Seán O’Casey

Political Activist and Writer


  • Paul O'Brien Socialist Workers Network


Seán O’Casey gave a voice to those who are rarely heard: the poor, the dispossessed, the tenement-dwellers, whose lives he shaped into works of art. Their very presence on the stage is their claim to justice and a better future. He was a socialist, a humanist and an exceptional writer who put politics at the centre of his work, insisting that the writer can be a transformative force in society. Exiled to England at the age of forty-six, O’Casey sent his blasts and benedictions across the world for the rest of his life. As Richard Watts has pointed out, however, ‘his anger was based, not on his dislike for mankind, but on his love for it’. 1 Dismissing his political beliefs does O’Casey an enormous disservice as a writer and a human being. O’Casey was one of the most political writers of his generation, constantly exploring the frontiers between literature and politics. Like his friend, George Bernard Shaw, O’Casey wrote for a purpose. His life reflects the history of the early twentieth century, a period shaped by two great political ideals: nationalism and socialism. History and politics were woven into the fabric of his life – they gave him focus and shaped him as an artist.