Ireland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. In 2011, only one third of all those diagnosed with MS received disease-modifying treatment; in 2013, this percetange was reported as unkown. Although slighlty improved since 2011, the ratio of neurologists to patients is still low, with one neurologist for around 300 people with MS, so there is limited time for patients. A model of nurse-led services may provide a solution.

On a positive note, symptomatic treatment for MS ranks high compared to other countries, and so does access to new medications. Ireland also has good scores regarding MS research. But access to neuro-rehabilitation is very limited. Moreover, people have to travel long distances to specialised centers.

It is estimated that only around 20% of people with MS work either full-time or part-time. The government provides modest financial support for people with disabilities.

EMSP’s MS Barometer offers additional country insights. It also shows that access to treatment, therapies and employment varies greatly across Europe (MS BAROMETER)

Multiple Sclerose Society of Ireland Ltd (MSI)

MS Resource Centre, Northumberland Road, Dublin 4 - IRELAND
Tel : +353 1 678 1600 | Fax : +353 1 678 1601 | E-mail : |
Website :

  • "I was in Ireland on two occasions. On both, the people I saw - Mary Bartley, Grace O’Sullivan and Oisin Mannion - knew the importance of having their families around them as their most immediate support group. Sadly, they also felt the lack of timely attention from specialists.

    In Ireland, as neurologist Orla Hardiman mentions, the ratio of neurologists compared to other nations is really low. The average waiting time for a person to see a neurologist causes a delay in diagnosis and this delay can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on people with MS since they will also be delayed in getting the right treatment that could slow down the progression of the disease.

    Mary and Eamon’s Irish sense of humor was unbroken during my stay with them.  This proves to be a good ‘medicine’ against the daily grind of this tiresome condition. It is a reminder of how one can put on a brave face when dealing with challenging situations.

    Grace, luckily, has a sister who is a doctor. Through her, Grace was able not only to see a neurologist very soon, but also to have the rare luck of getting diagnosed within a year of her first symptoms. To show the invaluable effect of this, Grace is already on treatment, with the medication she needs, and is able to lead an active lifestyle. Moreover, her able body also allows her the chance of working as a teacher, thus allowing her to lead a life beyond MS. However, as mentioned, this is only possible since she is related to a doctor. Others, she acknowledges, have to wait a much longer time to see a neurologist. She is the perfect example of what could be possible for people with MS in Ireland if the required medical attention were promptly given."

