The Central Mental Hospital was established in 1850 as a result of recommendations of a parliamentary committee set up in 1843 under Lord Sugden, the Lord Chancellor. The Dundrum facility predated the establishment of a similar institution at Broadmoor, England, opened in 1863, but it mirrored the ideological approach to crime and mental disorder evident throughout Britain and its colonies at this time. It was known as the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum for Ireland.

The Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum was the first secure hospital in Europe. The Central Mental Hospital provided care and treatment to mentally disordered offenders for the entire thirty-two counties up until partition in 1922.

The National Forensic Mental Health Service for Ireland is now based in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dublin. The hospital is one of the oldest in Europe. Modernising a service in a building that is 150 years old presents significant challenges to all concerned.

It is government policy to develop a new Central Mental Hospital a a new location and to sell the lands and buildings at Dundrum for deveopment purposes. A decision has been made to located the new CMH Hospital at Portrane, County Dublin. It is planned to open the new hospital 10 Spring 2019.

A design process is underway to prepare a planning application for the new hospital for submission to An Bord Pleanala.