Board to Death?

One of my favourite pastimes is to play board or card games.  Even now with adult children a Scrabble box and a deck of cards is always on hand to play and start a conversation.

Engaging in the process of the game, the thrill of winning and the banter that naturally occurs can really help to focus thoughts and may also  as prompts to introduce a topic or get a conversation going.

Most people 30 years and younger would have socialised with each other through watching and playing games.  Even those who share realistic, action-packed video games still play board games. The social aspect of playing a game provides activity with a purpose.  When players have their attention focused on the board, sensitive issues can be approached indirectly. Taking turns to engage with fictitious scenarios or problems helps to keep the game engaging.

Games with ‘Death’ as a theme rarely come to mind when we think about board games or fun time.

Yet there are a range of these types of games such as board games or card games, and increasingly online and video games.

One of the board games we have in the Irish Hospice Foundation Library is the Grief Game. This is a game targeted at children and adolescents to help them talk about and discuss aspects of bereavement.

good griet game

The Saying Goodbye board game is targeted at younger children. This is a game that helps children understand what death means and also offers narrative examples and exercises to help them cope with bereavement.


saying goodbye

All About Me is a board game developed by Barnardo’s. The game is described as a pathway to discovery for  a child on a trail along which you can accompany the child to offer support and reassure them along the way.

We also have the UnGame a board game developed by Rhea Zakich, and described as be a self-expression game. Rhea Zakich lost her ability to speak after undergoing throat surgery. This experience led her to the development of the game where the premise that it is important to communicate your wishes and desires to those in your life in case the situation arises and you cannot speak for yourself. Not everyone gets the heads-up to the possibility  that this type of communication loss could result from a traumatic event.


Card Games are another great way to get a conversation going about Death and Dying. One such is the deck of Grave Talk published by Church House Publishing. In this card game there are no answers just thought-provoking questions to get the players thinking and talking.  The Go Wish card game published by Coda Alliance ( ) is a fantastic game to play with a spouse, partner, next of kin or health care proxy. It is especially important if these are the people who need to understand your wishes – for example about your funeral, or about  your feelings on certain medical treatments.

The main priority is to get people talking about death and dying and using board games or card games which can be suitable for adults or children is an ideal, non-threatening way to broach the topic.  We will all experience death, yet we talk about it so little.

An Introduction to Medical Humanities

It can be difficult at times to understand what medical terms and practices mean. Our perceptions of health or lack of it, treatments, diseases and conditions can be influenced by so many factors. A way that people have tried to understand these issues and to give meaning to them is through engagement with the arts and humanities.  The intersection of medicine with the arts and humanities has been a part of medical education for a long time.

If we take the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (1632) (see below) which is one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings we can see many things happening.  In this picture we see members of the Dutch Surgeon’s Guild being instructed in anatomy which is useful to a range of medical education professionals.  The illustration of Anatomy is not something people would quickly associate with an art subject but here we can see that the art form is the medium Rembrandt chose to capture a medical practice and bring it to life as a piece of art, rather than just a medical instruction tool. The painting tells a story, it allows the viewer to create a story all in the understanding of how do we learn about the anatomy of the human form?

surgeons guild
Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp


Medical Humanities represents the intersection between Arts and the Humanities.  It is an attempt to give meaning and insight into how people understand and relate to areas of medicine and health with the use and support humanities subjects. These representations help to give meaning and clarity to medical and health practitioners, researchers and ordinary people. This type of representation has existed throughout time, in the forms of art work, music, literature, stories, poetry, philosophy, history, folklore and more recently in popular culture.

The Literature in the subject area of Medical Humanities crosses many domains. In the first instance, there are the subject areas of Medicine, including but not limited to Medical History, Medical Archives, Medical Education, Medical Art (Drawings, Sculpting), Medical Literature, Medical Music, and Medical Philosophy. The Humanities is another broad subject area/ subject headings and these include; Anthropology, Classics, History, Geography, Linguistics and languages, Law and politics, Literature, Performing arts, Philosophy, Religion, and the Visual arts.

Anthony  Moore,  a surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia is credited with being the first person to  use the term “Medical Humanities” in 1976.  In his paper Medical Humanities:  An aid to ethical discussions He described his approach to using literature in teaching undergraduate medical students at the University of Melbourne. as a way of understanding the human experience of health and also as a way of exploring ethical issues in clinical practice (Moore, 1976).

