In 1961 Dr. Brian Pringle founded the MS Society in Dublin. Dr. Pringle was at that time a renowned General Practitioner with a great interest in Multiple Sclerosis. He was concerned about the disease but also its effects on those principally affected and indeed the other far-reaching side effects. Dr. Pringle went on to play a leading role in the formation of the International Federation of MS Societies, which today is the standard bearer for MS Societies across the world.
The initial meeting, which was the consequence of a newspaper advertisement, was held in Lumsden Hall, in Dublin in February 1961. This meeting was well attended and momentum quickly gathered resulting in the first Annual General Meeting taking place on 8th June 1961.
The Society moved into offices at 14, Merrion Sq. from where services would be administered for the next twenty years. The task of building the organisation into a vibrant support group was begun. The establishment of branches and the overall advocacy on behalf of persons and families affected by Multiple Sclerosis was to be the main thrust of the new Society. It is interesting to note that even back then there was mention of cutbacks, lack of sufficient services, home helps etc.
At the end of 1982 the Society on celebrating 21 years of service made two momentous decisions. It decided to set up new office structures and to move to establish Community Services by introducing community workers to support the client base of the Society. The premises were purchased in Sandymount Green towards the end of 1982 with the aid of what was a substantial bequest at that time. The editor of MS News of the period wrote “Sandymount Green will give the Society room to grow, it will be a base for expansion of services and the membership will no longer feel excluded or embarrassed by stairs or steps”. Some of the strong personalities who were involved with the Society during the early years, apart from Brian Pringle were, Rory Whelan, Leo Markey, Irene Brindley RIP, Maura Lillis, Tom Breen, Vivien Lloyd Blood and Irving Stewart.
Towards the end of the 80’s MS Care established a Respite Centre dedicated to persons with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. A premises was purchased with the aid of a Dept of Health grant in 1989 at 65, Bushy Park Road in Dublin and converted into a centre of excellence providing respite and eventually rehabilitation for persons with Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological disabilities. The progress of the centre continued into the nineties with the able assistance of the ‘Friends of MS Group’ who provided much needed financial assistance. People to the fore during this period were Tom Connors RIP, Mary Allen RIP, Carmel Stenson, James O’Driscoll RIP, Ned Burke and Mervyn Taylor. In April 1982, Brian Pringle passed on to his eternal reward leaving in his wake a legacy of service and dedication in the field of MS, which will be difficult to surpass.
Into the nineties the emphasis was on constitutional change. Brendan Ingoldsby was recruited on secondment from the Dept of Health & Children. The Society hosted a major International Conference of MS Societies, still regarded today as one of the most successful ever organised and support was also given to the emergence of a platform of MS Societies in Europe. The organisation suffered a severe downturn in its structure in 1993 when some fundraising events failed and as a result a number of personnel departed. Procedures were put in place to redress this situation over the following three years and these were by and large successful.
Consideration was given to securing the legal status of the Society and forming closer ties with MS Care. Heads of Agreement were drawn up in 1997. On 19th November 1998 a new limited company was formed with William Lonergan as Chairman of the Board and Michael Dineen as Chief Executive. This company took over all the assets, liabilities and undertakings of the former MS Ireland and the MS Care Foundation (which previously managed the Care Centre). During this period, the Society owes a debt of gratitude to Paul Hogan, Niall O’Carroll, Howard Cusack RIP, Brendan Kenna RIP, Eileen Barry RIP, Martin Nolan, Fr. Jimmy Doherty RIP, Peter Gatenby RIP, William Lonergan and John Paul.
By 1998 the Society had agreed to sell Sandymount Green, a matter, which was finalised in September of 1999 when the National Office moved temporarily to the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook. It was at this point decided to source a permanent base for MS Ireland, which would also cater for the growing service need of the membership. It was originally hoped that the Bushy Park site might accommodate all of the need but this was quickly discounted.
The MS Resource Centre was purchased to house the Society’s administrative offices at 80 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4. The MS Care Centre was extended and upgraded. MS Ireland has 10 regional offices.