A COLLABORATION between London Metropolitan University academic Professor Louise Ryan and Grainne McPolin, a freelance radio producer and retired nurse to document the lives and careers of Irish nurses in the NHS is nearing completion. The release date for publication of a book and a photographic exhibition has been pencilled in over coming months.
The project has involved interviewing Irish women who migrated to Britain to train and work as nurses in the NHS from the 1950s onwards.
This work builds upon two earlier projects. In 2007 and 2008 Louise Ryan undertook a study of Irish nurses that has since become widely cited and regarded as pioneering research in understanding the role of Irish migrant women in the NHS.
In 2021 the radio documentary Angels of Mercy, produced by Grainne McPolin, was broadcast on Newstalk Radio to wide acclaim. Grainne McPolin was a nurse for over 30 years, half of that time spent working in the NHS. She brings that life experience to the project.
Louise Ryan was a contributor to the radio programme, and at that point, she and Grainne decided to develop the project further, seek funding in order to preserve the stories of Irish nurses. The project received initial funding from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisations and the London Irish Centre.
In June 2022, the project received new funding from the Irish Government department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Abroad Unit. This additional funding allowed the project to expand its focus, beyond London, to collect the stories of women who trained and worked as nurses in various parts of Britain. Funding has also been received from the Liverpool Institute of Irish Studies that enabled Irish nurses from that city to be included in the project.
The project is particularly valuable in working with and augmenting The Archive of the Irish in Britain held at London Metropolitan University by adding the voices of women migrants.
A photographic exhibition will take place in summer 2023 and a book published in 2024.