Sherwin, Frank (1905–81), businessman and politician, was born 6 October 1905 in Dorset Street, Dublin, one of eleven children (six of whom died in childhood, and only two of whom lived into old age) of Christopher Sherwin, a labourer from Co. Dublin, and his wife Mary Jane (née Ford), of Rush, Co. Dublin. He attended Phibsboro national school, but left at age 13 to become a harness maker. Taking part in the civil war on the anti-treaty side, he was arrested by Free State authorities on Patrick St., Dublin, on 8 November 1922, and was held for twenty months at several detention centres, including Mountjoy jail, Dublin, and Tintown camp, Curragh, Co. Kildare. Transferred to the criminal area of Mountjoy jail, he was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment for allegedly stealing two typewriters. After a personal appeal to the minister for justice, Kevin O'Higgins (qv), the sentence was quashed, and Sherwin was released (July 1924). Mistreated during his imprisonment, he sustained a back injury.
Pursuing a successful career in the dance hall business, at one point Sherwin operated twenty-seven halls in Dún Laoghaire, Balbriggan, and central Dublin, where two of his venues were on Pearse St. and Gardiner St. He also ran a dance school in Lower O'Connell St., which remained open until 1960, offering lessons in ballroom dancing. Elected to Dublin city council as an independent, he served on the body for nineteen years (1955–67, 1974–81). Familiar with the social problems arising from inner-city poverty, he took a special interest in housing. Standing as an independent candidate in the three-seat Dublin North Central constituency in the general election of 5 March 1957, he was placed third on the first count with 2,425 votes, but failed to be elected, being overtaken for the last seat by Colm Gallagher of Fianna Fáil. He won the seat in a by-election (14 November 1957) occasioned by Gallagher's death, topping the poll with 4,077 first preferences, to become TD for Dublin North Central (1957–65). In his maiden dáil speech (5 December 1957) his twin concerns were the comparatively low level of social welfare benefits in the Republic of Ireland compared with the UK, and the government's failure to develop an effective policy to end partition. He retained his seat in the 1961 general election, reaching the quota on the first count with 5,356 votes, second behind Vivion de Valera (qv), and supported the formation of a minority Fianna Fáil government under Seán Lemass (qv). He was among the independent and small-party TDs who held the balance of power when the government faced a motion of no confidence over the introduction of a controversial turnover tax of 2.5 per cent on goods and services (30 October 1963). Amid turbulent scenes in the dáil, Sherwin voted to keep Fianna Fáil in power, on the basis that the extra revenue raised by the tax would help to increase social welfare payments for thousands of people. Backed by him and three other independents, the government won the division by 73 to 69.
Though the incident made Sherwin a national figure for a short time, he lost his dáil seat in the 1965 general election, dropping to seventh place with only 1,515 first preferences. He polled comparably in two unsuccessful bids to re-enter the dáil, in Dublin Central (1969) and Dublin Cabra (1977). He became embroiled in controversy when he wrote a letter to a newspaper in his capacity as secretary of the National Association of Tenant Organisations, offering support to Charles Haughey (1925–2006) in the general election of 1973. After losing his city council seat in 1967, he regained it in 1974 by a mere seventeen votes, and held it until his death. In 1979 he crossed swords with travellers’ rights champion Victor Bewley (1912–99) by claiming that travellers were professional beggars and burglars.
Bedecked in trademark bowtie and soft hat, Sherwin was noted for colourfully eccentric contributions to dáil and council debates. He married (1937) Rosanna Kinsella, of Gardiner St., Dublin; they had six sons and three daughters. He lived all his life in Dublin, first on Dorset St., and later on Broadstone Ave., 11 Linenhall St., and 11 Church Terrace. He wrote a book, ‘Politics is hell’, which was unfinished at his death. Ill for the last year of his life, some six weeks after admission to the Richmond hospital, Dublin, he died there 7 November 1981. Dublin city council honoured his memory by naming a new bridge over the Liffey after him (1982).