Mayo politicians unite behind call to honour Killala doctor
Edwin McGreal and Áine Ryan
Mayo’s female Oireachtas members have united behind a call to name the new National Children’s Hospital in honour of Dr Kathleen Lynn.
It was announced last month that the new hospital is set to be named Phoenix Children’s Health but there is renewed support for it to be named after Kathleen Lynn, the pioneering Mayo-born medic, patriot and feminist.
And when contacted by The Mayo News four Mayo Oireachtas members gave a resounding backing to calls for the hospital to be named in Dr Lynn’s honour.
TD Lisa Chambers (Fianna Fáil) and Senators Rose Conway-Walsh (Sinn Féin), Michelle Mulherin (Fine Gael) and Marie-Louise O’Donnell (Independent) all supported the proposal, in light of a column in this week’s Mayo News by John Healy which called for Mayo’s female Oireachtas members to unite in support of the plan.
There has been widespread support for plans to name the hospital after Dr Lynn and considerable criticism of the announcement late last month that it would be called the Phoenix.
“Naming it after Kathleen Lynn makes perfect sense. She played a key part in the formation of the state, indeed was involved in 1916,” Lisa Chambers, TD, told The Mayo News.
“I think it makes much more sense to name it after someone who played such a key role in the formation of the state and in the medical world in the early years of the state than to name it the ‘Phoenix’.
“It would be fantastic if it was named after such a prominent female figure in Ireland, someone who is from Mayo,” she added.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said her party colleague Aengus Ó Snodaigh has long campaigned for the hospital to be named in Dr Lynn’s honour and said it would be a ‘missed opportunity’ not to do so.
“To do so would recognise the important work she did in delivering medical care to women and children in Dublin, and to the poor in particular, in her pioneering St Ultan’s Hospital.
“Kathleen Lynn was a Mayo woman who challenged many of the norms in society with regard to women. She was a suffragette and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
She was the first resident doctor at the Eye and Ear Hospital and was instrumental in the roll-out of the BCG vaccine. She was a soup kitchen worker in the 1913 lock-out. She was a Citizens’ Army volunteer and was the officer commanding City Hall at the end of Easter week 1916. She was a prisoner of war, a councillor, a TD.
“It would be a missed opportunity not to name it after her. I could not think of anyone more appropriate.
I would be very proud as a Mayo woman to see the hospital named after Dr Kathleen Lynn. I’d ask the minister to reflect on the wishes of the people. I have heard of no objection to the proposal,” Senator Conway-Walsh said.
Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell told The Mayo News last night that she ‘completely and entirely’ supported the call for the new hospital to be name after Dr Lynn.
“The proposed naming of it as ‘Phoenix’ doesn’t conjure children, it conjures adults rising out of the ashes.
Dr Kathleen Lynn was one of the country’s great medics. Honouring her would be acknowledging her as one of our many unsung heroines. A progressive doctor who we are only learning about lately,” Senator O’Donnell said.
The Foxford native referred to the resonance of such names as Florence Nightingale, and Nano Nangle, observing that the Kathleen Lynn National Children’s Hospital could ultimately have the same impact.
Senator Michelle Mulherin also backed the call.
“Definitely, as a pioneering physician and Mayo woman who played a prominent role in our political history.”
Dr Kathleen Lynn was born in Mullafarry, Killala. Her father was a Church of Ireland rector, something which marginalised her throughout her life.
A very active participant in the republican struggle, Dr Lynn is probably best known for her pioneering work in providing medical care for children of the Dublin slums at St Ultan’s Hospital, which she founded.
Writing about the naming of the national children’s hospital in The Irish Times, renowned academic Diarmaid Ferriter had this to say: “Lynn’s legacy is significant for many reasons, not least … the way she battled sectarianism and prejudices faced by women and the poor, as well as her medical and social work for Irish children ...
“The name unveiled during the week for the hospital – Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Ireland – has quite rightly been derided and it should not be too late to row back on such an inappropriate and unimaginative decision when there is a chance to give the hospital a name inextricably linked with genuine republicanism and the treatment of sick children.”