Con Lehane, left-wing nationalist, member of the IRA Army Council, solicitor, actor and politician, is born in Belfast, in what is now Northern Ireland, on May 7, 1912.
Lehane is the only surviving child of Denis Lehane, an excise officer originally from County Cork, and his wife Mary (née Connolly), a native of the Falls Road, Belfast. He grows up in an Irish-speaking household. Joseph Connolly, the senator, is his uncle on his mother’s side, while Michael O’Lehane, the trade unionist, is his uncle on his father’s side. His family emigrates to Hartlepool, in County Durham, England, in 1912, and then to Dublin in 1920. He is educated at Synge Street CBS and University College Dublin (UCD), where he studies Law and qualifies as a solicitor. He marries Marie O’Neill in 1937, and they have a son and two daughters.
As a solicitor, Lehane takes to defending members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Irish Courts. In 1927 he obtains permission for IRA prisoners to speak privately to their solicitors from the Irish High Court. He is active in other republican and nationalist circles. He is a member of the Moibhí Branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, and by the 1930s appears to become active in the IRA itself. In 1931 he is involved in Saor Éire, an attempt by the Irish left-wing to create a communist political party that would be linked to the IRA.
Lehane is a member of the IRA’s arms committee and in 1935 he is sentenced to 18-months’ imprisonment by the Military Tribunal for his membership of the IRA.
Lehane retires from the IRA in April 1938 with Seán MacBride as they are not prepared to support the planned bombing campaign in the United Kingdom during World War II. In 1940 he is a member of Córas na Poblachta, another attempt to build a Republican political party backed by the IRA.
Interned again in 1940 under the Offences against the State Act 1939, Lehane is made an officer commanding (OC) of the IRA prisoners in Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin. While interned he and five other Irish Republican prisoners go on a 26-day hunger strike, protesting being imprisoned without trial.
Lehane is elected to Dáil Éireann as a Clann na Poblachta Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-Central constituency at the 1948 Irish general election. He loses his seat at the 1951 Irish general election.
Lehane is an actor and has a keen interest in Irish language theatre. A committed Irish speaker, Lehane is at home in it, whether on radio, stage or in street conversation. He is one of the leading actors of the Irish Language Theatre Company between 1943 and 1958. He is a member of Dublin City Council and of the Citizens for Civil Liberties committee.
In 1977, the remains of Frank Ryan, one of the leading left-wing Republicans of the 1930s, are repatriated from East Germany, and Lehane delivers the eulogy.
Lehane dies in Dublin at the age of 71 on September 18, 1983. He is buried in St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton.
(Pictured: Lehane speaking at a Clann na Poblachta event)