Researchers at UCD


Fiachra Byrne

Post Doc Research Fellow Lvl I

School Of History
Newman Building
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 1 7168185


In 2003, I graduated with a first class honours degree in history from University College Dublin (UCD), National University of Ireland (NUI). In my final year examination, I received the Mansion House Fund Scholarship and Prize in Irish History. That year, I was offered two sources of postgraduate funding with the awarding of both a Pelling Scholarship, from St. John¿s College, Cambridge and a European University Institute Scholarship; however, I was ultimately unable to pursue those opportunities at that time.

In 2006, I entered the field of medical history, commencing a PhD on the history of twentieth century Irish psychiatry. My supervisor was Dr. Catherine Cox, Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI), UCD. This project was funded by a UCD Ad Astra Scholarship (2006-2010). My thesis was submitted in August 2011 and I passed my viva with minor corrections. Rhodri Hayward was the extern examiner. My dissertation, overturning long-held assumptions about professional and institutional inertia, argued that there was a radical transformation in Irish psychiatric public discourses, medical formation, and therapeutic practices during the twentieth century. It also examined compelling patient narratives of mental illness, investigating how notions of the self, autonomy and mental pathology were constructed through processes of medical, patient and familial exchange.

Since graduation, I have been active in developing my teaching portfolio. During my PhD candidacy, I lectured and tutored on the undergraduate degree programme of the School of History and Archives, UCD. (2006-2010) In 2012, I was appointed as a lecturer for the MA in the Social and Cultural History of Medicine and for the undergraduate course Madness and Civilisation (both School of History and Archives, UCD).

I have a strong commitment to disseminate my research findings in peer-reviewed publications. I have a book chapter forthcoming in an edited volume, Medicine, Health and Irish Experiences of War 1914-45, David Durnin and Ian Miller (eds), to be published by Manchester University Press (2015). I have also presented my current and doctoral research findings at numerous academic conferences, workshops and seminars, including: the Durham University Law School symposium, 'Young People and Mental Disorder' (March 2015); the Biennial Conference of Irish Historians, (June 2013); the Wellcome Trust funded workshop, Institutions and the History of Health and Healing, UCD (November 2012); the CHOMI Seminar series, UCD (October 2012); the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Ireland Spring Meeting, Queen¿s University Belfast (2012); and the SSHM Postgraduate Conference (2009).

Throughout my academic career I have contributed to the transfer of scholarly knowledge by engaging in public outreach programmes. In May 2013, I spoke in Dublin at the launch of the magazine Headspace, a publication showcasing art and writing on the themes of mental health, founded by young service users. I worked closely with Brian Donnelly, of the National Archives Ireland, in the successful application for a Wellcome Trust Research Resources in Medical History award for the Grangegorman Mental Hospital Archive (2011). I also consulted on and appeared in the RTÉ television documentary on Irish mental hospitals, Behind the Walls (2011). I have presented to medical audiences at St. Brendan's Psychiatric Hospital, Grangegorman, Dublin (2009, 2010). I also organised historical exhibits for the Grangegorman Community Museum (2009). On 6 April 2015, I gave a public lecture on the history of the Irish prison system as part of the RTÉ ¿Road to the Rising¿ series of public talks on the history of Irish independence. 

Currently I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2015-2018) on a project that has received a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award. Led by Dr Catherine Cox (UCD) and Professor Hilary Marland (University of Warwick), the project is entitled ¿Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000¿. My research is on the mental health of juvenile prisoners in England and Ireland from 1850-2000.  This comparative study examines the penal practices and discourses relating to the management and understanding of juvenile prisoners' mental health.