The decision by Wexford General Hospital to remove the word ‘saint’ from its ward signs has been described as “disappointing” by the local bishop, questioning a tendency to suppress references to religious belief in Ireland’s public life.
The hospital revised the ward names after it drew down funding for
improved signage after opening a new Accident and Emergency department
and additional facilities.
Current policy is in favour of more secular ward names, but as a
compromise after a ‘straw poll’ of staff, the hospital decided to retain
the original names without the prefix ‘Saint’.
The wards are now called
Catherine’s, Joseph’s, Mary’s and Aidan’s.
“While I understand this was not an initiative of local management it
is disappointing to find long established religious nomenclature
removed without discussion or consultation,” Bishop Denis Brennan of
“I appreciate that naming of public spaces nowadays would need to be
approached differently,” he continued, “but if we feel we have to
retrospectively erase all reference to religious belief in our public
places we will end up with a very bland, colourless landscape, and one
which does not reflect our evolving story as a society.”
The bishop last year called for students of the 1916 Rising to
remember the influential role of religious faith in the lives of the
rebel leaders, who, he said, gave Irish people the confidence to
remember that we “a story to tell, and a destiny to realise”.
According to Lily Byrnes, General Manager at the hospital, the move
was an attempt to move forward while respecting tradition, and had been
met with a mixed response by visitors and staff.
The saints after whom the wards have been named, she told The Wexford People,
would not be forgotten as there was a proposal to commission artwork
containing information about the saints at the entrances to the wards.
Alan Corcoran, of Wexford’s South East Radio, told The Irish Catholic
there had been “a lot of reaction” to the news of the name changes, and
said that in a poll of over 400 text responses, “97% of those polled
called for the names to be reversed back to the names of the saints”.