St Ita's Hospital

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St Ita's Hospital, Portrane
Health Service Executive Government Owned
LocationPortrane, Dublin, Ireland
Care systemHealth Service Executive (HSE)
Hospital typePsychiatric Care and Intellectual Disability Services
Emergency departmentAcute Unit Has 48 Beds
Beds200 Active (of 1200)
ClosedPending restructuring

St Ita's Hospital, Portrane, formerly Portrane Asylum is a long stay facility for those with intellectual disabilities and those with long term mental illnesses. It is currently being scaled back in operations with planned mixed-use development. The cultural context of St Ita's in Irish society, and the sheer size of the hospital (the largest public contract ever undertaken in Ireland up to 1890) have made St Ita's Hospital a notable feat of both 19th century civil and social engineering in Ireland.


Portrane Asylum was built at the end of the nineteenth century on what was then an isolated peninsula on the north coast of Dublin. At one time it comprised nearly 500 acres (2.0 km2) running its own farm and providing its own produce.

Towards the latter end of the 19th century new attitudes were emerging regarding the care of the mentally ill. The different categories of mental illness were being identified and their separate needs recognised. The cellular "prison-like" institutions where the mentally ill could be kept under restraint were no longer appropriate or desirable. The asylum could no longer be a place of indefinite internment. Facilities for recreation, occupation and exercise were seen as important elements in the design of institutional buildings for the mentally ill.

The design for St. Ita's was the subject of a limited architectural competition which was won by George Ashlin. Although his design was very advanced in its concept at that time, his scheme was sanctioned by the Board of Control and accepted by the Board of Governors of the Richmond Lunatic Asylum in 1895. The 'Irish Builder' in its issue of April 15, 1895, records an argument which subsequently erupted within the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, regarding the choice of the winning scheme. Ashlin's design had exceeded the proposed building budget and he had been allowed to revise his scheme to reduce the cost. The eminent architects Thomas Drew, Albert E. Murray and W. Kaye Parry were not happy with the outcome.

St Ita's Hospital was the largest single building contract ever undertaken in Ireland. The original estimated cost was £200,000. In its issue of 15 July 1900 The Irish Builder suggested that the cost of the completed building "will probably be about £250,000". It appears from the text of Ashlin's obituary that the final cost exceeded £300,000.

Construction of the building commenced in 1896 and was approaching completion in 1900. It was designed to accommodate 1,200 patients.

Ashlin's hospital of 1896 is still intact and functioning in part.

Many smaller buildings have been added throughout the 20th century but the original building remains the dominant focus of the site.

The hospital today[edit]

The hospital is currently administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and caters for less than 200 people. This number is constantly diminishing as patients are gradually transferred to nursing homes. St Ita's was featured in the RTÉ documentary The Asylum in 2005, soon after Prime Time investigated the Leas Cross nursing home, where many former patients had been transferred to, and mistreated by staff.[1]

Much of the property which makes up St Itas is either derelict or being rented to local farmers. As of October 2009, St Ita's still operates 48 acute care beds for those who are too ill to avail of intermediate medical care.

Hospital radio[edit]

St. Ita's Hospital Radio commenced in dec 4th 1983 and was the first radio station in Ireland to receive one of the new broadcast licenses when the minister for communications of the day introduced the broadcasting bill in 1988. The station now operates from a modern studio with professional equipment in compliance with the criteria laid down by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland under a five-year license. The stations current phone number is (01)8436633 and the internal extension is 2251 stuido only and is also on the tune inn app or and is a member of the irhn/ irish hospital raido network the transmitter was homemade when it first started the areial was a wired coat hanger the transmitter was made from tv parts[2]

News of closure[edit]

The HSE announced at the start of March 2010 that all Victorian "asylum" era hospitals in Ireland would be closed by 2012.

In June 2010, the Mental Health Commission ordered St Ita's Hospital to stop the admission of acute patients by 28 February 2011. The Mental Health Commission also ordered St Ita's Hospital to permanently close two units and refurbish another two units by 30 November 2010.[3]

Future plans[edit]

Despite repeated media coverage over the last twenty years of the plight of St Ita's continuing decaying conditions, and the general need for social housing and county amenities, such as sports facilities and waste water treatment in the area, the entirety of St Ita's has remained largely unaltered. Of primary concern is the upgrading of facilities to better accommodate long stay patients, as has been the case in the UK, where patients from asylums such as High Royds Hospital, an asylum of similar scale to St Ita's have been transferred into residential care.[4]

The current proposals being considered are:

  • St Ita's to be closed, entirely and facilities to be moved to Beaumont Hospital. Redevelopment of the site.
  • Limited closure of St Ita's with a retained long stay facilities. Redevelopment of much of the site.
  • Expansion of services, creating a specialised facility, also catering for the criminally insane.

In 2016, the National Forensic Mental Health Hospital will be built on the St. Ita's Hospital site, replacing the Central Mental Hospital.[5][6][7]



External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°29′12″N 6°06′47″W / 53.486798°N 6.113066°W / 53.486798; -6.113066