‘Against the Tide’ – Noël Browne


Sir, – In marking the 30th anniversary of the publication of Noël Browne’s autobiography, Against the Tide, Michael O’Regan underplays, if anything, the absurdity of the opposition to the 1951 mother and child scheme (“The furthest thing from a career politician”, December 26th).

Browne had been impressed by the United Kingdom’s comprehensive National Health Service, which had been welcomed by the English Catholic hierarchy as a manifestation of Catholic social teaching as espoused in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum.

Confronted with the highest infant mortality in western Europe, Browne, as minister of health, planned to provide free medical care for expectant mothers and their children.

This was described by the Irish Catholic hierarchy as “a ready-made instrument for future totalitarian aggression”.

The primate of All Ireland, Cardinal John Dalton, Archbishop of Armagh, declined to say why NHS principles could not cross the Border.

The collapse of the scheme may have been a setback for John A Costello, which brought down his government, but it was a calamity for the women and children of Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.