The secrets of Ireland’s lunatic asylums

In the News podcast: Thousands of people were placed in institutions – often for decades

Eddie Lough at Our Lady’s Hospital in Ennis, Co Clare: Before Our Lady’s closed 20 years ago, the former assistant chief nursing officer took it upon himself to salvage its extensive paper archives. Photograph: Eamon Ward

The name lunatic asylum could scarcely be more ugly or more ill-fitting today but for more than one hundred years that is what many imposing buildings dotted around Ireland were known as.

While the buildings remain, healthcare has moved on. Some of the structures built in pre-Famine Ireland have been converted into hospitals while others lie derelict.

But what happened in those buildings? And what impact did they have on Irish society?

Through interviews and archive research, Rosita Boland was able to paint a picture of what life was like inside the walls of these state-run institutions.


And she discovered that for many of the thousands of Irish citizens who passed through them, mental illness was not the only reason, or even a reason at all.

People spent years – even decades – effectively incarcerated in some of the institutions often without any medical reason whatsoever.

In today's In The News podcast Rosita Boland tells Conor Pope talks about the forgotten history of Ireland's asylums.

You can listen to the podcast here:


Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor