Thomas Sexton (Irish politician)

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Thomas Sexton (1848–1932) was an Irish journalist, financial expert, nationalist politician and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1880 to 1896, representing four different constituencies.[1] He was Lord Mayor of Dublin 1888–1889.[2]

Early life[edit]

He was born at Ballygannon, County Waterford, where he attended the local CBS school.[2] Aged 12 he was the chosen from amongst several applicants to a position of clerk with the Waterford and Limerick Railway where he remained until 1867.[3] Sexton took work from the Waterford News and other local papers; as well as forming a debating society.[3] Moving to Dublin he joined The Nation newspaper becoming its leader-writer.[3] In 1879 Sexton joined the Irish National Land League movement,[3] and he became a member of the Parnellite Irish Parliamentary Party.[2]


He was first elected MP for County Sligo in the 1880 general election, for South Sligo in the 1885 general election, then for Belfast West in the 1886 election and for North Kerry in the 1892 election. He was a cosigner of the No Rent Manifesto issued in 1881. He was regarded as one of the finest orators of the Irish Party, but handicapped by a querulous temperament.[1] Following the party split over Parnell's leadership, he sided with John Dillon's anti-Parnellite faction, then in 1896 retired from parliamentary politics, disgusted at the bitter factionalism following the failure of the second Home Rule bill.[1][4]

Sexton was a member of the Committee, chaired by Hugh Childers, to enquire into the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. In the report of the committee, published in 1896, he wrote a minority report showing that the tax burden on Ireland had been steadily increased throughout the nineteenth century, at the same time as its people were steadily impoverished.[5]

He was hostile to the Irish Land Acts (1903) on financial grounds, and regarded by William O'Brien as one of the principal players involved in his subsequent marginalisations from the Irish Party.[1] Sexton continued to be a leading ally of Dillon as Chairman of the board of the Freeman's Journal from 1893 to 1911;[1] however, his policy of cutting investments to maintain dividends led to the demise of the paper through William Martin Murphy's Irish Independent.[1]

Later life[edit]

After retiring from the Freeman's Journal he became Chairman of Boland's Mill, and during World War I denounced wartime taxation and in 1918 endorsed Sinn Féin.[1] At the end of his career he supported Fianna Fáil because it promised tariff protection for flour-milling.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Maume, Patrick (1999): The long Gestation, Irish Nationalist Life 1891–1918, "Who's Who" p.243, Gill & Macmillan, ISBN 0-7171-2744-3
  2. ^ a b c Boylan, Henry (1999). A Dictionary of Irish Biography. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. p. 393. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Shepherd (2006), p. 140.
  4. ^ In the House of Commons Information Office publication Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1850, Thomas Sexton is recorded as having taken the Chiltern Hundreds on 19 February 1895. However, this appears to be an error. The London Gazette lists him as having been returned for North Kerry at the general election in August 1895 (see London Gazette, Issue 26651 published on the 9 August 1895, and the writ for the by-election was moved in April 1896 (see House of Commons Debates 14 April 1896 vol 39 c882). The date of his resignation is therefore listed here as 19 February 1896, rather than 1895.
  5. ^ "Ireland's Financial Burthen", Auckland Star, 11 January 1897, p. 3

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Denis Maurice O'Conor and
Edward King-Harman
Member of Parliament for County Sligo
With: Denis Maurice O'Conor, to 1883
Nicholas Lynch, from 1883
Constituency divided
New constituency Member of Parliament for South Sligo
Succeeded by
Edward Joseph Kennedy
Preceded by
James Horner Haslett
Member of Parliament for Belfast West
Succeeded by
H. O. Arnold-Forster
Preceded by
John Stack
Member of Parliament for North Kerry
Succeeded by
Michael Joseph Flavin
Civic offices
Preceded by
Timothy Daniel Sullivan
Lord Mayor of Dublin
Succeeded by
Edward Joseph Kennedy