D. D. Sheehan

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1874-1948 [Captain Daniel Desmond Sheehan] son of small farmers [peasants]; experienced eviction in infancy; contemporary of James Joyce at college; later entered the bar, and acted on behalf of tenants in relation to the Land Commission, 1903; elected a Nationalist MP; m. Pauline O’Connor, 1894, with whom five children; issued Ireland Since Parnell (1931), which praises the lost leader - arguing that ‘if there had not been an almost unbelievable concatenation of errors and misunderstandings and stupid blunderings, Parnell need never have been sacrificed’ - and strenuously supports William O’Brien [q.v.] against John Dillon, et al., identifies Carson with recalcitrant Orangeism, castigates Lloyd George, and expresses hopes of Irish reunification after Partition and Carson’s appointment as Lord of Appeal; he was one of the few members of the Irish Parliamentary Party who actually enlisted in World War I, in which he lost two sons and a nephew; d. 28 Nov. 1948.

[ There is an extensive Wikipedia entry - online; accessed 28.009.2014 ]

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Works
Ireland Since Parnell
(London: D. O’Connor 1921), vii-viii, 326pp. [see extracts, infra, or full-text version, full attached.]

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Quotations
Ireland Since Parnell
(1931)

‘From 1885 to 1890 there was a general forgiving and forgetting of historic wrongs and ancient feuds. The Irish Nationalists were willing to clasp hands across the sea in a brotherhood of friendship and even of affection, but there stood apart, in open and flaming disaffection, the Protestant minority in Ireland, who were in a state of stark terror that the Home Rule Bill of 1886 meant the end of everything for them - the end of their brutal ascendancy and probably also the confiscation of their property and the ruin of their social position.

‘Then, as on a more recent occasion, preparations for civil war were going on in Ulster, largely of English Party manufacture, and more with an eye to British Party purposes than because of any sincere convictions on the rights of the ascendancy element. Still the Grand Old Man carried on his indomitable campaign for justice to Ireland, notwithstanding the unfortunate cleavage which had taken place in the ranks of his own Party, and it does not require any special gift of prevision to assert, nor is it any unwarrantable assumption on the facts to say, that the alliance between the Liberal and Irish Parties would inevitably have triumphed as soon as a General Election came had not the appalling misunderstanding as to Gladstone's “Nullity of Leadership” letter flung everything into chaos and irretrievably ruined the hopes of Ireland for more than a generation.

‘And this brings me to what I regard as the greatest of Irish tragedies—the deposition and the dethronement of Parnell under circumstances which will remain for all time a sadness and a sorrow to the Irish race.’ [End Chap. 1.]

Further - on the decadence of the Irish Parliamentary Party: ‘To show the veritable depths of baseness to which the so-called National Movement had fallen [the Irish Parliamentary Party under the secret control of the Ancient Order of Hibernians c.1909] it need only be stated that it was charged against their official organ - The Freeman’s Journal - that no less than eighteen members of its staff had obtained positions of profit under the Crown, including a Lord Chancellorship, an Under-secretaryship, Judgeships, Crown Prosecutorships, University Professorships, Resident Magistracies, Local Government Inspectorships, etc. In this connection it is also worthy of mention that when the premises of this concern were burnt out in the course of the Easter Week Rebellion it was re-endowed for “national” purposes, with a Treasury grant of £60,000, being twice the amount which the then directors of the Freeman confessed to be the business value of the property.’

(Chap. XIX.): ‘[T]he greatest achievement of Parnell was the fact that he had both the great English parties bidding for his support. We know that the Tory Party entered into negotiations with him on the Home Rule issue. Meanwhile, however, there was the more notable conversion of Gladstone, a triumph of unparalleled magnitude for Parnell and in itself the most convincing testimony to the positive strength and absolute greatness of the man. A wave of enthusiasm went up on both sides of the Irish Sea for the alliance which seemed to symbolise the ending of the age-long struggle between the two nations. True, this alliance has since been strangely underrated in its effects, but there can be no doubt that it evoked at the time a genuine outburst of friendliness on the part of the Irish masses to England. And at the General Election of 1885 Parnell returned from Ireland with a solid phalanx of eighty-four members - eager, invincible, enthusiastic, bound unbreakably together in loyalty to their country and in devotion to their leader.’

See longer extracts - attached. Full text available at Gutenberg [online]; quoted in part in an article in defence of conspiracy theories, at Indymedia, 14 Sept. 2007 [online]; accessed 09.11.2011; URL emended 28.09.2104.)

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The Playboy of the Western World - Sheehan’s contribution to the debate at the Abbey Theatre on 4 Feb. 1907, following the riots at the first performances is documented by Richard Ellmann in a footnote to James Joyce’s letter on the fracas to his brother (written in Rome and based on the report in Freeman’s Journal): ‘Daniel Sheehan (whom Joyce had known at University College) spoke, as a peasant now working for a medical degree in Dublin, in defend Synge’s play. He said, in part: “Mr. Synge had drawn attention to a particular form of marriage law which, though not confined to Ireland, was very common in Ireland. It was with a fine woman like Pegeen Mike and a tubercule Koch’s disease man like Shaun Keogh - and the point of view was not the murder at all, but when the artist appears in Ireland who was not afraid of life and his nature, the women of Ireland would receive him.’ The newspaper reported that “[a]t this stage in the speech many ladies, whose countenances plainly indicated intense feelings of astonishment and pain, rose and left the place. Many men also retired.” An earlier phrase of Sheehan’s about Irishwomen was “lost in the noise”.’ (Selected Letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann, London: Faber 1975, p.147, n.3 [appended to letter of 11 Feb. 1907.])

Further: ‘Sheehan also said he came “to object to the pulpit Irishman, just as they objected to the stage Irishman”’. (Ibid., n.4.) Joyce writes: ‘Sheehan seems to be a little different from the other young men with ideas in Ireland. I suspect he must have got a high place in all his exams and so can afford to treat the Church on equal terms.’ [For full text of Joyce’s letter on the incident, see under Joyce, Quotations, infra.]

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