National Maternity Hospital, Dublin

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Holles Street Hospital

The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, popularly known as Holles Street Hospital, is the largest maternity hospital in Ireland. Established through charitable donations in 1894, the hospital delivers over 10,000 babies per year. It is the national referral centre for complicated pregnancies, premature and sick infants. The main hospital building at Holles Street dates to the 1930s, but the complex has seen little substantial expansion in the last half-century, while the number of births it handles has increased by 50 per cent in the last two decades.[1]

The hospital is located at the eastern corner of Merrion Square, at its junction with Holles Street and Lower Mount Street.


In 1903 the Hospital received a Royal Charter, as had the other maternity hospitals in Dublin. Holles Street was the first hospital to benefit from the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake which funded extensive redevelopment in the 1930s,[2] In 1936 Antrim House on Merrion Square, was demolished to enable the development of the Hospital. Also in the 1930s the governance was altered specifying the Archbishop of Dublin (or a representative) as Chair of the board; the Lord Mayor of Dublin; and two City Councillors. The Minister of Health nominates two other members of the board.

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.[3]

List of former Masters:

1885-1893 William Roe 1894-1908 P J Barry

                 Andrew J Horne

1909-1922 A J Horne

                 R T White

1923 A J Horne

                 P T McArdle

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 J Meagher 1977-1983 Dermot W MacDonald 1984-1990 John M Stronge 1991-1997 Peter Boylan 1998-2004 Declan Keane 2005-2011 Michael Robson 2012- Rhona Mahony. Shane Higgins has been selected to succeed Rhona Mahony in 2019.

NMH Foundation[edit]

The National Maternity Hospital Foundation is a charity which raises funds for a number of projects in the Holles St. Hospital, with special emphasis on the neo-natal intensive care unit.[4] Fun runs, Golf Classics and Fashion Shows are examples of some of the events used fund raising.

Linen Guild[edit]

The Linen Guild was established in 1912. It is a charity to help mothers and babies in extreme poverty in Dublin. Its aim in the early years was to ensure no baby left hospital without a layette of night clothes, woollen jacket, nappies and a Foxford woollen blanket. Today its aim is to raise funds, for those mothers in need of financial assistance. (see also Maternity package.)

People associated with Holles Street[edit]

Elizabeth O'Farrell a member of Cumann na mBan, carried the white flag delivering the surrender in the Easter Rising of 1916. She became a midwife, training and working in Holles Street. The annual award for academic excellence in midwifery is named in her honour.

The hospital is the setting for the 'Oxen of the Sun' episode of James Joyce's novel Ulysses (1922).

Controversy over involvement of the Catholic Church[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 in 1834 on by Mother Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the order Religious Sisters of Charity.[1]

The new hospital is projected to cost €300 million, and be paid for by the Irish state.[5] The decision to give the ownership of the hospital to its founders, the Sisters of Charity (an order of Roman Catholic nuns) caused controversy.[6][7][8] The Sisters of Charity were involved in scandals about abuse related to the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. The Citizens' Assembly delivered a report about the Eighth Amendment and Irish abortion law, and the controversy about the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway. This hospital transfer is being used to talk about the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland today.[9][10]

In April Dr. Peter Boylan, one of Ireland's most respected obstetricians, resigned from the board over influence of the Sisters on the new hospital.[11] As of 3 May 2017 a petition to oppose their becoming the sole owners had been signed by more than 100,000 people.[12][13] A protest of 200 people took place outside the Department of Health on 20 April 2017,[14][15] and a protest in Limerick.[16]

The 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",[17][18] and has privately complained that "the feminists are going to unravel this fantastic hospital for women".[19]

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 become 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".[19]

On 29 May 2017, in response to weeks of pressure and public outrage, the Sisters of Charity announced that they were ending their 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.[11]


  1. ^ a b Reilly, Gavan (27 May 2013). "National Maternity Hospital to leave Holles St in €150m move". Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  2. ^ 'Dublin since 1922' By Tim Carey, Hachette Ireland, 2016.
  3. ^ "The Domino Scheme Explained". April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Our Mission". National Maternity Hospital Foundation. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  5. ^ Boylan, Peter (21 April 2017). "Peter Boylan: New maternity hospital should not be given to Sisters of Charity". The Irish Times.
  6. ^ O'Toole, Emer (20 April 2017). "The Sisters of Charity presided over abuse. They must not run a maternity hospital". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Harrison, Shane (20 April 2017). "Anger over nuns' role in National Maternity Hospital". BBC News.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ O'Toole, Fintan (25 April 2017). "Church control of hospitals maintains myth of charity". The Irish Times.
  10. ^ McGarry, Patsy (25 April 2017). "The RTÉ campus may be a better site for the National Maternity Hospital". The Irish Times.
  11. ^ a b Henry McDonald (29 May 2017). "Sisters of Charity give up role in Dublin maternity hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Block Sisters of Charity as 'sole owners' of National Maternity Hospital". Uplift.
  13. ^ Quinn, Jack (19 April 2017). "Petition to block religious ownership of National Maternity Hospital exceeds target". Newstalk.
  14. ^ Burns, Sarah (20 April 2017). "Hundreds protest over National Maternity Hospital ownership". The Irish Times.
  15. ^ Molloy, Amy (20 April 2017). "'This is an insult to abuse survivors' - Protesters on the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital". Irish Independent.
  16. ^ @LmkFeminist (23 April 2017). "Photos from we own #ourhospital protest in Limerick with speakers from @parents_4choice @ClareARC1 & @LmkFeminist Thanks to all who attended" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ Clarke, Vivienne (20 April 2017). "National Maternity Hospital 'will be completely independent' - Mahony". The Irish Times.
  18. ^ Clarke, Vivienne; Cullen, Paul; Minihan, Mary (26 April 2017). "Rhona Mahony: New hospital will revolutionise healthcare for women and children". The Irish Times.
  19. ^ a b McCarthy, Justine (23 April 2017). "Bishop says new hospital must obey the church". The Sunday Times. p. 1.

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