Meath History (continued)
The sixties saw, in contrast, traumatic changes. Far from dealing with a stagnant economy and population, the rapidly increasing population of the south east of the county, caused by the increase in population in Dublin, forced the county officials and structures to become more flexible and capable of rapid change. Though this expansion slowed down in the seventies, the development of Tara Mines, with its consequent social and economic implications, kept long term and constantly changing planning, a priority into the eighties. The county has now a population 180,000, greater than it had ever been before the Famine, and its still rapid growth puts new strains on existing resources, and, on the search for newer ones. The recent discovery, for example, of some underground lakes of water at Curraha and other centres in the county ensure an expanding water supply well into the next century.
After the innovations of the medical act of 1842 no restructuring in medical services took place for over a century. The only hospital for private patients was the County Infirmary in Navan, set up in the 1750s by an enlightened Grand Jury; the Fever Hospital near which, the workhouse was built had catered for the plagues of cholera, typhus and typhoid since 1817. Gradually the workhouse hospital became acceptable as a local hospital for all, especially after the 1880s when the Mercy Nuns became nurses there in Trim, Navan and Kells. The changes in 1924 to County Hospital and County Home were the last before the medical services were taken from the County Council, the dispensary system abolished and the North Eastern Health Board established to cater for medical services in Meath and five neighbouring counties in 1970.
Meath then began as a kingdom, became a duchy, shrank to a county which was a unit in alien law. In the 19th century when the unit became one for local government which eventually became representative of local opinion, providing social services to the community, it became one acceptable to the citizens, and was no longer perceived as an alien imposition. Its adoption as the G.A.A. unit helped too, of course, forging awareness of tribal unity through national competitions. Today it is still a unit through which substantial political power is exercised. In fact some movement towards the devolution of more powers is mooted at central government level. Time will tell if that is more than a pious hope.