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'He was a man ahead of his time': Dublin councillor calls for memorial of Dr Noël Browne

Browne was appointed Health Minister in 1948 and resigned in April 1951 over the Mother & Child scheme.

Dr Noel Browne
Dr Noel Browne
Image: RollingNews.ie

DR NOËL BROWNE, a controversial and complex politician in Irish history, is without a memorial in Dublin – something councillor Pat Dunne wants to change. 

“I was alerted by a couple of constituents coming from different perspectives who were surprised that there’s no public memorial for Noël Browne in the city,” the Independents4Change councillor recently told TheJournal.ie

“When I did a bit of research I found out that Noël Browne was born in Waterford and there is a memorial garden for him there, but apart from that I could see nothing else,” said Dunne.

Browne, who was born in Waterford in 1915, studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin and worked on the treatment and eradication of TB before being elected to the Dáil in 1948 as a member of Clann na Poblachta. 

He was appointed Health Minister in an inter-party Government led by Fine Gael Taoiseach John A Costello and resigned in April 1951 over the Mother & Child scheme.

The scheme, which was first drawn up in 1946, proposed free medical care for mothers and children up to the age of 16 without a means test. But it drew immediate opposition from the Catholic church and medical practitioners, who feared the scheme would reduce the number of private patients. 

The Catholic hierarchy argued the scheme was contrary to its teachings and the rights of the medical profession. 

Browne was isolated by fellow Cabinet ministers and stepped down after being asked by party leader Sean MacBride to do so. 

Browne would later be re-elected to the Dáil and the Seanad as an Independent and later as a member of Fianna Fáil, from which he was expelled, and Labour. He died in 1997. 

“There’s a chequered history there, of course there is,” Dunne told TheJournal.ie

“But I think he should be remembered in the city for the outstanding work he did. He was a man before his time, particularly on the Mother & Child scheme…and also his work on the eradication of TB.”

Dunne said he does not know if a future memorial will take the form of a statue or a plaque. “But I’d like Dublin City Council to accept that there should be acknowledgement of Noël  Browne,” he said. 

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His proposal was approved by the Council’s Arts Committee and will now be considered by the Commemorations Committee. 

The committee will consider a number of criteria including whether Browne is of sufficient importance to be commemorated and what form a commemoration or memorial should take. 

The committee may also seek additional information regarding the proposal and could seek the public’s views if Browne is deemed sufficient for commemoration. 

The committee’s recommendation will then be brought to a full Council meeting for a final decision.

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