While bio medicine focuses on objective science, the medical humanities are distinguished by their concern with recording and interpreting the human experiences of illness, disability and medical intervention.  Students experience the medical humanities at the most basic level whenever they attend to patient’s stories rather than simply extracting medically relevant information, and whenever they themselves reflect on, and give expression to, their own and others experiences of health illness and care giving.

Medical Humanities is a significant part of Medical Education & Research, but it also touches on so many other areas.  Issues of a multidisciplinary approach to Medicine, Medical Education, Art, Humanities and information technology for the delivery and contextualization of information and ethics features in a range of curriculum.

For the individual person the aspects of medical humanities are also tangible. Stories and storytelling have always been a medium to help us understand life, health and death.  It is the connection with words, pictures and imagination that are our story of all aspects of life. So while many stories have not been created with the intention of being classed in the medical humanities genre their content and approach which helps to provide understanding, to give support and to provide comfort allows them to be included into this growing suite of literature that we can access when we need them.

One such book is The Red Tree by Shaun Tan. The Red Tree is a beautifully illustrated book that is based on images inspired by the experience of depression. The main character is a lonely red-headed girl. A red leaf from a red tree follows the girl through her day; it states how she feels and depicts her worries. Each panel of the book has a small red leaf illustrated.

red leaf
The Red Tree book cover


Helen Coughlan, a wonderful ambassador for the Irish Hospice Foundation, recently made a donation of The Red Tree to the Therese Brady Library in memory of her mother Wendy Coughlan. You can see videos of them here talking about the Irish Hospice Foundation Think Ahead Initiative.

The symbol of the red leaf (which is very similar to the Canadian Maple leaf) was something that connected her mother’s story of death with her life.  The Red Tree, a story written for a varied audience resonated with Helen, the imagery, the journey through sadness and then hope has helped make sense of this experience. This idea of using art or humanities to explain a life experience, and to understand a life story is something that can resonate with all of us.


Podcasting Grief

Grief Podcasts









Grief can be tiring and though reading can help when you are grieving, sometimes you just want to sit back and listen.  Though podcasts have been around for some time (the term podcast has been around since 2004 when audio blogs began to move to itunes) they are currently experiencing a surge in popularity. The portable nature of podcasts makes them both a good way to pass the time but also a way to share in someones personal experience and insight.

With podcast production being relatively simple and their popularity rising it seems that for practically every topic there is a podcast. The experience of grieving being so personal and yet universal it is unsurprising that podcasts addressing grief have begun to appear.

They range from informal discussions on personal loss to podcasts by mental health professionals discussing the difficulties of navigating grief.

Some worthy of a listen include:

Grief Cast – This podcast hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd, whose father died when she was in her teens features conversations with other comedians about their experiences of bereavement, among them, Adam Buxton,  David Baddiel and Sara Pascoe.

What’s Your Grief Podcast – A companion to the ‘Whats your Grief’ website and resources this podcast delves into many aspects of grief and how it manifests addressing issues like; returning to work, parenting, relationships post bereavement and emotional issues.

You can find a listing of resources on understanding grief, including podcasts on the Bereavement Subject Guide developed by the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Therese Brady Library HERE

Carers Week 2017

Celebrating Ireland’s Carers

Carers Week 2017 will run from June 12th to 18th

The Irish Hospice Foundation have been partners in this week of celebration of Family Carers for many years now.  The philosophy of palliative care recognises the role that family carers take on in support of their loved one. It also includes the provision of support systems to help family members and carers cope during a person’s illness and in their bereavement.


We believe that family members and others caring for people with life limiting illnesses should receive more recognition and support for the vital role they play in Irish society. As part of an ongoing strategy to support carers of people with life limiting disease, the Irish Hospice Foundation host webpages HERE dedicated to providing family carers with relevant information, advice and resources as they support their loved one, in what is for most, a challenging and emotional journey.

On this Carers Week we would like to acknowledge the important contribution that family carers make in providing care and would like to extend our appreciation to each and every carer in Ireland who is and has provided care.

More information about Carers Week 2017 is available HERE

Guest post by Deirdre Shanager Development Officer – IHF Healthcare Programmes

Poetry Day Ireland April 27th – Poetry, loss and Bereavement

Poetry Day IrelandTomorrow (Thursday April 27th) is Poetry Day Ireland organised by Poetry Ireland. So expect to see poetry pop up around the country and a programme that includes train poems, pillow poems and even chocolate poems.

