Maternity Hospitals in Ireland / Open Letter to Stephen Donnelly

October 17, 2020 § Leave a comment

My home country of Ireland has a long history- and present- of violating the rights of women across myriad metrics: from the Magdalene laundries to the low prosecutions in rape cases to the wage disparity that is still ongoing and on and on…

The current situation we all find ourselves in with the pandemic has already proven to be taking its toll most on the women of the world, again across many (very easily accessed by googling) metrics. This post is about a specific situation here that is both close to my heart as a woman and as a sister to a woman pregnant with twins due to give birth in the next ten days…

“the World Health Organisation states: ‘All women have the right to a safe and positive childbirth experience, whether or not they have a confirmed COVID-19 infection.’

You are still entitled to:

  • Respect and dignity
  • A companion of choice
  • Clear communication by maternity staff
  • Pain relief strategies
  • And mobility where possible and birth position of choice”

(Taken from )

Ireland is currently in violation of this, as can be seen by reading the stories on 

I have been infuriated reading the stories and also at the way my sister has not been allowed to have me with her during scans- a lot of which could have been bad news for her as she has had- and continues to have- a very challenging pregnancy with many issues throughout. I wrote a letter to our health minster Stephen Donnelly on October 1st and the only response I received was:

Dear Ms. Kilty,
The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D.has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your recent email regarding maternity restrictions.
Yours sincerely,
Miriam Rooney.
Private Secretary to the Minister for Health

So now I am posting it here in the hopes that more people will be made aware of what is going on and perhaps feel moved to also write to him and perhaps he or our Taoiseach or our Tánaiste or our president or SOMEONE in our government will address this situation with an actual plan moving forward where the human rights of our pregnant women are honoured instead of the same old scéal we Irish women have been dealing with since time began…

Dear Mr. Donnelly

I would like to know when the horrific and inhumane policy of leaving women without their partners through scans, birth and the days that follow the birth will end? As you are I am sure aware, this goes against WHO’s recommendations and is viewed as a human right’s violation by them and from seeing the situation across Europe and how other countries are handling it, by all of them too.

I and a number of others have been tagging you in the ‘inourshoes’ instagram account highlighting stories from women going through the experience of giving birth- an always physically, mentally and emotionally taxing experience- now doing it alone. There are not enough midwives and nurses to give full support to these women, it is their partner that provides them with the needed personal care, and that’s without mentioning the husbands, wives, partners and birthing partners not getting to meet the baby for however long the mother and/or baby needs to be in hospital. 

As someone with children, I am sure you are aware of the importance of the partner being there for the new mother and if not, I’m sure your wife could tell you. And I am also sure you would feel distraught knowing your wife and/or baby was in distress and you were not there to help… I understand that these are unprecedented times but it seems there has been no thought whatsoever given to the mental health implications to any of the covid measures that have been brought in- mental health IS your health. And women’s health as always is put last- we have cervical checks on hold and women giving birth without their all important support system, not to mention those holding dying babies in their arms alone.

I have a vested interest in this as someone who is the birth partner for my sister- she is pregnant with twins, doing it on her own, and has had serious complications throughout her pregnancy. She NEEDS support in the days that will follow her c-section. It is just not possible for the hospital to give it to her as the nurses have all the mothers and babies born that day in their care. Is the government going to pay for the mental health support she and every other woman doing this may need after the experience? Or is this another case of it’s ‘only women’ so who bloody cares what they are going through? An attitude we have seen for FAR too long in this country… I am certain if it were men that gave birth, this would not even be a debate, and certainly Prof. Shane “appropriate and pragmatic” Higgins would have a more rounded view of what care is.

I understand it has been brought up in the Dáil and guidelines are apparently being put together by a Dr. Peter McKenna- WHY is it not a woman doctor, preferably one who has been through birth, perhaps one who has been through a tough birth, putting together the guidelines?? Perhaps then empathy wouldn’t be required, just compassion. And compassion is needed.

With that, I understand what a challenging job you find yourself in. And I need you to understand what a challenging job birth is for these women- please SUPPORT THEM. Please buck the trend of men making decisions that impact women in the harshest ways and stand up for women instead- not by doing what a group of men think is best for them but by LISTENING TO WOMEN AND DOING THAT INSTEAD. We know what is best for us. It is time for us to be heard and trusted with our own health- as we can see in the cervical check tragedy, it is PAST time for women to be heard.

With wishes for health for you and yours- please support the health of my sister and all other women going through pregnancy and birth.

Le meas, Laura 

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