Commins, Andrew (1832–1916), barrister and politician, was born at Ballybeg, Co. Carlow, the second son of John Commins and his wife, Catherine, daughter of Laurence Fogarty of Drummond. He studied at Carlow College (where he contributed verse to the Carlow Magazine) and at QCC (where he studied chemistry, physics, and some law, and won a prize for poetry). He took the degrees of BA and MA of the Queen's University in Ireland (1853, 1854) and LLB and LLD of London University (1857, 1858). He entered Lincoln's Inn in 1855, was called to the English bar in 1860, and then practised very successfully on the northern circuit, with chambers in Liverpool, where he ultimately became ‘father of the bar’.
Under various pseudonyms Commins was a frequent contributor of verse to The Nation (Dublin) and the United Irishman (Liverpool). After becoming prominent among the Irish in the north of England, in 1876 he was elected to Liverpool city council and in 1892 was alderman and leader of the Irish party there. A close associate of John Barry (qv), he was chairman of the Manchester Home Rule Association and in 1874 and 1875 was elected president of the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain. Barry was secretary of both bodies. It was Commins who seconded Barry's motion, at the confederation's conference at Liverpool in August 1877, effecting the replacement of Isaac Butt (qv) as president by Charles Stewart Parnell (qv). Commins was on the platform at a meeting held in London on 7 March 1878 to demand the release of Fenian prisoners, and at that held at Dublin on 21 October 1879 to inaugurate the Irish National Land League. Six months later he entered parliament as a member for Co. Roscommon and was one of those Irish home-rulers who voted for Parnell as their chairman in place of William Shaw (qv). He supported the agrarian agitation of the Land League and its successor, the National League; his activities in the cause of land reform included drafting a private member's bill to amend the land act of 1870.
Between 1885 and 1892 Commins sat for the new constituency of Roscommon South. Evidence damaging to Parnell given at the hearing of the divorce petition of William Henry O'Shea (qv) precipitated a political crisis and a split in the home rule party (November–December 1890). It was Commins who, at a party meeting, seconded Barry's crucial motion that, by implication, called on Parnell to resign (26 November 1890). At the general election held in July 1892, standing as an anti-Parnellite, Commins was defeated by a Parnellite, Luke Hayden (1850–97), owner of the Roscommon Messenger; but twelve months later he re-entered parliament unopposed in a by-election for Cork South-East, and retained that seat until he retired (1900). Always known as ‘Dr Commins’, Andrew Commins lived at West Derby, Lancashire. He married (1885) a cousin, Jane Neville of Liverpool, and died 7 January 1916.