The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

Read more about the RIA

Grangegorman: From the Era of Neglect to the Era of the Asylum - and Back?


Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 18:00 - 19:30


Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2



SOLD OUT. Discourse Series: Dr Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, in conversation with Catriona Crowe MRIA. 

The Academy’s discourses are the oldest and most renowned series of talks in Ireland. The first discourses were presented in 1786. Historically, Academy discourses were the occasion reserved for the most distinguished academics to first reveal and discuss their work in public. The purpose of the Academy's Discourse Series is to bring thought leaders to the Academy to discuss important contemporary issues.

For this Discourse we are pleased to welcome Dr Brendan Kelly, who be joined in conversation by Catriona Crowe MRIA.

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. Why? And what is the legacy of this extraordinary system of coercive confinement? Ireland’s mental health services changed substantially since the end of these asylums. But has the pendulum swung too far? Today, we have the third lowest number of psychiatric beds in Europe, but we also have people with mental illness who are homeless, in prison, or languishing at home, untreated. Have we progressed beyond Grangegorman, or simply recreated the problems that the asylums set out to solve?

Our speakers:

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.

Catriona Crowe MRIA is former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland. She was Manager of the Census Online Project, which placed the Irish 1901 and 1911 censuses online free to access. She was editor of Dublin 1911, published by the Royal Irish Academy in late 2011. She presented the RTE documentaries, Ireland before the Rising, shown in February 2016, and Life After the Rising, shown in January 2019. 
She is a former President of the Women’s History Association of Ireland, and an Honorary Vice-President of the Irish Labour History Society. She is curator of the First Thought Talks strand of the Galway International Arts Festival, and chairperson of the SAOL Project, an advocacy, education and rehabilitation centre for women with addiction issues in Dublin’s North Inner City.
She was elected as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2011.

Please note:

We ask that you arrive to 19 Dawson Street no later than 5.50pm so that we can ensure everyone is seated before the Discourse begins at 6pm. Late-comers will not be admitted.

Click here to read our Discourse Data Protection Statement.

Click here to read our Transparency statement in relation to the use of the Eventbrite booking platform.

Click here to read our Events and Admittance Policy.

Access requirements

Have you got any access requirements that we can assist you with, so that you can fully engage with our event? Please let us know by contacting our access officer, in advance of the event, by email at

Support the future of sciences & humanities in Ireland

Make a donation