Crean, Eugene (1854–1939), trade unionist and home rule MP, was born at 3 Douglas St., Cork, third child and only son among four children of Ellen Crean (née Wall) and Daniel Crean, urban landlord. His siblings were Honora (b. 1841), Margaret (b. 1848), and Anne (b. 1860). Eugene was baptised 12 February 1854 in the nearby South Parish catholic church. He was apprenticed as a carpenter, but by the 1880s was working as a joiner and small-scale builder.
Crean was active in the Cork Trades’ Council from its formation in the early 1880s, serving as a delegate for the carpenters, and was president of the council from at least the mid 1880s until the Parnell split of 1890–91. He worked closely on the trades’ council with Michael Austin (1855–1916), a printer and later home rule MP for Limerick West, 1892–1900, who was an important political ally and personal friend (Crean was best man at Austin's wedding in 1885). Crean was elected to Cork corporation in 1886, in his own view ‘purely and simply as a labour representative’, but he was very much associated with the home rule party, and also suspected by the police of membership of the IRB.
He was embroiled in some controversy in March 1888 when, as president of the trades’ council, he called for the expulsion of some 300 Jewish pedlars from the city on the grounds that they were damaging local trade. Among those to condemn his remarks were Michael Davitt (qv) and William O'Brien (qv), MP, but he refused to back down, arguing that only those connected with the Cork trades had a right to question his opinion. In 1889 Crean was involved with the Irish Federated Trades and Labour Union, a short-lived attempt to establish a national trade union body, and he had a peripheral involvement with the Democratic Trade and Labour Federation, launched by Davitt in Cork city in January 1890. He also served as president of the Cork county board of the GAA in 1890. Locally, his stance on Jewish immigrants did not undermine his influence among Cork workers, and he continued as president of the trades’ council until 1891, when he was ousted because of his anti-Parnellite politics. The carpenters, who were strongly Parnellite, also removed him as their delegate to the council.
Crean's opposition to Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) following the split of 1890–91 seems to have alienated him from organised labour in urban Cork, which leaned towards Parnellism. Nonetheless, he became the leader of the anti-Parnellite faction on Cork corporation and in 1892 was put forward, with Davitt's backing, as the National Federation parliamentary candidate for the Ossory division in Queen's Co. (Laois). His candidature, and that of Austin in Limerick West, was the result of a push by Davitt and others for greater labour representation within the Irish party, and his platform stressed his labour credentials, though he was dismissed by the Parnellite Leinster Leader as an urban landlord rather than a genuine tradesman. In the event, Crean won the election and remained as MP for Queen's Co. until 1900, when he shifted to the Cork South-East constituency, winning a seat which he held until 1918. He continued his involvement in local politics and was mayor of Cork city in 1899.
He was best known in politics as a staunch ally of William O'Brien, MP, and when O'Brien broke with the Irish party in November 1903, following the rejection of his ‘conciliation’ policy, Crean was among the handful of MPs that supported him. He remained a devout O'Brienite until the collapse of the home rule movement in 1918. On 9 February 1909 Crean was assaulted by opponents of O'Brien at the so-called ‘baton convention’ and later unsuccessfully sued Joe Devlin (qv), MP, and Denis Johnston, the secretary of the United Irish League, for abetting the attack on him. He was a leading member of the O'Brienite All-for-Ireland League (AFIL) and in 1914 backed his leader's position at Westminster that no home rule was preferable to partition. This stance badly damaged the AFIL, and Crean's electoral base was undermined further by his support for the British war effort. He recognised that the inexorable rise of Sinn Féin after 1917 meant that his chances were slim in the 1918 general election, and he declined to run. Having left parliament, he retired from public life and lived quietly in Cork city. On his death, the Cork Examiner noted that in the decades after his retirement he went for long walks on a daily basis, regularly covering up to twenty miles (32 km) on his rambles. After a short illness, he died 12 January 1939 at his home, 3 Douglas St., Cork, and was buried in the family plot in St Joseph's cemetery.
He married (11 February 1890) Hannah Fitzgerald, daughter of a ship's carpenter from the harbour town of Passage West. They had seven children, one of whom became a surgeon-commander in the Royal Navy.