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Asylum: Inside Grangegorman

by  Brendan Kelly
€ 18.95

Book Details

Published by Royal Irish Academy

October 2023


Number of pages: 208

ISBN: 9781911479291


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Available now!

In 1814, the Richmond Lunatic Asylum at Grangegorman in Dublin started an extraordinary programme of asylum building across Ireland, aimed at alleviating the suffering of people with mental illness who were homeless, in prison, or confined in appalling circumstances. By the mid-twentieth century, Ireland had proportionately more people in ‘mental hospitals’ than any other country in the world. On a given night, the number of people in Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals was more than double those in all our other institutions put together: prisons, laundries, mother and baby homes, industrial schools, orphanages.

What was the life of a patient in an asylum really like? Through letters, medical records and doctors' notes, Brendan Kelly gives us a glimpse inside Grangegorman and the lives of those who lived and worked there. 

Written by Brendan Kelly and illustrated by Fidelma Slattery.


Brendan Kelly on The Tommy Tiernan Show on 13 April 2024. Watch back

'An illuminating look inside the walls of Grangegroman' read review by Dr Muiris Houston

"[This book] explores the reality of life in Grangegorman through a compassionate reading of case studies from the archives. The questions broached in this book are difficult to grapple with for both writer and reader and so a radical openness of mind is needed, which I think we find in Kelly's work", Molly Hennigan, author of The Celestial Realm, The Gloss Magazine, December 2023. 

Read an opinion piece in Medical Independent, November 2023

Read an extract on, November 2023

Read an extract on Books Ireland Magazine, November 2023

Listen back to Anton Savage interviewing Brendan Kelly on The Hard Shoulder, 31 October 2023



“A keen sense of curiosity permeates all of Kelly’s books. It is an infectious and endearing trait, which spurs his research as well as the reader on, and his writing is nimble and confident.” - The Irish Times, September 2023

Listen back: Brendan Kelly on Today with Clare Byrne, 19 October 2023

"One central premise of this insightful book is that the constantly increasing numbers of patients being admitted meant that, no matter how laudable the intentions of staff, the focus always shifted from coping with the needs of individuals to simply keeping these overcrowded institutions running. As Kelly puts it, “The societal hunger for simple solutions to complex problems leads to the use of institutions to meet complicated social needs which often have little to do with the original purpose of the establishment.”

But even if this caused Grangegorman to be ultimately dysfunctional, Kelly chronicles both the good and the darker aspects of life in a place that became home to thousands who lived out their days hidden in plain sight behind walls that the public hurriedly walked past, just off the North Circular Road."

'Book review: Asylum an insightful look into the good and bad of a place hidden in plain sight' Dermot Bolger, Business Post, October 2023

“Brendan Kelly gives us a fascinating glimpse inside Grangegorman and the lives of those who lived and worked there.” - The Dublin Gazette, October 2023



eBook is available here


Grangegorman Histories is a public history programme of research and shared discovery of the Grangegorman site and surrounding communities. Find out more about Grangegorman Histories

About the authors

Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly is Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, Consultant Psychiatrist at Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin, and UCD Visiting Full Clinical Professor at UCD School of Medicine, University College Dublin. In addition to his medical degree (MB BCh BAO), he holds masters degrees in epidemiology (MSc), healthcare management (MA), and Buddhist studies (MA), and an MA (jure officii) from Trinity College Dublin; doctorates in medicine (MD), history (PhD), governance (DGov), and law (PhD); and a higher doctorate in history (DLitt). He has authored and co-authored over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals, over 600 non-peer-reviewed publications, 21 book chapters and book contributions, and 17 books (11 as sole author). His recent books include ‘Asylum: Inside Grangegorman’ (2023). He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and Trinity College Dublin. In 2018, he became Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and in 2020 was elected as Dun’s Librarian at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.