    Walter Astrada

    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Since Dixie joined the family, Mary Bartley has noticed a marked improvement in her overall mobility. She has more stamina when walking and knows it is a form of physiotherapy each time she reaches to give the dog a pat. “Dixie is a wonderful companion and I do believe you need to keep exercising,” says Mary. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • “Under pressure is a good way to describe living with MS,” says Eamon Bartley. “On one hand, you can never plan too far ahead because you don’t know how well Mary will be on a given day. On the other, if we’re going on vacation, I have to plan for everything: make sure the medications are in place, prepare for whatever problems might arise, etc.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Eamon Bartley is the gardener at the German Ambassador’s residence in Dublin. “The hardest part about being the spouse of a PwMS is that it’s like having a third person in your relationship – one who dictates what you can and can’t do. It’s disappointing to miss out on things you planned together because this third person gets in the way.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Lately, Mary Bartley has noticed her hands starting to cramp up. “I felt it while writing Christmas cards this year, which wasn’t a problem last year. I exercise my hands every day, and I do fear the day when I might not be able to use them.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • “Hand on my heart, I never heard of MS before I was diagnosed,” says Mary Bartley, who believes public awareness is much higher now thanks to campaigns and better education. “But when I began to learn about the disease, it helped explain a lot of things – the dizziness, loss of balance, cramping of my hands and feet.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Being diagnosed as a young mother brought particular challenges, says Mary Bartley. “I had been very active with the children, always going to the park to play ball and such. I switched to taking them to the pool, where I could move more easily. Plus, I could hold them and kiss them, because we were all floating in the water.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Eamon Bartley senses that their daughter Sarah feels she missed out in some ways because of Mary’s MS, yet it brought benefits that other kids lacked. “When the kids came back from school each day, Mary was always here for them. A lot of kids with able-bodied parents don’t get that security and certainty at that age.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • Mary Bartley talks with colleague, Sheila Dunne, at the National Concert Hall. The Hall has been terrific about accommodating Mary’s needs, including allowing a flexible schedule. But providing easy access to a washroom meant relocating Mary to a ground-floor office, where she is isolated from the rest of the team. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • Before being diagnosed with MS, Grace O'Sullivan taught a class of 30 active children. When she returned to work after being on leave, the school re-assigned her to a learning support role, which involves focused teaching for small groups of kids with learning difficulties. She hopes to return to a larger class in the future. Despite her diagnosis, the school board made her position permanent. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • Grace O'Sullivan stays active by running, horseback riding and other sports. But she is much more aware of her limits and plans only one such activity per day. Sometimes while running her left side starts to drag, but the symptom subsides when she cools down. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • Grace O'Sullivan was put on DMDs very quickly after her diagnosis, the cost of which is covered by the health system. She also received five or six free counselling sessions. Although she is quite well now, she finds herself paying more attention to the news that budget cuts may lead to lower disability allowances. Such decisions have a direct effect on her friends, and possibly on her future. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • For the first six months after being diagnosed, Grace O’Sullivan felt quite confident, “I thought ‘I can get on with this and I can definitely deal with this.’ I guess I also hoped that I would be one of the lucky ones who never had a second relapse. But I hadn’t really gotten a taste of MS yet; my next relapse was much more difficult.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • Grace O'Sullivan has stayed close to friends Maired O'Dowd (centre) and Gillian Monaghan. Deciding when to be open about her condition depends on the scenario, “Generally, I’m quite open. I think it’s easier if people know why I’m tired all the time instead of just wondering about it. I’d feel like I’m almost lying if I wasn’t able to tell someone I know. When given a chance to understand, people usually do.” Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Trim, Ireland • In May 2010, Grace O’Sullivan went blind in one eye. Her sister, a physician, recognized the possibility of MS and arranged for a neurologist to visit Grace in the hospital. The diagnosis was confirmed within days. But not everyone in Ireland is so lucky. National health policy puts a quota on specialists; with only 27 neurologists serving a population of 4.5 million, waiting weeks or months for an appointment is the norm. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 12/2011, Dublin, Ireland • John Nevin settles into a jacuzzi bath at the MS Care Centre, operated by MS Ireland. The Centre’s primary aim is to provide a week of rest, therapy and social interaction for people living with MS. Yet everyone recognises the visits as equally important to giving family members a break from the burden of care. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 3214 03/2012, Turlough, Ireland • Tommy Mannion cleans the floor while waiting for a professional career to arrive and help his son Oisin (42) get out of bed. At 77, Tommy needs to be realistic about his own limitations in taking care of an increasingly disabled adult. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 03/2012, Turlough, Ireland • Galway County is often described as the “cultural heart of Celtic Ireland”. Oisin Mannion (42) lives in Connemara, a rural area where access to services is extremely limited. His condition is quite advanced and Oisin requires help for almost all personal care. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 03/2012, Turlough, Ireland • At 77 years of age, Tommy Mannion is still very much the primary caretaker of his son Oisin (42). As Oisin becomes more disabled, the balance between providing help and supporting independence becomes more challenging. Often, Tommy sets the stage then keeps a watchful eye from close by. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 03/2012, Turlough, Ireland • Margaret Mannion (75) brings tea to the breakfast table. Together with her husband Tommy (77), she provides almost continual care for their son Oisin, who was diagnosed with MS at age 25. Oisin left home to go to university, but returned when his MS advanced to a stage that he could no longer live alone. Credit: Walter Astrada
    • 3630 03/2012, Turlough, Ireland • Oisin Mannion travels to Galway where he receives physiotherapy and joins activities coordinated by the Irish Wheelchair Association. (This was the first time for this activity for him) Credit: Walter Astrada

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