The theme for the day is ‘Poetry Connects’ showing the ways poetry connects across the lifespan, time and distance. Poetry taps into our raw emotions in ways few other forms of artistic expression do. Given this, the abundance of poetry addressing grief, loss and death is no surprise.

The poetry of Grief

Irish poets have left an indelible mark on the poetry of loss. Perhaps no one more so than Seamus Heaney; his poem ‘Mid term break‘ with its stark line ‘A four-foot box, a foot for every year‘ strikes right to heart of the loss of a child. In 2015 his poem ‘When All the Others Were Away at Mass‘ which reflects on the memory of his mother, topped the poll as Ireland’s favourite poem of the past 100 years. HERE he reads his poem ‘An appropriate place‘ written about his mother on her death bed and recorded for the Irish Hospice Foundation’s ‘Journeys to the end of life’ video for our Hospice Friendly Hospital programme.

Our memories of Seamus Heaney

We have fond memories here at the Irish Hospice Foundation Seamus Heaney’s involvement with our projects over the years. He shared his insight and wisdom in the introduction to our Whoseday Book in 1999 and even had his hands photographed by Perry Ogden for the cover artwork. You can view all the drafts of his introduction in our digital archive HERE

Seamus Heaney’s hands photograph by Perry Ogden with annotations for Whoseday Book cover   

Seamus Heaney kindly allowed Mid term break to be reproduced and included in our 2006 publication Irish Stories of Loss and Hope offering it as part of this special collection of personal reflections on loss.

Copy of Irish Stories of Loss and Hope signed by Seamus Heaney for the Therese Brady Library at Library Ireland Week March 2010
Copy of Table of contents page of ‘Irish Stories of loss & Hope’ signed by Seamus Heaney on Library Ireland Week March 2010 

Celebrating 30 years …with a poem

Our love of poetry runs so deep that when we celebrated our 30th anniversary last year we marked the occasion with a poem. Poet Paula Meehan wrote ‘The Merciful Hours’ to commemorate our thirty years. You can hear Paula read the poem for Poetry Day Ireland HERE

The Merciful Hours #PoetryDayIRL

Come in and explore poetry in the Therese Brady Library

The Therese Brady Library holds an extensive collection of poetry books and anthologies addressing bereavement, loss and grief. This collection is open to the public so if you would like to borrow just drop in.

Or maybe just take a few minutes out of your day to come in and let some poetry into your life.

The Irish Hospice Foundation – Then & Now: Marking the 31st Anniversary of the Irish Hospice Foundation


Dr T. K. Whitaker, chairman of the Fellows of the Foundation, Dr Mary Redmond, chairwoman, board of directors, and Dr John McCarthy at the launching of the Hospice Foundation in Our Lady ‘s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin on the 22/04/86


“For the figure of approximately 33,000 persons who die each year in the Republic of Ireland there are only three hospices. By far the biggest is at Harold’s Cross….But the resources at Our Lady’s Hospice are strained beyond capacity: it has 40 beds for patients with terminal cancer – and 1,500 people die each year in Dublin alone from terminal cancer….Then, too, take the Home Care Service which operates out of Our Lady’s Hospice, the only Home Care Team in the country….Started experimentally in 1985, its overwhelming success has secured for it a permanent role in community care. But the Home Care Team operates only within a six miles radius of Harold’s Cross.”

Mary Redmond’s words, delivered at the launch of Fundraising Activities for the Irish Hospice Foundation in May 1987, speak of the challenges which faced hospice care in Ireland 30 years ago: only three hospices catering for around 33,000 deaths per year, many dying (often in extreme and unrelieved pain) of terminal cancer  without appropriate end of life care, and only one dedicated palliative Home Care Service in the entire country which, nevertheless, was necessarily constrained to a limited geographical area in Dublin. The overall picture was of a country where a dedicated and courageous few – such as those working in Our Lady’s Hospice – tried to meet the needs of those at end of life but also in which there was not an overarching culture (in either the charitable or state sector) that supported the specific needs – be they physical, psychological or spiritual – of the dying.

