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Thomas Sexton

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse



THOMAS SEXTON M. P. (1848-1932)

Tom Sexton was born, in 1848, in the house that stood at the corner of Newgate Street and Mayor's Walk, before the Newgate Street widening took place. He was the son of Mr. John Sexton and he received his education at Mount Sion schools in the city. He was only twelve years of age when he entered a competition for a clerkship in the secretary's office of the Waterford & Limerick Railway Company. Of thirty youths who had applied Sexton was the youngest, but he obtained first place. He remained in the secretary's office until 1867 when he was about twenty years of age and then, like most young men of ability and enterprise he was drawn to the capital city. However, he did not leave Waterford unnoticed or unappreciated.     
In Sexton's youth there was a good deal of literary and social activity in Irish provincial cities and towns. The Mechanic's Institute and the Catholic Young Men's Society were both flourishing institutions in Waterford City and Sexton soon became the most prominent figure in both. He established a debating society; when he was only sixteen he lectured on John Banim and Oliver Goldsmith and, on one occasion, he duelled with a delegation from the Portlaw Debating Society, a neighbouring rival, on the vexed topic of emigration. A public dinner was held in his honour on his departure for Dublin and he received addresses from the societies in which he had figured so largely.                   

In Dublin he joined the literary staff of The Nation having acquired a liking for journalism by writing for the Waterford News, Waterford Citizen and the Waterford Chronicle. He became a leader writer on The Nation, then the most outspoken advocate of Nationalist principles. In time, Sexton became the the editor of the Weekly News and of Young Ireland, two publications that issued from the Nation office.  Sexton was shy and easy-going and he never sought the opportunity of displaying his great oratorical powers. He took his share in all the National movements but it was as a silent and unknown member of those committees which do the practical hum-drum work and leave the speech-making to others. In 1879the year of the Land League and of social upheavalSexton was brought at last, and almost in spite of himself, into the stormy arena of public life. He was sent by the Council of the Land League to address a meeting in Dromore West, County Sligo and he made a great impression on his Sligo listeners. When the General Election came he was proposed for his native county but his name was withdrawn and he was selected to stand in the Sligo constituency. He was opposed by a great magnate, Colonel King-Harman and was thought not to have any chance of success, but Sexton stumped the county, roused enthusiasm everywhere and drove his opponent from the seat.

He represented Sligo in Westminster from 1880 to 1885 and then, after the Redistribution Act, he was member for South Sligo from 1885 to 1886. He was imprisoned with Charles Stewart Parnell in Kilmainham Jail, October 1881, and was a signatory of the 'no-rent manifesto' calling on the supporters of the Land League to withhold the payment of rent.The British government responded by declaring the Land League an illegal organisation. The text of the manifesto was as follows.

Mr Gladstone has by a series of furious and wanton acts of despotism driven the Irish tenant farmers to choose between their own organisation and the mercy of his lawyers. You have to choose between all-powerful unity and unpopular disorganisation; between the lands for the landlord and the land for the people. We cannot doubt your choice. Every tenant farmer in Ireland is today the standard-bearer of the flag unfurled at Irishtown and can bear it to glorious victory. Stand together in the face of the brutal and cowardly enemies of your race. PAY NO RENT UNDER ANY PRETEXT. STAND PASSIVELY, FIRMLY, FEARLESSLY BY while the armies of England may be engaged in their hopeless struggle against a spirit which their weapons cannot touch ...
  If you are evicted you shall not suffer. The landlord who evicts will be a ruined pauper, and the government who supports him with its bayonets will learn in a single winter how powerless its armed force is against the will of a united and determined and self-reliant nation.

Charles Stewart Parnell, Kilmainham Jail 
Andrew Kettle
Michael Davitt, Hon., Sec., Portland jail
Thomas Sexton, Head Organiser, Kilmainham Jail
Patrick Egan, Treasurer, Paris

Sexton was released from jail early due to his ill-health. He was the Irish Party's chief spokesman on finance and was a brilliant public speaker, known as 'silver-tongued Sexton.' At the time of the Parnellite "split" he was elected chairman of the Party but refused to act. He represented North Kerry from 1892-96. He was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1888, an office he performed with distinction until the following year, having previously (1887-88) been High Sheriff of the metropolis. He was chairman of the Freeman's Journal  Company from 1892 to 1912 and he was also chairman of Boland's Ltd., and other companies. He was a member of the Financial Relations Committee (1894-96) and of the Irish Railways Commission (1906-10).

Sexton Street (1935-36) in the upper part of Waterford city is named in his honour.


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