The foundling hospital
While a number of factors led to the setting up of a Dublin foundling hospital, the writings of Jonathan Swift played a key part. He campaigned for action to address the appalling living conditions of the poor.
Swift’s satirical essay A Modest Proposal, published in 1729, was followed by the setting up of a House of Lords committee to investigate the problem of abandoned infants.
The Irish parliament passed legislation obliging the governors of the workhouse to admit all abandoned Dublin children.
Foundling hospitals across Europe had an infant mortality rate about twice as high as children cared for at home. At the Dublin Foundling Hospital between 1750 and 1760, some 3,797 infants died out of a total of 7,781 admitted.
In 1829, a parliamentary committee decreed there were sufficient alternative charitable facilities for abandoned children and the Dublin Foundling Hospital closed to new admissions in 1831.