Sean Francis Lemass: Review his life and his role in Irish History. (The improvements Ireland had with him)

11 Nov
Sean Francis Lemass: Review his life and his role in Irish History. (The improvements Ireland had with him)

Sean Francis Lemass

Sean lemass who was also called Sean Francis Lemass was an Ireland national born on July 15, 1899 in the city of Dublin. His family consisted of seven children and he was the second born to parents’ john and Frances Lemass. Sean received his education in Dublin through the Christian brothers. Interestingly the Irish popular comedian jimmy O’Dea was even his classmate and they went to the extent of becoming longtime friends to the point of jimmy becoming the best man in lemass’s wedding (Irishrollcall (n.p.)) .

Sean joined the volunteers in January 1915 although his age was only 15 by then. Noel who was Sean’s brother and him both became members of the garrison in 1916, which was located at the GPO. Lemass was released due to is young age after the rising ended (Irishrollcall (n.p.)).

Sean participated during the fight for Ireland’s independence and he was interned in Ballykinlar, Co down in 1920. Luckily, for him he got released after the signing of 1921 Treaty.  During the civil war, Sean joined the faction of the Anti-Treaty and he was termed as the second in authority to Rory O Connor in the region of four courts. He succeeded in escaping from this region although the Free State troops had severely bombarded the place and was many in number. Lack was not on his side as he was captured later and confined again. In 1922 he got elected in the lower house of parliament of Ireland The year that followed saw him mourn the death of his brother Noel although he was in jail but later released on the grounds of compassion. In 1924, he entered into marriage with Kathleen Hughes and was later blessed with four children, Peggy, Noel, Sheila, and Maureen (Irishrollcall (n.p.)).

Lemass supported abstentionist policy, which had been formed by Eamon de Valera, and he later amongst others founded the Fianna fail party. Together with Gerry Boland, they are credited to have built that party all over Ireland and it’s still a force to reckon with up to date. In 1928, he stated Fianna Fail to be “a slightly constitutional party”.

Lemass had great interests in industry and economics and this saw him become the minister for industry and commerce in 1932 after Fianna Fail rising to power. He truly believed in self-sufficiency and was strongly advocating for protectionism. He dealt with matters from the practical point of view and this saw him set up the sugar company, Aer Lingus, and the ESB (Irishrollcall (n.p.)).

Outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 saw Sean being granted the ministry for supplies with the duty of rationing and in 1945 he become the Tánaiste succeeding the former Tánaiste Sean T O’Kelly. Sean remained as the supplies minister until the 1948 elections where Fianna Fail party was defeated. While occupying the Opposition, he held a position of the managing director in the Irish press newspaper. In 1951 elections, Lemass sprung back to power and he was awarded the same ministry of industry and commerce. This time round, he was not able to deal with the country’s economic stagnation since de Valera continued to be conservative and uniformed on the country’s economic issues (Irishrollcall (n.p.)).

In June 1959, Lemass became Ireland’s prime minister and his elected president was de Valera. During that time, he had spotted the economic abilities of TK Whitaker who was the then secretary to the department of finance. This secretary had produced a document entitled ‘Economic Development’ and it had formed the foundation for the first Economic Expansion programme in 1958. Lemass’s government prioritized this programme and this formed the limelight and first steps for Ireland towards its economic improvement (Moody and Martin pg 283).

By this time, it was vivid that Lemass had done away with the ideology of protectionism and he joined EEC in 1961. By 1963 the rate of emigration and unemployment had dropped significantly all over the country except in the regions of western seaboard (Irishrollcall).

Then came the 1965 elections, which saw him being re-elected again as the country’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach). This time round, he further drove off traditional affiliations. In 1965, there occurred a historic meeting between the then Northern Prime Minister Terence O’Neill and Lemass. This new co-operation saw the two governments concentrate much on important economic issues like trade, agriculture, and tourism and most importantly a cordial relationship between the North and South emerged (Moody and Martin pg 284).

Eventually Sean lemass on November 10th, 1966 made it public to retire from politics and Jack Lynch succeeded him. Sadly, he died in 11th may 1971 and was awarded a state burial (Moody and Martin pg 430).

Sean lemass was a key player in transforming the Irish Economy from an era of protectionism to an economy, which was interdependent to other countries economies. At this time several groups like the employer’s groups, farmers ‘organizations and trade unions made great influence to policy making hence making the government adopt a corporatist style while undertaking a country wide policy making (Murphy pg 1).

During this time, Lemass facilitated a massive evolution in the ways of public policy formulations driving them into sets of three party arrangements, which were unconcealed and conscious. In addition, relations between the government and the upcoming interest groups matured gradually in terms of policy domains. Lemass formalized these interest groups, which made them operate freely in the country in terms of policymaking hence playing an important role in the country’s process of long term planning of policies. The representatives of these interest groups worked strenuously in order to promote the sectional interests of their members hence these groups took impartial and long term prospects concerning their country’s future economic expectations (Murphy pg 1).

Lemass improvements were both felt while he was in the government and in the opposition. He definitely pointed out the importance of ideological changes to the diverse economic bodies in the political arena of Ireland, which could help in formulating the country’s economic policies. Therefore, during his tenure in office (1957-1961) he ensured that his government lay down definite agendas, which could facilitate the overall development of the country’s economy as early as 1960s. Ireland moved from agriculture driven economy to industrialization due to export trade and this led to the improvement of economic co-operation of Ireland and its Europe counterparts. A big achievement was felt throughout the nation as formulation of economic policies took an ideological turn hence giving way to social democracy. Corporation between all key players in the economy was initiated making the process of decision making to be a collective responsibility (Murphy pg 1).

Anyone who disagrees with the above achievements of Sean Lemass and his role in the economic improvements witnessed in Ireland during his reign would be making a big mistake as Sean lemass is internationally considered to be the greatest political leader in Ireland. I would tell that person to again and again read all sources available in the world as history says it all that Lemass is honored to have laid the basis foundations towards economic success in modern Ireland.  He came up with economic development programmes (Moody and Martin pg 283) which facilitated the creation of the Irish sipping industry, Aer Lingus, and Bord Na Mona. He tirelessly worked in the expansion of the sugar company, countrywide supply of electricity, and tourist industry. He was termed as a man of action and is known to have facilitated the application of Ireland to enter EEC so as to enjoy the privileges of the European society and enlarge their trade market (Irishrollcall (n.p.)). Even I would go a mile further to advice that person to go to Ireland and obtain first hand information concerning the achievements of Sean Lemass to the people who were alive by then.



Work cited

Moody, Theodore William, and Martin, X. Francis. The course of Irish history. 4th ed., rev. and enl. ed. Lanham, Md.: Published in association with Radio Telefís Éireann by Roberts Rinehart Publishers :, 2001. Print.


Murphy, Gary. “Towards a corporate state? Sean Lemass and the realignment of interest groups in the policy process 1948 – 1964.” DCU Business School. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2012. <


“SEAN LEMASS | Irishrollcall.”Irishrollcall. N.p., 4 July 2010. Web. 5 May 2012. <;.

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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Essay & Research Writing


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