Ronan Sheehan


Life
1953- ; b. Dublin, of Kerry descent on his mother’s side; son of a barrister; ed. Gonzaga College, and UCD; Incorporated Law Soc., 1976-80; Dublin solicitor, family firm; Hennessy Literary Prize for short fiction, 1974; fnd. Irish Writers’ Co-Op, with Dermot Bolger and others; issued stories, Tennis Players (1977), Boy with an Injured Eye (1983), and The Heart of the City (1984) - winner of Rooney Prize, 1984; occas. ed. Latin-American issue of Crane Bag, 1983; recipient of an Arts Council film-script award, 1991;
 
served on the Editorial Board of Studies, 1993-2003, and acted as Director of Poetry Ireland, 2000-06; issued Foley’s Asia (1999), a novelistic study of the Irish sculpture J. H. Foley, who created the Daniel O’Connell monument on O’Connell St., Dublin, and the Prince Albert and Egeria figures for the Albert Memorial, London; Ronan Sheehan: appt. Writer-in-Residence at UCD, 2009-10; engaged in Catullus Project, resulting in The Irish Catullus (2010). DIL FDA

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Works
Fiction
  • Tennis Players (Dublin Co-Op Books 1977);
  • Boy with an Injured Eye (Dingle: Brandon 1983);
  • The Heart of the City (Dingle: Brandon 1984), 192pp.;
  • Foley’s Asia (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1999), 144pp. [see extract]
Miscellaneous
  • ‘Novelists of Our Time: Ronan Sheehan Talks to John Banville and Francis Stuart’, in Crane Bag, 3, 1 (1979), p.78ff. [Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1 [1977-81], pp.408-16 - available at JSTOR Ireland - online];
  • ‘Interview with Sean MacBride’, Crane Bag, 2. 1&2 (1978); rep. Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies (1982), pp.296-303 [see extract];
  • ‘The Press and the People in Dublin Central: Ronan Sheehan Talks to Tony Gregory, Mick Rafferty & Fergus McCabe’, in The Crane Bag, 8, 2 [Media and Popular Culture] (1984), pp.44-50 [available at JSTOR Ireland - online]
  • The Irish Catullus: or One Gentleman of Verona (Dublin: A. A. Farmar 2010), 157pp. [ded. to Michael Hartnett; num. translation contribs. incl. Conor Bowman, Colm Breathnach, Katie Donovan, Celia de Fréine, Michael Longley, Mia Gallagher, Matthew Geden, Thomas McCarthy, Frank McGuinness, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Karl O’Neill, Derry O’Sullivan, Gabriel Rosenstock, Mick Raftery, Tomás Mac Síomóin, et al.].
  • ‘Though the Sky Fall’, in Dublin Review of Books, No. 39 (15 July 2013) [on Veronica Guerin] - see extract.)

See also Cindy Sheehan’s Irish Interview [with Ronan Sheehan] on Counterpunch, ed. Alexander Cockburn (Jan. 2006) online, or attached.

Criticism
See feature-article by Theo Dorgan on Sheehan’s Catullus in The Irish Times (12 Feb. 2011), Weekend Review, p.11.[with photo-port. by Alan Benson] - available online.

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References
Brandon Books (1994/95 Cat.) lists The Heart of the City (Brandon ?1984) [Sunday Tribune, ‘toughminded scrutiny and celebration of the Dublin spirit’.]

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Quotations
Reading O’Faoláin’, in Seán Dunne, ed., Cork Review [O’Faoláin Special Issue] (Cork 1991), p.85-86; recounts ‘knocking’ O’Faolain in an essay comparing O Faoláin with O’Connor in little magazine of 1975, to which Anthony Cronin responded in his Irish Times column with ‘Knocking jobs’, broadly agreeing but faulting him for youthful arrogance; Sheehan reports that he had disliked the stories of O’Faolain in Midsummer Night Madness, but had loved those of Liam O’Flaherty, and took his criteria from Borges’ essay ‘The Argentine Writer and Tradition’, which he sees as applying to and refering to Irish writing; reports a change of heart about O’Faolain in the mid-1970s while involved in Co-Op with Bolger, Desh Hogan, Neil Jordan, John Feeney, Steve McDonagh, Peter Sheridan; recalls that O’Faolain hailed Jordan’s Night in Tunisia on tv, giving tremendous impetus to the new press.

