Seán Lemass in 1933

Photo: Courtesy of British Pathé

Case Study Seán Lemass

Seán Lemass (1899-1971) led an extraordinary life. He was one of the youngest fighters in the GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916, at just sixteen years old, and went on to shape modern Ireland. A TD for 45 years, from 1924 until he retired in 1969, he was Minister for Industry and Commerce, Minister for Supplies and Tánaiste in successive Fianna Fáil governments.

Between 1959 and 1966, he was Taoiseach, and responsible for the opening of Ireland to industrial development and the European Union. In January 1916, he accidentally shot his baby brother Herbert in the family home in Capel Street with a revolver connected to his membership of the Volunteers. His brother Noel, who fought with him in the GPO and on the ant-Treaty side in the Civil War, was killed in 1923, after the Civil War had ended, for reasons that are still murky.

In 1934, the then new Fianna Fáil government introduced military service pensions for those who had fought between 1916 and 1923. The process of applying for them was complicated, with detailed form-filling and long descriptive accounts of service. Lemass applied in 1941, when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce. His original application, including his own account of his service, is available online, as part of the Military Archives' Pensions Collection: click here or here.

He was awarded an annual pension of £99-16-5, a very substantial amount at the time.