De Róiste, Liam (1882–1959), politician, writer and Irish-language activist, was born 15 June 1882 in Fountainstown, Co. Cork, son of Edward Roche and Eliza Roche (née Ahern), both schoolteachers. He attended the local national school and, although little Irish was spoken in his area, he learned to speak the language with the help of the few remaining Irish-speakers, and to read it with the aid of books lent to him by Tomás Mac Eoin, a young schoolmaster in the parish. In 1899 he took a position in a drapery shop in Cork before moving briefly to a clerical role in a loan office. After being temporarily unemployed he took a clerical and teaching position at Skerry's College, a grind school. In 1910 he was given a job as a commerce teacher by County Cork Vocational Education Committee.
By then he had become a leading figure in Irish cultural and economic movements in Cork. He joined the Gaelic League in 1899, and by 1902 was its secretary in Cork, before joining its general executive committee. In 1904 he helped found Coláiste na Mumhan, the Irish-language training college in Ballingeary, and served as its secretary until 1936. Having joined the Young Ireland Society in Cork (1899), he left with a number of others to found the Cork Celtic Literary Society (1901) and also helped found the Cork Dramatic Society (1904). From August 1906 to July 1907 he published a magazine, The Shield. His love of drama and literature saw him set up Shandon Publishing Company, which published his pamphlet A message to the man (1908). He also wrote such plays as ‘The road to hell’ (1908), a warning of the dangers of drinking, and ‘Fodhla’ (1908). He later published a collection of patriotic poetry, prose, and orations, Voices of the past (1915). Deeply conscious of the need for economic as well as cultural revival, he was one of the founders of the Industrial Development Association in 1903, serving as honorary secretary until 1924, and also helped found the Irish International Trading Corporation, where he worked until 1956, in an attempt to give employment in his native area. He was later a member of Cork harbour board and of the board of management of Cork mental hospital.
He co-founded the Cork branch of Sinn Féin in 1906 and was one of the organisers of the meeting attended by Eoin MacNeill (qv) and Roger Casement (qv) which established the Irish Volunteers in Cork in 1913. In 1914 he smuggled a Mauser rifle to Cork from London, and he was involved in events surrounding the 1916 rising; but poor eyesight and a non-violent disposition left him unsure of his capabilities as a gunman; he was never a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In the war of independence he was involved in various manoeuvres obliging him to stay away from his home for long periods, and in 1921 this probably saved his life when a squad of Black and Tans shot his friend Fr Séamus Ó Ceallacháin, who had arrived on a visit. A full-time organiser for Sinn Féin in Cork, he was elected to the first dáil in 1918, and was subsequently reelected in 1922. He served as leascheann comhairle, chairing a number of debates, and also chaired the parliamentary meeting (14 January 1922) that resolved to accept the treaty and set up a provisional government. As disagreement drifted into civil war, he was involved in attempts to reconcile both sides: although he supported the treaty, he was not fully in accord with leading members of Cumann na nGaedheal such as Kevin O'Higgins (qv) and Paddy Hogan (qv), who were suspicious of his desire for compromise, while he in turn believed that the government was already losing its Gaelic ethos. He left national politics and did not stand in the 1923 general election, but unsuccessfully contested the seanad elections of 1925. In 1936 he was involved in the Irish Christian Front, which supported Franco in the Spanish civil war; he was also involved in Muintir na Tíre. In 1945 he was elected to Cork corporation as a member of the Civic Party, having been requested to stand by the Knights of Columbanus.
An unassuming man of great charm and intelligence, he remained receptive to new ideas throughout his life. He continued to study, write and lecture on Irish history and culture until his death, and contributed a series of articles to the Cork Examiner detailing his experiences in various cultural and political movements. He married (27 July 1909) Nóra Ní Bhriain, sometime secretary of Iníní na hÉireann. He died 15 May 1959 in Cork; his papers are held at the Cork Archives Institute.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).