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Dr. Owen Lancelot Sheehy-Skeffington (19 May 1909 – 7 June 1970) was an Irish university lecturer and Senator.


Early life

Sheehy-Skeffington was brought up in Dublin, Ireland. His father, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, was a pacifist and nationalist whose murder by Captain J.C. Bowen-Colthurst in 1916 during the week of the Easter Rising became a cause celebre. His mother, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, was a founder of the Irish Women's Franchise League. After her husband's murder she became increasingly nationalist, supporting the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War.

He was educated in the United States, and in Dublin at Sandford Park School, a non-denominational school selected by his mother in the face of strong criticism. His cousin, the diplomat, writer and politician Conor Cruise O'Brien, was a pupil there at the same time.

Career and adult life

He later became a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was elected in 1954 as a member of the 8th Seanad Éireann by the Dublin University constituency. He was re-elected in 1957, but lost his seat in 1961. He was returned to the 11th Seanad at the 1965 election, and was re-elected for a final time in 1969.

In the Seanad, he was known as a champion of human rights and an opponent of authoritarianism, campaigning for an end to corporal punishment in Irish schools.[1]

In 1935, he married Andrée Denis, a French graduate of the Sorbonne, with whom he had two sons and one daughter. She later wrote a biography of her husband: "Skeff: A Life of Owen Sheehy Skeffington 1909-1970". They resided at Hazelbrook Cottage, Rathfarnham, Dublin.

In the late 1950s memorialist Peter Tyrrell began a long term correspondence with him.[1] Sheehy-Skeffington encouraged Tyrrell to write his autobiography, which posthumously helped to expose the brutal conditions in Irish Industrial schools, and Letterfrack in particular..[1] When Tyrrell committed suicide in 1967, the only clue to his identity was a card addressed to Owen Sheehy-Skeffington.[1]

Memorial Award

Since 1973, Trinity College has offered the Owen Sheehy-Skeffington Memorial Award. The €1,500 bursary is awarded annually and takes the form of either a maintenance grant or travel award in alternate years. Criteria for the award include a combination of academic promise and financial need. The maintenance grant is available to Senior Freshman or Junior Sophister students of French at Trinity College, while the travelling scholarship may be granted to any student attending a centre of higher education in Ireland.[2]



This page incorporates information from the Oireachtas Members Database



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