Maternity restrictions still cast a shadow over Irish pregnancies as activists ‘ignored’ by government


Protesters will descend on Leinster House today demanding better services for women.

Activists are not only protesting against Covid restrictions that prevent partners from going to hospital with pregnant women, but also against the level of maternity services in general.


Many hospitals still need to ease maternity restrictionsCredit: Alamy
TD of the Social Democrats, Holly Cairns


TD of the Social Democrats, Holly Cairns

While many hospitals have eased restrictions slightly, many are still playing it tough.

The government will not commit to all maternity restrictions being relaxed on October 22, despite almost all other restrictions lifted by that date.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said it could not be a “one size fits all” when it comes to maternity restrictions.

Writing in the Irish Sun today, Holly Cairns, Social Democrats TD, says the restrictions still cast a shadow over what should be a very happy time in women’s lives.


Last month, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly released a report on a “radical listening” exercise aimed at hearing women’s voices on health issues.

He said: “Listening to women is the cornerstone of our work on women’s health … what we need, and what we are working on is a revolution in women’s health care. . “

Sadly, Minister Donnelly appears to have developed a hearing problem since embarking on his radical listening exercise – and, if you’re looking for a revolution in women’s health care, you won’t find it in maternity hospitals in the country.

When it comes to maternity, no one listens to women, neither the minister, nor his government, nor the HSE, nor the maternity ward. Incredibly, despite the fact that most of society has now reopened, restrictions in motherhood continue to cause women and their partners tremendous distress and anxiety.


Women are separated from their partners for much of the work; visiting hours have been severely reduced and partners are still prohibited from attending antenatal appointments.

The situation has now become so far-fetched that from October 22 you can go to a nightclub, but partners will still be told to wait in the parking lot when they arrive at a maternity hospital.

I first raised this question in the Dail in June 2020, when the company opened for the summer but restrictions in maternity hospitals remained in place. I never dreamed that I would raise him again more than a year later – and that so little progress would have been made.

I, and a number of other Oireachtas members, met with HSE last week to discuss the restrictions and try to determine if there was a plan in place to lift them.


We explained the trauma caused by the restrictions, the worry of women and the fact that they cast a shadow over what should be a very happy time in women’s lives.

It was extremely disappointing, if not surprising, to learn that while the rest of society has a plan to reopen, there is no similar plan for maternity hospitals. Instead, the only thing guaranteed to us is the continuation of a geographic lottery in which the restrictions are more extreme in some hospitals than others.

The only hospital that lifted restrictions and returned to access before the pandemic is Galway University Hospital. The lifting of the restrictions was a huge success there, so why are other hospitals refusing to follow suit?

One of the most infuriating aspects of this is that no one will say when these restrictions end. No one seems to be in charge. It appears more and more that we could immunize 100% of the population, and restrictions would still be in place in maternity hospitals.


There were promises that these restrictions would end before – most notably, when Minister Donnelly said they would disappear by the end of the day on June 21 – but time and time again, those promises have always been broken.

Minister Donnelly says she is a fan of radical listening, but women have now been calling for these restrictions to be lifted for over a year. We have called, emailed, written, lobbied, signed petitions, granted interviews, wrote articles and did all we could to make our voices heard. Despite this, we are still ignored.

Enough is enough. The only thing left to do is take to the streets, so that’s what’s happening. A demonstration is organized in front of Leinster House today at 1 p.m.

Protesters will demand an end to these cruel restrictions and the publication of a roadmap for the reopening of maternity services, using voices so loud the minister will have to listen.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said it could not be a 'one size fits all' when it comes to maternity restrictions


Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said it could not be a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to maternity restrictionsCredit: Paul Sharp


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