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the founding, by Mary Redmond, of the Irish Hospice Foundation and gives us a chance to look back to its origins, its early aims and how these still inform its work and how hospice care in Ireland has changed over that time.

The Origins of the Irish Hospice Foundation

The Irish Hospice Foundation came to be for the most personal of reasons for Mary Redmond: the death of her own father, Dr. John Redmond (Sean Reamonn). The sensitive and compassionate palliative care he received in Our Lady’s Hospice, coupled with her own growing awareness that a general lack of hospice provision meant that many others’ loved ones did not receive similar care at end of life, proved to be the catalysts that led her to write to Sister Frances Rose O’Flynn of Our Lady’s Hospice offering to set up a Foundation to raise funds. In a letter of May 6th 1985, she wrote:

“My dear father, Dr. John Redmond, was in the expert and loving hands of your sisters until he died on January 12 of this year. May he rest in peace. We in the Redmond family will never forget the sensitivity of Sr. Maura and of all the nurses in her ward.

Until my father had to leave Elm Park in the middle of last year and my mother as a result had to undertake the task of finding a suitable place for him to go, we had never encountered the difficulties which were faced by families in such circumstances. We had had no previous experience of the worry and anguish that can be felt when the task is to find a suitable place for a dearly loved one who is dying.

The point of my letter is that I wish to do more than simply thank you and your sisters for all that they have done….I remember asking one of your sisters early this year whether there was a formal committee or group looking after the raising of money for the Hospice in Harold’s Cross. The answer, which may not have been correct, was no. Whether the answer is no or whether there is already in existence some such group that I have mentioned, I believe I could be of most use in contributing my legal and administrative skills to fundraising of some sort.”

Sr. Frances Rose’s response was positive. As Mary Redmond noted shortly after they met a week later: “Sr. Frances Rose was very receptive to the idea of a foundation for hospice and it turns out the issue is timely. Our Lady’s Hospice is building an extension at the moment and also hopes to build a large educational centre at a cost of something in the region of 2 million – Sr. Frances Rose is a person of vision…”

From here, events proceeded quickly. The first committee meeting of the Hospice Foundation took place on September 11th, 1985. The committee grew to comprise: Sr. Frances Rose, Sr. Ignatius Phelan (both of whom would go on to be recognised as ‘People of the Year’ in 1987 for their contributions to hospice care), Mr. John Lynch (Chief Executive of the IPC), Dr. Anton Murphy (Economist, TCD), Mrs. Anna Farmar and Mr. Nicholas O’Connor (Chartered Accountant).


Invitation to the Launch of the Irish Hospice Foundation

The Foundation was officially launched on 21st April 1986. As mentioned above, one of the first aims of the Hospice Foundation was to raise funds for the considerable new building project in Our Lady’s Hospice for which around £2 million was needed. The state provided £250,000 while the Hospice Foundation successfully raised over £1.6 million from a wide range of fundraising initiatives, with the result that the building project was completed. These fundraising endeavours also led to the expansion of Our Lady’s Hospice’s home care services for patients suffering from advanced cancer in their homes. You can read the first fundraising leaflet the Hospice Foundation produced which focussed on the specific needs of Our Lady’s Hospice here.


The First Advertisement for The Hospice Foundation

The Aims of the Irish Hospice Foundation: Then & Now

While the most prominent early focus of the Irish Hospice Foundation was fundraising for Our Lady’s Hospice, it had significant other aims from the start, all of which still comprise part of the Foundation’s work today.

Research on Best Practice for End of Life Care and Provision of Bereavement Resources

One aim was a focus on researching the best practice for end of life care, with a particular focus on the best ways to prevent pain in those with terminal illness. To this end a research committee, focussing on funding projects relating to palliative care, was formed. Its first meeting was on the 9th of June 1986 and it comprised: Mr. Nicholas O’Connor, Chartered Accountant (Chairman), Dr. John McCarthy, Medical Director of Our Lady’s Hospice, Dr. Verona Hanley, Domiciliary Care Services in Our Lady’s Hospice, Dr. Michael Moriarty, St. Luke’s Hospital, Dr. Ciaran O’Boyle, Royal College of Surgeons, Dr. John Fleetwood (G.P.), Professor John McCormick, T.C.D., Dr. Therese Brady, U.C.D. and Professor John Feely, T.C.D. You can read the minutes from the first meeting of the research committee here. This focus on advocating for best practice at end of life care remains at the the core of the Irish Hospice Foundation’s work today, pushing for the best possible palliative care for many different patient populations, including dementia, heart failure, respiratory disease and various neurological conditions.

