital raises concerns over relocation". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  28. ^ "Meet the Board". National Maternity Hospital. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  29. ^ "Peadar Tóibín tells Dáil that family at centre of Holles Street termination case believe it was an 'illegal abortion'", The Journal, June 12 2019
  30. ^ "National Report 2020" (PDF). HSE.
  31. ^ O'Doherty, Caroline. "National Maternity Hospital to be extended despite plans for relocation", Irish Examiner, June 05, 2019
  32. ^ "Clinical Report 1993" (PDF). National Maternity Hospital, Dublin. p. 5. Retrieved 6 May 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Farmar, Tony (1994). Holles Street, 1894-1994: The National Maternity Hospital - A Centenary History. A. & A. Farmar. ISBN 978-1899047031.

External links[edit]