A history of the Irish Red Cross Society, 1939-1971

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Lehane, Shane G.
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University College Cork
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This research is concerned with assessing from a national perspective the role, work and historical impact of the Irish Red Cross Society (IRCS) between 1939 and 1971. During this period the IRCS discharged three primary functions: it provided first aid services both in war-time and peace-time; it pioneered public health and social care services; and acted as the State’s main agency for international humanitarian relief measures. Although primarily a national organisational history of the Society, it is not a history in isolation. A broader perspective demonstrates that the work undertaken by the IRCS has relevance to the medical, social, religious, cultural, political and diplomatic history of twentieth century Ireland. This study assesses the impact of a number of significant public health and social care initiatives which the IRCS implemented and developed since its inception and how most of these were subsequently developed independently by the State. During the early 1940s, the Society’s formation of a national blood transfusion service ultimately laid the foundations for the establishment of a national blood transfusion service. The Society’s steering of a national anti-tuberculosis campaign in the 1940s brought the issue of the eradication of TB to the fore and helped to change public attitudes towards the disease. The concept of caring for the needs of the elderly in Ireland was largely unknown until the IRCS began addressing the issue in the 1950s and, for more than two decades, was effectively the only organisation in the State that campaigned and introduced innovative services for the aged. The IRCS made a significant impact in terms of its commitment to the needs of refugees and the provision of international humanitarian relief from Ireland. The Society’s donation in 1945 of a fully equipped hospital to the population of Saint-Lo in France, its war-time overseas relief efforts and its post-war work for child refugees earned Ireland significant international recognition and prestige and, more importantly, justified Ireland’s war-time policy of neutrality. With Ireland’s admission to the UN, the government became more dependent on the IRCS to consolidate that position.
Irish Red Cross Society , Red Cross , Tuberculosis , Blood Transfusion Service , Irish humanitarian relief , Leslie Bean de Barra , The Emergency 1939-45 , Refugees in Ireland , Ireland history 20th century , Arms crisis 1970
Lehane, S. G. 2014. A history of the Irish Red Cross Society, 1939-1971. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.