Roche, Stephen Anselm (1890–1949), civil servant, was born in Caherciveen, Co. Kerry. His father was an excise officer in the British civil service who was posted on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and as a result Roche spent much of his childhood there. He returned to Ireland for his education at Blackrock College, Co. Dublin, where he excelled at rugby, cricket, and athletics.
In 1909 he entered the civil service. Initially he joined the estate duty office, being posted in Edinburgh (1909–11) and Dublin (1911–22). On his return to Dublin he also attended TCD, winning the vice-chancellor's prize for poetry and graduating with a BA and LLB (1914). After the Anglo–Irish treaty he was recruited to the new Department of Home Affairs by Kevin O'Higgins (qv). This became the Department of Justice (1924), and Roche was appointed assistant secretary in 1926. In November 1930 he became acting secretary of the department when Henry O'Friel (qv) was appointed acting chairman of the tariff commission. Roche was not automatically promoted when, in March 1933, O'Friel moved permanently to the tariff commission. Instead Daniel J. Browne (qv) became secretary of the department. In less than a year, however, Browne resigned, allowing Roche to become secretary on 1 February 1934.
Roche was an intelligent and capable civil servant. Although a conservative, he was a reluctant enforcer of censorship and it may have been at his instigation that ‘Lynn Doyle’ (qv), a known opponent of the censorship laws, was appointed to the board of censors in January 1937. He helped draft sections of the 1937 constitution. Less creditably, as war approached, he consistently opposed the entry of Jews into Ireland. Knowledge of the Holocaust did nothing to change his obstructive attitude to Jewish immigration. In 1946 he was reluctant to grant temporary asylum to a hundred children who were survivors of Bergen–Belsen concentration camp. During the war the most controversial issue facing his department was the treatment of the IRA. Although he drafted the offences against the state acts, he had advised that caution should accompany the extension of police powers and the introduction of internment.
He became gravely ill in 1948 and died 22 January 1949 at a private nursing home. At the time of his death he was still secretary of the department, although his illness had prevented him from fulfilling his functions for some months. He left a widow, two sons, two daughters, and an estate of £3,020.