of a soldier who visited Bandon in 1915
Niall O’Siochain, in reference to his grandfather, D.D.Sheehan
B.L., M.P. Mid-Cork, 1901–1918, who served as Captain
Royal Munster Fusiliers, 9th (Service) Battalion,
Desmond Sheehan, despite his age of 41, enthusiastically enlisted in the
Royal Munster Fusiliers at Buttevant, in November 1914. Born in Kanturk in 1873, his family suffered eviction during
the Land War.
Gifted, he co-founded, in 1894, the Irish Land
and Labour Association, later President.
He acted as correspondent and editor for several
newspapers, from 1898 – 1901 he was editor of the Cork
County Southern Star.
Standing on a Labour platform, he was elected
in 1901, as the youngest M.P. in Westminster.
championed the labourer's cause through implementing
the 1903 (Wyndham) Land Act and pursuing and enacting
the 1906 Labourers (Ireland) Act, by which 40,000 “Sheehan’s”
cottages were erected on an acre of land, throughout
Munster and Ireland, housing thousands previously congested
in hovels. He
was called to the Bar (Prizeman) in 1911.
He launched, with William O’Brien, a new political
movement, the “All-For-Ireland League” (AFIL), which
advocated averting looming partition at all costs by
conceding guarantees, and Dominion Home Rule
within the Commonwealth to Protestant Ulster. The proposals made by him and his
party, the AFIL, were praised as negotiable by Carson.
These proposals were opposed by the Irish
Hierarchy and Redmond’s Irish Party.
The AFIL abstained from voting for the ‘partition’
Home Rule Act in 1914.
the outbreak of the Great War the AFIL and its eight
MP’s actively supported the Allied cause in Europe.
In the Spring and Autumn of 1915, D.D. Sheehan
undertook the organisation of special voluntary enlistment
campaigns in Limerick, Clare and Cork.
In the course of a stirring address held in Bandon,
he said that he was not asking the people to do anything
or to take any risks that he was not prepared to share
served with his Battalion, which he largely raised,
during 1915/16 on the Loos Salient. Three
of his sons joined him, two were killed in the RAF on
active service and a brother-in-law was killed with
the RMF. His
daughter, a V.A.D. nurse and his brother (Irish Guards)
were severely disabled.
A third son joined at age 15 1/2
(RMF) and was , at 16, the youngest commissioned
officer in the army, twice seriously wounded.
(He was later Brigadier General Michael J. Sheehan
O.B.E., C.B.E., Indian Army, WW2 Burma campaign).
in the trenches and at the front, D.D. Sheehan contributed
a series of widely quoted articles to the Daily Express
under his own name.
He was decommissioned in January 1918, owing
to ill-health and ear injuries.
In Parliament he vehemently
condemned Britain’s handling of Irish affairs.
In Autumn 1918 he and his Party (AFIL) issued
a manifesto stepping down in favour of Arthur Griffith's
moderate Sinn Fein.
This pre-empted a move, with his family, to London,
initially as a Labour candidate at Limehouse, then as
a journalist and editor – writing his authoritative
book, Ireland Since Parnell (1921).
In 1926 he abandoned politics and returned to
was unable to resume a legal practice due to impaired
hearing, and he edited the South Dublin Chronicle
while active with the O.C.A.’s, helping ex-servicemen.
In 1940 he followed his vision of an undivided
Ireland as editor of the “Northern and Southern Ireland”
supplement of The British Legion Annual. A letter from HQ, Home Guard, in London 1944 says: “Many thanks
for the three copies of the Annual which I have placed
in the Shamrock Club.
Some 20,000 Irish service men and women have
already passed through, and your Annual makes very good
reading for them”.
Sheehan died in 1948, and was buried with his wife (died
1926), in Glasnevin National Cemetery, Dublin. (Click
here for Printable version)