A decision by Ireland’s Department of Health to give the Sisters of Mercy the “sole ownership” of the new National Maternity Hospital has left thousands furious.

At the time of writing a petition asking the Government to reconsider the move has been signed by 40,000 and rising.

The Sisters of Charity were previously lambasted in the 2009 Ryan Report into child abuse as one of Ireland’s most culpable institutions; in part they were responsible for the management of the Magdalene Laundries which infamously imprisoned women who gave birth to children out of wedlock.

The petitions says the institution owes €3 million to survivors but is refusing to hand over the cash.

The petition demands, “Show the state we will not allow the abuse of our babies, children, and women to be swept under the rug… Deny them 'sole' ownership. Demand they formally apologise and pay redress.”

Emily Duffy who works for the group, Uplift, that started the petition told Newstalk she was delighted with the response.

"This is an issue that people in Ireland are clearly outraged about,” she said.

"It's rare we see a petition go viral so rapidly, and it shows that people are deeply troubled by the State's utter disregard for the many victims of abuse which took place in institutions run by orders such as the Sisters of Charity."

"At a time where the Government claims it won’t be able to expand the redress scheme because of huge financial implications for the State - the refusal of the Sisters of Charity to pay their fair share is even more offensive and damaging to survivors and their families."

Statue of Virgin Mary outside St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

Statue of Virgin Mary outside St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the operation of the hospital would be completely independent and free of Catholic ethos and the Department of Health confirmed, "This independence will be assured by the reserved powers which are set out in the agreement and which will be copper fastened by the golden share which will be held by the Minister for Health."

However their assurances failed to satisfy opposition legislator Bríd Smith from the People Before Profit party.

"This decision is an insult to those victims of church abuse who went to the redress scheme and who know the foot dragging and contempt this order has shown over the last decades in relation to paying up for their past crimes,” she said.

"But it’s also an insult to the women of this country today who are demanding a repeal of the Eighth Amendment [that prohibits abortion in Ireland] and the right to choose. Despite reassurances they know that religious run hospitals will place roadblocks on their rights if it contravenes their religious beliefs.

"How can independence be guaranteed when the announcement states the hospital is been 'handed over to the order?'

"Telling us that the order has no role in the day to day running of the facility is not reassuring if there are other avenues to enforce its beliefs on the operations and workings of the hospital and the services it provides. These questions need to be answered in the Dáil."

A demonstration outside the Department of Health has been organized by the Workers’ Party.