The proud record of Sisters of Mercy resistance to Black and Tan oppression cited by Breda O’Brien in today’s Irish Times is a new one on me, I must admit. It would almost make you forget the fact that the Sisters of Mercy also refused to contribute to a compensation fund for the victims of the Magdalene Laundries, the slave labour institutions that were owned and run by them.
The interesting thing about the Mater Misericordiae hospital -it means Mother of Mercy- is the way the Mercy of the hospital owned by the Sisters is dispensed in exchange for cold hard cash, cf Mater Private. Perhaps readers’ own mothers drove a similar hard bargain. Maybe there are women who present their children with an itemised bill for breastfeeding services.
So there is a tension between, on the one hand, the Sisters’ commitment to ease human suffering and protect Ireland from the brutal forces of Empire, and, on the other, their commitment to the State treating hospitals as private property, the site of capitalist enterprise.
So what if the Sisters’ fight here is not really about abortion at all, but about the forces of Ccmmunism encroaching on private property rights and in particular, the right to make a tidy sum from private medicine?
Breda O’Brien is a member of the Iona Institute: isn’t one of the Iona Institute patrons a founder of the Blackrock Clinic? I wonder.