Sheehan, Thomas (c.1790–1881), newspaper owner, was born probably in Cork city, younger son of Thomas Sheehan, nursery and seed gardener of Grand Parade, Cork, and his wife, Ann (née White). He was educated in Cork but nothing else is known of his early life. In 1824 he was in Dublin and took over the Evening Mail from Joseph Timothy Haydn (qv) and William Saurin (qv), who had founded it the previous year to attack the lord lieutenant, Richard, Marquis Wellesley (qv), for bringing to an end Saurin's fifteen-year tenure as attorney general. Sheehan installed as editor his brother Remigius (see below), and continued the paper's attacks on Wellesley and the catholic emancipation movement. Thomas Wyse (qv) called it ‘an influential paper with no regard for accuracy or truth’ (Wyse, i, 355). In 1828 both Sheehans were made freemen of the city of Dublin; the Morning Register noted that they were the first catholics since the 1793 relief act to receive this honour; in fact Remigius at least was an apostate and probably a member of the Orange order, who declared that he had turned protestant as a very young man. Daniel O'Connell (qv) also accused Thomas of apostasy, but his brother denied this on his behalf.
During the 1830s Sheehan, while continuing to run an ascendancy paper, now called the Dublin Evening Mail, formed a rapprochement with rival papers in order to protect press interests. In 1830 he joined forces with proprietors of other papers to protest against a bill to set Irish duties at the English level. A leading figure in the standing committee formed to fight the new tax, he threatened through his paper to use all means ‘vituperative, satirical or annoying’ (Dublin Evening Mail, 7 May 1830) against MPs who did not oppose the bill. He was successful and the proposal was abandoned. Shortly afterwards the tories, who had been in power for twenty years, went out of office and the new whig government looked less favourably on the Evening Mail. In June 1832 Sheehan was taken into the custody of the serjeant-at-arms for two days for publishing a report of the committee of the house of commons before its official release date, and refusing to divulge his source. Later that year he faced a more serious charge when the attorney general Francis Blackburne (qv) charged the Evening Mail with libelling the provost of TCD, Bartholomew Lloyd (qv). Remigius Sheehan, as editor, offered to take full responsibility for the libel, which Thomas claimed not to have seen, but this was held to be immaterial because the paper had not published a retraction. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and fined £100 and the printer was also sent to jail. Brian Inglis (qv), in Freedom of the press in Ireland, suggests that the Castle proceeded with this prosecution to demonstrate the administration's impartiality. Immediately afterwards it turned on the Freeman's Journal and the Pilot, both O'Connellite papers. This had the effect of making previously rival papers support each other. When Richard Barrett (qv), proprietor of the Pilot, was prosecuted in 1833, Sheehan took his part so unreservedly that Blackburne asked judges to sentence him for contempt of court. Barrett gratefully backed the Mail when it faced an action a few weeks later.
In 1832 Sheehan rendered O'Connell a service – probably the decision to ignore Ellen Courtenay's (qv) rape allegation. A grateful O'Connell declared himself delighted ‘to see the personal good qualities and high-mindedness of men who have been, and are upon principle, my very violent and most decided political enemies’ (O'Connell, Corr., iv, 426). Encouraged by this, by what he perceived as a separatist strand within the Orange order, and by Sheehan's antipathy to the whigs, O'Connell tried to entice him and his brother into the repeal movement with promises of a strong Orange representation in the Irish parliament, but this came to nothing. By the 1840s Sheehan had lost control of the Dublin Evening Mail and there is no further record of him until his death on 25 March 1881. He reverted to catholicism on his deathbed and another brother, a catholic priest, read the funeral rites at his burial in Glasnevin cemetery. Thomas Sheehan is not to be confused with the radical Cork journalist Thomas Sheahan, editor of the Cork Mercantile Chronicle in 1826.
His elder brother, Remigius (‘Remy’) Sheehan (d. 1847), newspaper editor, entered the King's Inns 28 October 1805 and afterwards worked in Cork as an attorney. Although he claimed to have turned protestant about 1807, he attended in 1813 a meeting of catholics of Cork, where he denounced O'Connell; he was then considered a catholic in his native city. In 1824 he took on the editorship of his brother's paper, the Evening Mail, which he also part-owned. Three years later he assaulted O'Connell with an umbrella, pleading just retaliation for insults to his brother. He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment; O'Connell petitioned for his early release, whereupon Sheehan insisted on serving the full term. In late November 1828 he set up his own paper, the weekly Star of Brunswick, which was the mouthpiece of the Orange order and more extreme than the Evening Mail. It lasted one year; its final edition appeared on 26 December 1829. Thereafter he hovered around official circles in Dublin Castle in the (vain) hope of obtaining some patronage.