The end of the Irish Poor Law?

Welfare and healthcare reform in revolutionary and independent Ireland

By Donnacha Lucey

The end of the Irish Poor Law?


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8757-8
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: October 2015
  • BIC Category: Ireland, European history, History, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Social Services & Welfare, Social welfare & social services, Poverty & Unemployment, Humanities / British & Irish history


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.


'This work is thoroughly researched, immaculately presented and thoughtfully written and provides an important contribution to the historiography of revolutionary and independent Ireland. Lucey's ground-level analysis reveals how national policies were interpreted in local contexts, revealing a multitude of social, economic, religious and cultural dynamics that underpinned poor law and welfare reform in Ireland in the early twentieth century.'
Stephen Bance, University College Dublin, Irish Economic and Social History 2016, Vol 43 (1)

'By exploring attitudes to, and the administration of, welfare, thisbook, by Donnacha Sean Lucey, illuminates not only social and economicdevelopments but also a central element of local and popular politics, thusoffering new insights into conceptions of citizenship and national identity..Lucey opens a new chapter in Irish welfare history.'

'Lucey's research is extensive, and his case studies focus on thecounties of Cork and Kerry. There are no other detailed studies of localauthority welfare provision and poor relief in twentieth-century Ireland. Luceyplaces his material within the context of a national framework and also locatesthe Irish experience in the context of British and international developmentsin the period. The book is well written and engaging. It is an important workof Irish social and welfare history and a reminder, in the decade ofcommemorations, that, whatever the Irish revolution means, the outcast, poorand destitute are also part of that history.'

Maria Luddy, University of Warwick, English Historical Review 2017, Volume 132 (558)

'In The Endof the Irish Poor Law, Sean Lucey has opened up a significant newfield in welfare history. The book is meticulously researched and fluentlywritten.'

'Lucey's book is much more than another study of a parochial health andwelfare system. The author consciously seeks to place the developments in theFree State in a transnational context that sees the systems emerging after 1918and the ideas underpinning them as part of an international trend or movement.'
Barry Doyle, University of Huddersfield, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, jrx040

'Lucey opens this well researched and written volume by discussingsocial reforms during the years of the Great War and after, as Irelandtransitioned from a colony into an independent nation and Sinn Fein andrepublican sympathizers sought to gain political control both locally andnationally'

'this engaging, informative and recommended read'
Margaret Preston, Augustana University, Social History 2016, Volume 41 (4)


1. The poor law and the Irish revolution: the case of the Cork workhouse
2. From outdoor relief to home assistance: workhouses to work tests
3. Single mothers and institutionalisation
4. Child welfare and local authorities: institutions v boarding-out
5. The end of the poor law taint?: from workhouses to hospitals


Donnacha Seán Lucey is a Research Fellow in the School of History and Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast

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