Lifestyle – How state asylums like St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe defined psychiatry in Ireland for generations and became an intrinsic part of the country for more than a century. Judy Murphy talks to Brendan Kelly about his latest book on the subject.
Home. It’s a small, powerful word that conjures up images of people and places and the inextricable bonds that bind them. The many manifestations of home will be discussed at this year’s Galway International Arts Festival via 18 talks, debates and discussions which will explore everything from the monastic beehive huts of the Skelligs – which were home to medieval monks – to homes in fiction, and Ireland’s institutional homes, including our mental asylums. These mental hospitals, including St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe, will be the subject of a talk from Galway city man Brendan Kelly from Renmore, who is Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College and Consultant Psychiatrist at Tallaght Hospital.
Brendan, whose latest book is Hearing Voices: The History of Psychiatry in Ireland, will be sharing his vast knowledge of mental health in Ireland from medieval times to the present day, with a focus on the State asylums that sprung up in the 18th century and became an intrinsic part of Ireland for more than 100 years.
In the 1950s, Ireland had more in-patients in psychiatric hospitals than any other country in the world, before or since, says Brendan, giving Ballinasloe as an example. In 1951, the town had a population of 5,600 people, 2,100 of whom were patients of St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital.
“If nearly half the town is made up of patients, the other half is either working there or supplying it,” he explains of the hospital’s importance to the town.
That meant, even when there was a will at Government level to move people out of these institutions into less restrictive environments or back into the community, social and economic factors combined to keep mental hospitals busy until the mid-20th century.
Brendan’s practical and academic knowledge of mental health in Ireland is phenomenal and he’s able to explain complex subjects in lay person’s language. He’s passionate about the subject and how it relates to all our lives.
The Renmore man graduated in medicine from UCG in 1996 and then worked in the Regional Hospital (now UHG) and Merlin Park for two years before moving to Dublin to continue his post-graduate training in psychiatry. He’s been there since. And he’s been busy.
As well as lecturing in and practising psychiatry, Brendan “did a series of other degrees along the way”, including a PhD in history, one in law and another in governance. He also has a Masters in epidemiology and one in healthcare management.
“I’m interested in lots of areas as they relate to mental health and psychiatry,” he explains, adding that psychiatry and mental health have links with “the broader worlds of history and law”.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Eyrecourt tune makes it to Hollywood in Jig time
A tune composed to celebrate the twinning of Eyrecourt in south-east Galway with Gouesnach in France is to feature in a new film.
Written by Niall Crehan, ‘The Eyrecourt Jig’ made quite a splash when it was released in 2013 and is still popular in music sessions up and down the country.
Niall had been commissioned to write the tune for the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two villages, Eyrecourt and Gouesnach.
So, when he had a small part as a fiddler in a TV film called Royal Rendevouz, he started playing the jig.
The producers were so impressed, they added it to the movie soundtrack and it will appear in the credits.
Niall is a member of a celebrated traditional Irish musical dynasty hailing originally from County Clare.
He is the youngest son of whistle and concertina player Vincent Crehan and nephew of renowned fiddler Junior Crehan.
Niall and his brother Kieran ran the Dublin shop Crehan Musical instruments until his early retirement.
Now living in Kildare, Niall is a cousin of publican Mick Crehan, who runs the renowned folk pub in the west end of Galway, The Crane.
Niall and the large army of musicians in the extended family are regular guests.
His brother Dermot got music playing parts on films such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and he managed to get Niall onto the likes of Downton Abbey.
This latest TV project is the latest foray into the world of film, explains his son Brian.
The story centres on an American chef who is invited to an Irish manor to cook a feast in order to convince the matriarch not to sell the home.
It premieres on Sunday, February 26 at 9pm on the E! Network starring Isabella Gomez, Ruairi O’Connor and Ronan Raftery.
‘No show’ TDs criticised at County Galway policing committee meeting
A county councillor has launched a stinging criticism of Oireachtas members for their repeated failure to attend County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meetings.
At a meeting of the JPC on Monday, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (photographed) said he believed it was time the three TDs on the committee decided if they wanted to remain, or give their place up to someone who would make use of it.
“I am asking the Council to write out to our Oireachtas members and ask them do they want to be on this JPC or not, and if not, let someone else be on it,” blasted the Fine Gael councillor.
This followed repeated non-appearances from TDs representing the Oireachtas on the committee – the three representatives are Deputy Noel Grealish (Ind), Deputy Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Deputy Catherine Connolly (Ind).
Cllr Maher said the JPC, which sits around five times per year, was deliberately held on a Mondays to facilitate Oireachtas members who were in the Dáil later in the week. He said there were issues being raised regularly that required raising at a national level and it was incumbent on national representatives to bring those matters back to Dublin.
One such issue was the use of CCTV in the pursuit of illegal dumpers and travelling crime gangs, said Cllr Maher who is Cathaoirleach of the County Council.
“I would like our members of the Oireachtas to be taking the message back on CCTV,” he added, as representatives locally were getting no further as a result of data protection laws.
None of the three Oireachtas members were present for this week’s meeting. Chair of the JPC, Cllr Jim Cuddy, confirmed he had received an apology from Deputy Catherine Connolly.
New Chief Executive for Galway County Council
The new Chief Executive of Galway County Council is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Liam Conneally, who is Director of Services for Economic Development at Clare County Council, is understood to be the preferred candidate following an interview process and has been offered the post.
His appointment will have to be ratified by councillors at an upcoming meeting of Galway County Council.
He will replace Jim Cullen, who was Acting CE for a number of years.
The last permanent CE of the local authority was also a Clare native, Martina Moloney who retired in 2014.
Since then, Kevin Kelly initially and then Jim Cullen have been acting in the roles.
According to his LinkedIn page, Liam Conneally was a senior planner at Limerick City and County Councils for almost three years before taking up the Director of Services role in Clare in 2016.
He was educated at University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast.
A native of Ennistymon, he is steeped in the GAA.
“He’s done a very good job in Clare; he’s very dynamic and forward-looking, he will be a good choice for Galway County Council,” said a source familiar with Mr Conneally, and the interview process.
Government completed a review in 2021 about whether it was going to appoint someone permanently into the CE role, which was filled on a temporary/acting basis for almost nine years.
It’s understood that officials in Dublin had delayed filling the role as they wanted to push for an amalgamation of both Councils.
The amalgamation, however, was rejected by local politicians, and has since been put on the back burner.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, is due to retire this year. It’s understood his deputy CE, Patricia Philbin will take the role in an acting capacity until an interview process is completed.