In addition, in an RTE radio interview by John Bowman on the day after the launch of the Foundation, Dr. Ciaran O’Boyle also highlighted how the Hospice Foundation should not just commission research but should also provide a research resource for those studying bereavement:

“…The Hospice Foundation will provide, a ‘research resource’, if you like, where we can provide both research information and training for medical students, both at under-graduate and at post-graduate level, and also indeed for nurses, because it’s very often nurses that have the major role in pain relief of patients…”

This need for a ‘research resource’ for issues relating to bereavement currently finds expression in a host of workshops on bereavement which the Irish Hospice Foundation provides and which are attended on average by 3,000 people  each year, including nurses, doctors, psychologists and members of the public. It also finds expression in two postgraduate courses (provided jointly with the Royal College of Surgeons): the Msc in Bereavement Studies and a Professional Certificate in Children and Loss .Finally, there is also the Therese Brady library, the only library in Ireland dedicated solely to providing resources on bereavement. The IHF has invested €11.4 million in bereavement education, research and advocacy over 30 years and it is estimated that around 55,000 people have received training from the Irish Hospice Foundation in aspects of good end-of-life care and bereavement to date.

Putting Hospice Principles into Practice Outside of the Physical Hospice: Creating Hospice Friendly Hospitals & Expanding Hospice Home Care Services

“ ‘Solitary, miserable, uncared-for death beds are all too common even in this Christian land….’

These words are to be found in the first prospectus on Our Lady’s Hospice over 100 years ago. Alas and to our shame in this Christian land “solitary, miserable, uncared-for [and I might add painful] death beds” are still all too common. There is an enormous contrast between death within hospice and death without.”

Mary Redmond, 1988, Address to Naas and Newbridge Soroptimists

It was this kind of recognition – of the ‘miserable, uncared-for death beds’ outside of hospice settings – that went on to inform much of the Irish Hospice Foundation’s work in ensuring that the needs of those dying in Ireland be met, no matter whether they were in a hospice bed, a hospital bed or at home.  From the beginning of the Foundation, hospice care was not seen as being confined to a hospice building. When asked on the same John Bowman RTE radio programme mentioned above whether the “hospice idea is to do necessarily with buildings, or is it also as much to do with attitudes and with care, whether in the home, in a hospital or in a hospice?”, Dr. Ciaran O’Boyle answered: “It is very much to do with attitudes. I think what we need to do is to bring the management of pain more centre stage, if you like, right across the spectrum.” It is this idea, of seeing hospice care as informing a whole spectrum, that has been at the core of much of the Foundation’s work, in particular as regards bringing hospice principles into hospitals and as regards providing home care hospice services.

As regards hospitals, first of all, the Irish Hospice Foundation aimed from its early days to bring the spirit of hospice care into acute hospital settings. An RTE report on the Irish Hospice Foundation on the 18th June 1992  noted that beds in general hospitals are often unsuitable for hospice patients as a result of the surroundings, noise and food, but that this was not something the decision makers realised. Speaking in that report, Mary Redmond said:

“I am talking about the Department of Health and I’m talking about the health boards and I am talking about their understanding that a hospice backup bed is distinguishable from a general type of hospital backup bed and that’s not to criticise one and to praise the other but it is a different form of care – hospice care is complementary to what is provided in a general hospital. And I think that aspect of what is happening in hospice at the moment has to be really severely looked at and reviewed to see if we are actually giving the best to people who are dying in Ireland.”

Today, this strand of the Irish Hospice Foundation’s work finds active expression in its ‘Hospice Friendly Hospitals’ programme. To date over 48 hospitals nationwide have been involved in this programme, with over €11.5 million having been invested in the programme. There are several key areas to the work of the Hospice Friendly Hospitals programme, including co-ordinating networks for hospital staff to promote improvements in end-of-life care and providing hospital staff with educational resources and support; developing and promoting the use of ceremonial resources at end of life care and co-ordinating the Design & Dignity project to transform the way end of life spaces in hospitals are designed. In this way, the hospice principles of dignity and compassionate care are becoming ever more implanted in hospitals throughout Ireland.

