London Met researchers to present Irish Nurses project for IWD at the London Irish Centre

Irish Nurses navigating British Society: Essential Carers and Unwanted Migrants is an online symposium celebrating International Women’s Day.

Date: 20 February 2024

The NHS, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2023, is one of the most loved and valued institutions in British society. This upcoming online symposium and podcast tells the story of a forgotten but crucial component of the NHS workforce: the Irish migrant nurses.  

The recruitment of young Irish women into British nursing has a long history. With the launch of the NHS in 1948, Irish girls were directly recruited into nursing in Britain through local labour exchanges  across Ireland, as well as advertisements in Irish national and provincial newspapers.

Recruitment campaigns throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, saw NHS staff travel across Ireland, often setting up in local hotels, in big cities and small towns, to interview and recruit Irish teenagers directly into nurse training. Tens of thousands of such young women, and men, were then assigned to train and work in hospitals throughout Britain.  

By the 1970s there were an estimated 30,000 Irish-born nurses working across the NHS, 

However, while Irish nurses were an important source of labour for the NHS, providing essential care, they also occupied an ambiguous position as Irish migrants and came under suspicion, particularly during the decades of ‘The Troubles’ and the IRA bombing campaigns across England (1970s-1990s). 

This event arises from the Irish Nurses in the NHS: Oral History project led by Prof Louise Ryan and Grainne McPolin with Neha Doshi.

Louise and Neha will present the findings from the oral history interviews with 45 Irish-born nurses and Grainne will introduce the podcast series, especially the new podcast released especially for International Women’s Day. 


The Irish Nurses in the NHS project is conducted in partnership with the London Irish Centre and funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (Irish Abroad Unit), The Institute of Irish Studies Liverpool, The Burdett Trust for Nursing and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. 

An old image of Nurses on a bus

This event will be held on Friday 8 March 7.00-8.30pm online.

Following the presentations there will an opportunity for Q&A.