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Brendan Kelly interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1 by Claire Byrne

20 October 2023

Asylum: Inside Grangegorman author Brendan Kelly appeared on yesterday's RTÉ Radio 1 show Today with Claire Byrne.

Claire Byrne opened the interview by reading the following letter from the book:

‘My Dear Sister,

I hear from the doctor that you cannot live long. I am not surprised as it was the opinion I formed of you when I saw you last August. Now, what I want to know is, is there anything you would like that you can’t get in hospital, I mean in the way of fruit or cakes? If you will let me know I will send you some money. I am sure any of the nurses would get anything. I will not say I am sorry you are dying. The wonder to me is you have lived so long, considering what you must have suffered the last 10 years in poverty in Dublin. Hoping you will have a happy death, if you are not already reaping the reward of all your sufferings here,

Your affectionate sister,
Jane.’

She asked Brendan about the letters that were found in the archives which had been sent to patients from family and friends. However, staff had withheld them. Similarly, there were letters written by patients to their families which were never sent, as was standard practice at the time. 

She remarked that admitting people to institutions seemed to often be the answer to 'What will we do with..?' To which Brendan Kelly replied 'We have a fatal weakness for institutional answers, which feel like simple answers to complex questions here in Ireland and mental hospitals were the answer to almost everything and they grew to be very large.' He goes on to put these numbers into context with reference to multiple asylums in Ireland at the time. 

Listen back to the full interview

Recently launched by Stephanie O'Keefe and Niall Breslin, Asylum Inside Grangegorman is out now

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