As regards hospice home care, another early aim of the Irish Hospice Foundation was to expand the successful and pioneering model which Our Lady’s Hospice used, at that time the only example of hospice home care in Ireland. At the launch of the Foundation’s fundraising activities in 1987, Mary Redmond said:

“The sisters, doctors and nurses at Our Lady’s Hospice…provide one of the best models for a therapeutic and caring Community. They certainly provide an unequalled model for the Hospice Foundation. We want to see the growth of enough Home Care Teams and hospices for the whole community…. in the Foundation we believe that an extension of hospice facilities, particularly Home Care, would complement the aims and objectives of the Government.”

Today, the Irish Hospice Foundation is actively involved in providing Home Care Hospice services. Through the ‘Nurses for Night Care’ service, the Irish Hospice Foundation funds nursing care and practical support for people dying with diseases other than cancer (while the Irish Cancer Society funds the service for those dying of that disease). In 2016, 600 families were supported by the service and 2027 nights of care were provided by nurses to those people who wished to die at home. From a time when such services were only provided within a six mile radius of Harold’s Cross in Dublin, it is now possible for anyone in Ireland to receive end-of-life care at home.

Supporting Children at End of Life

An early hope of the Foundation was to investigate the specific needs of terminally ill children and their families. In a research committee meeting of 20th October, 1986, Professor John McCormick ‘…proposed that research into the needs of dying children and their families be undertaken. The assumption is that parents and dying children have needs which are not being met. In order to meet those needs it is necessary to find out what they are by interviewing parents who have already been through the experience…’. This focus on the specific palliative cares needs of children was a recurring theme in the early days of the Irish Hospice Foundation at a time when very little active research was being undertaken in the area of children at end of life.

                Today, supporting children at end of life is a central focus of the Irish Hospice Foundation’s work.There are around 4,000 children living with a life limiting condition in Ireland of which around 350 will die every year. The specific palliative needs of children were identified in an Irish Hospice Foundation led study, with the Department of Health & Children, in 2005, a study which informs government policy on children’s palliative care. Following that, the Irish Hospice Foundation funded 85% of the start of costs of the Children’s Care Programme which includes a team of Children’s Outreach Nurses and Ireland’s only Paediatric Consultant specialising in Children’s Palliative care – this service is now 100% state funded. Overall, the Irish Hospice Foundation has invested €4.5 million into the development of palliative care services for children since 2005.

Hospice Care in Ireland: Then & Now

Ireland’s approach to hospice care has come a long way since 1986. Indeed, the very concept of hospice care – as we understand the term today – was in its relative infancy at that time, not just in Ireland but throughout the world. When asked on RTE radio in April 1986 ‘But why haven’t we heard more about it as a movement, as an idea?’, Dr. Ciaran O’Boyle replied that the idea of Hospice:[21]

‘…in Britain and in the States has really only been having an impact for the last ten years. The Hospice in Harold’s Cross was the first hospice in either Britain or Ireland. And it takes quite a while for the impact of organisations like this to permeate through to general medicine. That is taking place now, the movement is growing apace and it is having a considerable influence on the way in which patients, cancer patients particularly, are being managed in general hospitals.’

Interview with John Bowman on RTE Radio, 22.04.1986

Since then, the hospice movement certainly has grown apace in Ireland. Whereas in 1986 there were only three hospices in Ireland, today there are nine. Whereas then only one specific area in Dublin had access to hospice home care services, now this is a national service which anyone at end of life can avail of. Whereas then there was little recognition of the difference between a hospital bed and a hospice bed in hospital settings, today the need to incorporate hospice principles into hospital settings is a cornerstone of best practice. These changes have come about as a result of a focussed conversation between many sections of Irish society, healthcare groups and between the state and charity sector. They have also come about as a result of increased national awareness of hospice care from the ground up: the annual Sunflower Days and Coffee Mornings have raised an estimated €35 million for local hospice causes over the years. These are events that are largely run by local communities and which bring these communities together to focus on the needs of hospice care. The growth of hospice care in Ireland over the last 31 years has truly come about as a result of a national conversation at every level.

In that sense, TK Whitaker, the first Chairman of the Fellows of the Hospice Foundation, has been proved correct when, at the Foundation’s launch 31 years ago today, he said that:

‘I also feel sure that there will be a growing recognition of the as yet far from satisfied need for hospices of this kind and practical support from the community at large for the worthy aims of the Hospice Foundation.’

