Alexander Martin Sullivan

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For his son, the lawyer, see A. M. Sullivan (lawyer).

Alexander Martin Sullivan (1830 – 17 October 1884) was an Irish Nationalist politician, lawyer and journalist from Bantry, County Cork.


Sullivan, the second son of Daniel Sullivan of Dublin, was born in 1830 at Bantry, on the south-west coast of County Cork. He was the second of six sons, all of whom attained distinction in Irish public life, journalism, and at the bar. He was educated in the local national school.[1]

During the great famine of 1846–7 Sullivan was employed as a clerk in connection with the relief works started by the government. Deeply influenced by the distress he then witnessed, he afterwards joined the Confederate Club formed at Bantry in support of the revolutionary movement of the Young Irelanders, and was the organiser of the enthusiastic reception given by the town to William Smith O'Brien in July 1848 during the insurgent leader's tour of the southern counties. Early in 1853 Sullivan went to Dublin to seek employment as an artist. An exhibition of the arts and industries of Ireland was held in Dublin that year, and he was engaged to supply pencil sketches to the Dublin Expositor, a journal issued in connection with the exhibition. Subsequently he obtained a post as draughtsman in the Irish valuation office, and afterwards as reporter on the Liverpool Daily Post.[2]

In 1850, Sullivan became assistant-editor of the The Nation in 1855, and subsequently editor and proprietor. From 1861 to 1884, in conjunction with his elder brother, T. D. Sullivan, he made The Nation one of the most potent factors in the Irish Nationalist cause, and also issued the Weekly News and Zozimus. Called to the Irish bar in 1876, he was made Q.C. in 1881.[3]

At the 1874 general election he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Louth,[4] but although he did not formally resign, he did not take his seat. At the general election in April 1880, Sullivan was again returned for Louth,[5] but this time formally resigned from the Commons on 18 May 1880.[6] However, Charles Stewart Parnell had been elected for both Cork City and for Meath, and chose to sit for Cork. At the resulting by-election on 20 May 1880, Sullivan was returned unopposed to fill the vacancy in Meath,[7] and held that seat until his resignation on 3 February 1882.[6]

As a member of the Dublin Corporation he secured a magnificent site for the Grattan Monument, towards which he donated £400, the amount of a subscription by his admirers while he was undergoing imprisonment for a political offence in 1868. This monument was formally unveiled in January 1876. Between the years 1878 and 1882 he was engaged in many notable trials. His last great case was on 30 November 1883 when he was colleague of Lord Russell in the defence of Patrick O'Donnell for the murder of James Carey, an informer. He was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery. In addition to his labours Alexander Sullivan was a great temperance reformer. He also wrote two notable books, The Story of Ireland and New Ireland and contributed many sketches (including some verse) to Irish Penny Readings (1879–1885).[3]


He married Frances Genevieve Donovan and had several children. His second son and namesake, Alexander, was a leading barrister, the last to hold the rank of Serjeant-at-law (Ireland). He is remembered chiefly for his unsuccessful defence of Roger Casement on charges of treason.

Sullivan's brother was Timothy Daniel Sullivan, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1886 to 1888.


  1. ^ MacDonagh 1898, p. 157.
  2. ^ MacDonagh 1898, pp. 157–158.
  3. ^ a b Flood 1912.
  4. ^ Walker 1978, p. 118.
  5. ^ Walker 1978, p. 125.
  6. ^ a b Department of Information Services 2009.
  7. ^ Walker 1978, p. 127.



External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Matthew O'Reilly Dease and
Chichester Fortescue
Member of Parliament for County Louth
With: Philip Callan to April 1874
George Kirk April 1874 – April 1880
Philip Callan from April 1880
Succeeded by
Alan Henry Bellingham and
Philip Callan
Preceded by
Charles Stewart Parnell and
Robert Henry Metge
Member of Parliament for Meath
With: Robert Henry Metge
Succeeded by
Michael Davitt and
Robert Henry Metge