What was the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821?


The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821 formed the basis of mental health law in Ireland from 1821 until 2015.

Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation.


Prior to the Lunacy (Ireland) Act, there had been only limited progress with establishing specialist accommodation for the mentally ill in Ireland. The only such facilities were the Eglinton Asylum in Cork and the Richmond Asylum in Dublin.


The legislation authorised the appointment of a Commission of General Control and Correspondence to have oversight of asylums in Ireland. It also gave powers to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to establish and operate publicly funded “district asylums” across the island of Ireland.

Subsequent Legislation

Although the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 made some changes relating to Commissioners in Lunacy, the management of the Estates of Lunatics and for the protection of the property of Lunatics in Ireland, aspects of the legislation remained in force until repealed by the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015.

What were the Commissioners in Lunacy for Ireland?


The Commissioners in Lunacy for Ireland or Lunacy Commission for Ireland were a public body established by the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821 to oversee asylums and the welfare of mentally ill people in Ireland.

Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation, Commissioners in Lunacy for Scotland, and Commissioners in Lunacy.


The Board of Commissioners in Lunacy for Ireland, more strictly known as the “Commission of General Control and Correspondence”, was established in 1821 by the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821. The commission consisted of four doctors and four lay members. It was responsible for designating the districts to be served by the asylums, selecting the locations and approving the designs.

Asylums Commissioned

The Eglinton Asylum in Cork and the Richmond Asylum in Dublin existed at the time the legislation was enacted and were incorporated into the new district asylum system as the Cork Asylum and the Dublin Asylum in 1830 and 1845 respectively. The new asylums that were commissioned under the auspices of the Commissioners in Lunacy for Ireland included:

  • Antrim Asylum, 1899.
  • Armagh Asylum, 1825.
  • Connacht Asylum, 1833.
  • Belfast Asylum, 1829.
  • Carlow Asylum, 1832.
  • Castlebar Asylum, 1866.
  • Clonmel Asylum, 1835.
  • Donegal Asylum, 1866.
  • Down Asylum, 1869.
  • Ennis Asylum, 1868.
  • Enniscorthy Asylum, 1868.
  • Killarney Asylum, 1852.
  • Kilkenny Asylum, 1852.
  • Limerick Asylum, 1827.
  • Londonderry Asylum, 1829.
  • Maryborough Asylum, 1833.
  • Monaghan Asylum, 1869.
  • Mullingar Asylum 1855.
  • Omagh Asylum, 1853.
  • Portrane Asylum, 1903.
  • Sligo Asylum, 1855.
  • Waterford Asylum, 1835.