The efforts to meet successfully the multifaceted and complex needs of hospice care will always continue, but, from humble beginnings, so many of these have been identified and met successfully over the last 31 years in Ireland.


 “As anyone with a dream will tell you, not only does it never go away, you see it, you can touch it and you talk about it at every opportunity”

Mary Redmond, Speaking at the Inaugural Mary Redmond Day Lecture, 13th February 2004



Explore the History of the Irish Hospice Foundation

IHF 30 years and beyond – Physical & Digital Archive

Last year saw the Irish Hospice Foundation mark it’s 30th anniversary and reflect on our history and legacy.

As part of this reflection the Library and Information Service worked to bring together previously unpublished documents and images spanning the foundation’s history from its launch up to the present in a digital archive. The digital archive was launched in January by RTE’s Mary Kennedy. It allows browsing across online collections featuring documents, images, video and audio on some of the projects, events and achievements of the IHF over three decades. There are currently over 2,000 items and 80 collections digitised and accessible in the archive. Speaking at the launch Mary Kennedy said “This archive spans three decades of the IHF since it’s foundation in 1986 and features some very familiar names that have supported the hospice movement. It maps the history of the hospice including ground breaking IHF programmes like Hospice Friendly Hospitals and Nurses for Night Care, innovative fundraising projects like the Whoseday Book and their pioneering research’.

Some highlights of the archive include ;

  • TK Whitaker’s speech and photos from IHF launch in 1986
  • Original photograph of Seamus Heaney’s hands by photographer Perry Ogden with notes for cover of the Whoseday Book – a Unique Diary for the Millennium. The book in aid of the IHF had 366 contributors including poets, filmmakers and song writers.
  • Correspondence between Dr Mary Redmond & Mother Teresa
  • Correspondence relating to the preparation of the Whoseday book including draft sketches and letters for the final publication valued at £550,000 in 2000. The collection was bought by Bank of Ireland and was donated to the National Library.
  • Unique concept art detailing layout of the Peter and the Wolf book which was illustrated by Bono in aid of the IHF.
  • The original letter from Dr Mary Redmond to Sr Frances Rose O’Flynn of Our Lady’s Hospice Harold’s Cross in 1985 recounting how the death of her father highlighted the importance of hospice care for terminally ill patients and their families.
  • A meeting memorandum between Dr Redmond and Dame Cicely Saunders – founder of the modern hospice movement – in February 9th 

Laura Rooney Ferris, IHF Information and Library Manager and archive creator said at the launch ‘In creating this digital archive we are sharing our family album. We are incredibly grateful to Dr Mary Redmond’s family for this large collection of her personal papers and documents, and also to former board and staff members and people involved throughout the 30 years who kindly contributed’. 

Mother Teresa Letter
Letter from Mother Teresa of Calcutta in response to Dr Mary Redmond Mar 1992

Continuing Work

The digital archive will continue to be developed over time – many collections of personal papers, documents, research and historical material relating to Dr Mary Redmond and the founding of the Irish Hospice Foundation are still being curated and plans are being developed to catalogue and make these collections accessible.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates on items of interest in the archive collections.

You can browse the current digital archive collections HERE>>> 


Therese Brady Library – Christmas & New Year Closing

IHF Merry Christmas 2014The Therese Brady Library will close for the Christmas and New Year holidays on Friday December 19th and will re-open Tuesday Jan 6th 2015

Students, staff and library members are advised to return any due material and borrow any required items before this date. Students, staff and external members are reminded you will still be able to access the library’s electronic resources by logging in to MyAthens via the electronic resources page on the library section of the website.  

We would like to wish you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year.

Palliative Care for all – Practice and Service Development project update now available

The Irish Hospice Foundation’s (IHF) Palliative Care for All programme, aims to extend palliative care interventions to non malignant life limiting illnesses.

Palliative care for all report 2008

Through this programme partnerships have been developed with a range of organisations to develop and deliver palliative support for diseases like Heart Failure, Advanced respiratory failure, Advance Neurological Illness and Dementia.

The latest update on these projects outlining  the activity of practice & service development projects addressing end-of-life care for people with dementia is now available.  The activities of the other aspects of the Palliative Care for All Programme are also outlined.

Palliative care for all communique July 2014

    Click to access the update HERE