Sheehy, Nicholas (DNB00)

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SHEEHY, NICHOLAS (1728–1766), Irish priest, born at Fethard, Tipperary, in 1728, was educated in France. On his return to Tipperary he became parish priest of Clogheen. There he acted as a staunch adherent of the party hostile to English rule. He openly condemned the collection of church rates, and was especially zealous in the defence of prisoners charged with political offences. His parish was a centre of the Whiteboy organisation, and there can be no doubt that he had a full knowledge of their schemes, and lent his assistance to many of their undertakings. More than once he was unsuccessfully prosecuted under the Registration Act. In 1764, however, matters came to a crisis. An informer named Bridge disappeared in a manner which left little doubt that he had been murdered. Soon after some troopers conveying a prisoner to Clonmel gaol were attacked near Sheehy's house. He was charged with high treason, but he escaped those sent to arrest him, and a reward of 300l. was offered for his capture. He agreed to surrender, provided he might be tried in Dublin and not in Clonmel. The condition was accepted, and at his trial in 1765 the evidence broke down; he proved an alibi, and was acquitted. He was, however, immediately rearrested and, with his cousin Edmund, charged with complicity in Bridge's murder. In violation of the spirit of the government pledges, he was sent to Clonmel to be tried. There, in spite of the fact that the informer's body had never been discovered, he and his brother were found guilty, and were executed on 15 March 1766. There were serious flaws in the evidence against Sheehy, though a general complicity in Whiteboy proceedings was proved. In a letter to Major Joseph Sirr [see under Sirr, Henry Charles], who had befriended him, Sheehy admitted his knowledge of Bridge's murder, but asserted his innocence of the crime.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, p. 473; Froude's English in Ireland, ii. 32; Musgrave's Memoirs of the Rebellions in Ireland, i. 37, ii. App. i.; Amyas Griffith's Miscellaneous Tracts, pp. 56, 71; Curry's Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland, ii. 274; Irish Parliamentary Debates, vii. 342; Mr. O'Leary's Defence, 1787; Madden's United Irishmen, 1858, i. 29–88.]

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