The end of the Irish Poor Law?

The end of the Irish Poor Law?: Welfare and healthcare reform in revolutionary and independent Ireland

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by:
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The end of the Irish Poor Law?
    Book Description:

    This book examines Irish Poor Law reform during the years of the Irish revolution and Irish Free State. This work is a significant addition to the growing historiography of the twentieth century which moves beyond political history, and demonstrates that concepts of respectability, social class and gender are central dynamics in Irish society. This book provides the first major study of local welfare practices and exploration of policies, attitudes and the poor. This monograph examines local public assistance regimes, institutional and child welfare, and hospital care. It charts the transformation of workhouses into a network of local authority welfare and healthcare institutions including county homes, county hospitals, and mother and baby homes. The book’s exploration of welfare and healthcare during revolutionary and independent Ireland provides fresh and original insights into this critical juncture in Irish history. The book will appeal to Irish historians and those with interests in welfare, the Poor Law and the social history of medicine and institutions.

    eISBN: 978-1-78499-673-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book examines the poor law and attempts at its reform during the Irish revolution (1918–23) and in the initial decades of Irish independence. This period represented one of the most formative and crucial eras in Irish politics and society, with ideas of culture, nation, state and identity widely contested. Historical analysis of the history of welfare and the poor law during this seminal period remains limited, and this book’s appraisal of the relief of poverty addresses a previously underdeveloped aspect of the first decades of twentieth-century Ireland. The work provides a study of the intersection between welfare and...

  7. 1 The poor law and the Irish revolution: the case of the Cork workhouse
    (pp. 13-40)

    Traditionally Irish historiography has been marked by an emphasis on high politics, although increased focus on popular politics has emerged, especially since the 1990s. Some historiographical debate has concentrated on the social dynamics of the highly formative 1916–23 period, which witnessed the rise of militant republicanism, revolution, partition and the establishment of the twenty-six county independent Irish Free State. Many historians have downplayed the potential for social radicalism during these pivotal years. The controversial historian of the period Peter Hart has asserted that revolutionary violence did not follow ‘poverty’ and was not a result of social deprivation.¹ More recent...

  8. 2 From outdoor relief to home assistance
    (pp. 41-81)

    The central pillar of the poor law from its introduction in 1838 was the workhouse test. The able-bodied poor’s willingness to enter workhouses was proof of destitution and determined entitlement to assistance. Under the poor law reforms of the early 1920s the workhouse test was discarded and the able-bodied were largely removed from institutional provision.¹ Former restrictions on outdoor relief, renamed as home assistance, were removed and the able-bodied were deemed eligible for relief in their homes for the first time. Domiciliary relief was theoretically extended to all recipients who could be relieved outside the former workhouses, now renamed county...

  9. 3 Single mothers and institutionalisation
    (pp. 82-118)

    This chapter examines the Irish Free State’s strategies to deal with unmarried mothers in the 1920s and 1930s. Prior to independence unmarried mothers and their children were often relieved in workhouses. In the reforms of the early 1920s a new network of county homes, county hospitals and district hospitals were established on the grounds of former workhouses. County and district hospitals solely provided acute medical attention, but the county homes were a continuation of the workhouses, and provided institutional relief for a range of categories of the ‘impotent poor’ including the elderly, long-term sick, mentally ill and intellectually disabled.¹ Unmarried...

  10. 4 Child welfare and local authorities
    (pp. 119-147)

    By the early twentieth century it was widely recognised that workhouses were unsuitable institutions for children. However, many continued to be relieved in workhouses and by the early 1920s renewed efforts were being made to remove children from the newly named county homes. This chapter examines the relationship between local boards of health and public assistance and industrial schools. Furthermore it explores the boarding-out system and highlights that this provision was at times preferred to institutionalisation. This chapter’s focus is largely on the KBHPA and provides a case study of local authority child welfare policies.

    The early Free State poor...

  11. 5 From workhouses to hospitals
    (pp. 148-188)

    This chapter examines the role of the poor law in the delivery of healthcare and particularly hospital provision. It outlines how medical relief had become one of the primary functions of Irish workhouses by 1920. Furthermore, it explores attempts made during the early years of the Irish Free State to fully separate medical assistance from poor relief through case studies of Cork city and county Kerry. The relationship between local authority healthcare and the more prestigious voluntary sector is also examined. This chapter also concentrates on the terms of entitlement to healthcare and fee payment, and how this contrasted between...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 189-193)

    This book has explored poor relief practices and regimes, and the treatment of the poor in revolutionary and independent Ireland. It has concentrated primarily on the public assistance branch of welfare; it was within local boards of health and assistance that the attitudes underpinning welfare policies were most apparent, and this was the arena in which the poor engaged with the system. A major theme that emerges from this work is the centrality of notions of respectability, and the division of the poor into the deserving and undeserving, in welfare policies. This was particularly prevalent in the poor law reforms...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 194-209)
  14. Index
    (pp. 210-218)