Biography of a soldier who visited Bandon in 1915

From 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, 1914-1917.

Daniel 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.

He 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.

At 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 himself.  He 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).

Whilst 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 Dublin.

He 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”.

D.D. Sheehan died in 1948, and was buried with his wife (died 1926), in Glasnevin National Cemetery, Dublin. (Click here for Printable version)

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