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Foley’s Asia (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1999), on Albert Memorial, Hyde Park: ‘Now Foley had already completed three memorials for the Prince Consort who, in an age of heroes, was being promoted by his widow as the greatest hero of them all. One was in Birmingham, another in Cambridge, and the last was in Dublin. For the great national monument at Hyde Park, he had already been commissioned to produce one of the four groups representing the continents which were to be positioned at each corner of the monument. With typical courtesy, he let his colleagues have their choice of continent first, and accordingly was left with Asia, which the others considered to be something of an embarrassment on account of the elephant. Anyhow, the Baron got the plum, the production of Albert, the centrepiece. But his first effort was rejected as unsatisfactory, and so was his second, which he completed just before his death. The Queen herself insisted that Foley make his fourth Albert. / So Foley set to work on an enormous figure [...; for longer extract, see attached; see also summary note, infra.]

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Interview with Sean MacBride’, Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies (1982), pp.296-303, Sheehan bases his interview on questions relating to writings of Conor Cruise O’Brien and a previous interview with Seamus Twomey, chief of the Provisional IRA Dublin branch.

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Though the Sky Fall’, in Dublin Review of Books, No. 39 (15 July 2013) [on Veronica Guerin] - available online; accessed 18.09.2013). Sheehan begins by giving account of his own legal apprenticeship and then proceeds to discuss the Latin tag Justitia fiat, ruat coelum, engraved over the gate of the Bridewell, Dublin - often ascribed to Juvenal but of older Roman provenance. He writes: ‘[...] Juvenal’s sixth satire is often described as a satire upon women. That is not quite accurate. Nevertheless, the satire informs my view of the life and death of Veronica Guerin. Juvenal sees the city as being under threat on account of the actions of a significant number of women. Specifically threatened is the institution of marriage, integral to society. Juvenal offers himself as a defender of the city’s essential values. His response is to make a series of denunciations of individuals, naming names, detailing activities and offering a moral response, saeva indignatio.’

‘On reflection, I would translate society’s impotence into a metaphor of dumbness or inarticulacy. Dublin, the city of words, had nothing to say, had lost its voice. The media, constricted by the laws of libel and other concerns, was not saying anything. The police were not persuading witnesses to give evidence against significant drug-dealers; parliament wasn’t passing legislation to meet the needs of the situation; the lawyers were only as good as the evidence they had in their briefs; the community groups, in addition to protests and vigilantism, operated their own ad hoc court system, to which the authorities were deaf. So the heroin train chugged on amid tacit general acceptance that it would continue. / This was the context in which Veronica Guerin operated. How did she respond? First, she turned the role of the crime reporter - traditionally a tame mouth-piece using police-sourced information - into a genuinely investigative one where she compiled stories from a variety of sources including the criminal underworld itself, effectively outing certain individuals as serious criminals. In other words, denunciation. Her critics objected that it was the job of the police and the courts, not journalists, to bring charges against suspects and try them. But she herself went further than that. She confronted individuals, face to face. She denounced them, face to face / Her j’accuse had been welling up in the psyche of the city for a decade. [...] Her death [by gunshot] was an integral part of her witness because, to adopt Aristotle’s definition that “tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude” that completion of her action communicated to society at large in a manner which no other drug-linked death had achieved. [... C]itizens threw flowers onto the street at places around the city associated with her. / They understood that she had died because of love of them, that she was a kind of saint. [...]’ (Available online; accessed 18.09.2013.) [See further remarks under Jonathan Swift, infra.]

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Notes
Foley’s Asia (1999) is a meditation on the role of Irishmen such as General Gough in the often-bloody making and keeping of the British overseas empire, focusing on John Henry Foley’s Gough Statue, Phoenix Park, Dublin and the Asia group of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, London.

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