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John Francis Lemass (1899 - 1971)

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John Francis (Seán) Lemass
Born in Ballybrack, County Dublin, Irelandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 27 Aug 1924 in Church of the Holy Name, Rathmines, Dublin, Irelandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Churchtown, County Dublin, Irelandmap
Profile last modified 27 Jun 2019 | Created 7 Jan 2015
This page has been accessed 141 times.
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Seán Francis was born in 1899[2], the second of nine children born to John and Frances Lemass. Within the family his name soon changed to Jack and eventually, after 1916, he himself preferred to be called Seán.

Personal Life

Seán Lemass married on 24 August 1924 to Kathleen Hughes[3], much to the disapproval of the bride's parents. The wedding took place in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Name, Ranelagh, Dublin.


  1. Maureen (1925-2017) married Charles Haughey
  2. Peggy (1927-2004)
  3. Noel (1929-1976), also a politician
  4. Sheila (1932-1998).

He passed away in 1971 and was given a state funeral. He is buried in Deansgrange cemetery[4].

Role in the Easter Rising

He joined the Irish Volunteers in January 1915, despite not having reached his sixteenth birthday, becoming a member of the A Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade - the battalion adjutant was Éamon de Valera.

His involvement with the Irish Volunteers led to tragedy when his infant brother Herbert was fatally injured by a bullet discharged by a loaded revolver Seán was cleaning at home[5].

On Tuesday 25 April, Seán and his brother Noel joined the Volunteer garrison at the General Post Office; he was also was involved in fighting on Moore Street. He was briefly imprisoned after the Rising failed but was released due to his age.

Irish Civil War

He was active in the Irish Volunteers until his arrest in December 1920. He has been identified[6], as a member of the 'Apostles', twelve members of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA who carried out attacks on British agents under the leadership of Michael Collins. He was released in December 1921 after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed.

He opposed the Treaty and in the Irish Civil War was adjutant and second in command to Rory O'Connor. He escaped the shelling of the Four Courts and operated a 'Flying Column' in Enniscorthy, Tullow, Ferns, Baltinglass and Borris before returning to Dublin as a member of the IRA Eastern Command Headquarters. He was captured in December 1922 and interned again.

He was released from prison on compassionate following his brother Noel's death in October 1923. His role in the period is well documented in his application for a pension under the Military Services Pension Act of 1934[7].

He was elected for the first time as a Sinn Féin TD in November 1924.

Fianna Fáil

Along with de Valera, Lemass resigned from Sinn Féin in March 1926 and played a key role in the formation of a new party, Fianna Fáil. He persuaded a large number of Sinn Féin TDs to join. In opposition he was largely responsible for drafting Fianna Fáil's economic programme.

Ministeral Positions

In 1932, Fianna Fáil came to power for what would be 16 uninterrupted years. Lemass was appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce. His achievements included the formation of Aer Lingus. He was Minister for Supplies during the Emergency and returned to Industry and Commerce after the war and in the minority government of 1951-1954 and from 1957 to 1959. He also served as Tánaiste from 1945 to 1948, 1951 to 1954 and 1957 to 1959.


After de Valera assumed the Presidency in 1959, Lemass was appointed Taoiseach, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann. He had a more modern view of Ireland than his predecessor and oversaw a period of expansionist economic policies during a period of distinct social change.

He retired as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach in November 1966, remaining a TD until 1969.


  2. Irish Genealogy birth record
  3. Irish Genealogy marriage record
  4. Find A Grave: Memorial #40686491
  5. Irish Times article
  6. Coogan, Tim Pat, The IRA, 1970, Harper Collins
  7. Military Archives and Military Archives

See also:
1901 census: National Archives

1911 census: National Archives

Irish Genealogy case study

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Categories: Irish Roots | Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin, Dublin | Sinn Fein | Fianna Fail | Taoisigh