Ó Síocháin (Sheehan), Pádraig Augustine (1905–95), journalist, barrister, and Irish-language activist, was born 26 May 1905 in Kanturk, Co. Cork, sixth child and fourth son among five sons and five daughters of Daniel D. Sheehan (qv), of Kanturk, MP for mid-Cork, and Pauline Mary Sheehan (née O'Connor) from Tralee, Co. Kerry. Educated at Kanturk national school, at Rochestown College, Cork, and at London University, from which he received (1923) a diploma in journalism, he became (1924) a junior reporter on the Daily Sketch in London, returning to Ireland (1925) to work on the Enniscorthy Echo. From 1927 to 1932 he was a chief reporter with the Irish Times, specialising in aviation and motoring issues; he reported exclusively on the first east–west flight across the Atlantic in April 1928 by James Fitzmaurice (qv) and his companions in the German aircraft Bremen. For some years in the 1930s Sheehan was editor of Aviation: the national air magazine of Ireland. He was one of the first journalists to work on the Irish Press, from 1932, and during the 1930s he edited the New Irish Magazine. He was editor of the Garda Review from 1931 to 1972. The well written and relevant monthly journal improved communication and probably also morale within the Garda Síochána.
Sheehan began studying law through an evening course; he registered at King's Inns in 1927 and qualified as a barrister at King's Inns in 1936; he became a senior counsel in 1948. He was particularly successful in cases dealing with trade union matters, and was also involved in important criminal law cases. He wrote The criminal law of Ireland, which had eight editions from 1940, and which was translated into Irish in 1964 as Dlí Coiriúil na h-Éireann, one of the first law texts to appear in Irish in modern times. He also wrote Dlí na Fianaise in Éirinn (1953, 1962). During the second world war, he served as an officer with an LDF battalion. He was an active member of the Fianna Fáil party for twenty years, but resigned in 1952, as he felt that Fianna Fáil was insufficiently committed to the Irish language. In the 1965 general election he stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in Co. Clare.
After the death of his father (1948) he changed his family name from Sheehan to the modern Gaelic form, Ó Síocháin. In the 1950s, feeling a need to understand his native country at a deeper level, he spent a lot of time on the Aran Islands, where he learned Irish and gained the islanders’ respect. He made several documentary films of life and traditional culture on the islands, just before the advent of electricity, television, and increased tourism changed conditions there. In 1952 he acquired a company called Galway Bay Products Ltd, through which he developed the traditional hand-knitting on the Aran Islands into a local industry, and marketed and exported the Aran sweaters so successfully that they became an icon of Irishness, especially in the US. Ó Síocháin was largely responsible for adroit and artistic marketing, which led to a huge increase in sales of Aran garments in the 1960s and 1970s in the US and later in Europe, Canada and Australia, and Japan. From 1970 he also owned two trawlers on the west coast, which helped develop the local fishing industry and economy.
He was founder and president of CARA, a society set up to promote the Irish language, and he established an Irish night school in Dublin, for which he raised most of the necessary funds and pioneered the use of teaching material on tape. Strongly opposed to compelling pupils to study Irish in school, he believed that the language would only flourish if people were genuinely interested in it and the attendant culture, not forced to study it to gain qualifications. He served as president of the Pen Club of Ireland in 1956. He had a strong interest in Celtic spirituality and prehistory, and wrote many newspaper articles as well as books – Aran Islands of legend (1962; other editions), Ireland: a journey into lost time (1983), and Ireland: journey to freedom (1990). During the 1930s he and his wife won many trophies in car rallies; he acted as navigator. He won golf competitions, was a year-round sea bather, and had a pilot's licence to fly gliders and powered aircraft. Pádraig Ó Síocháin died 19 December 1995 at his home, 44 Rathfarnham Park, Dublin, after a life that his family proudly described as ‘ninety active years’ (Irish Times, 21 Dec. 1995). He was buried at Cruagh cemetery, in the Dublin hills.
He married (1932) Marjorie Ann Griffin (d. 1984) of Co. Dublin; they had four sons – one of whom predeceased his parents – and one daughter.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).