The Star of West Wing
Goes to Tipperary

Martin Sheen with Irish War protestors.
Martin Sheen with Irish War protestors.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2003

Martin Sheen takes time out from a family reunion in Ireland to meet war protesters.


Martin Sheen was in Ireland for a family reunion in May. His mother, Mary Ann Phelan, was born in 1903 in Borrisokane, County Tipperary, and Sheen and his brothers Frank, John and Carlos, and his sister Carmen, returned to their mother’s home town for a celebratory mass in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday.

Mary Ann Phelan emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, where she married a Spaniard named Francisco Estevez.

Sheen, who stars as a U.S. president in the television drama series The West Wing, took time out to meet with a group of Irish war protesters charged with causing criminal damages to a U.S. warplane. He said he was prepared to give the demonstrators his own special dispensation and “grant them full pardon,” the Irish Independent newspaper reported.

“As a fellow Catholic peace activist I am compelled to support them and their struggle for peace and social justice and their efforts to gain a fair trial,” he said after meeting the accused in Borrisokane.

The five protesters are awaiting trial for causing criminal damage to a U.S. warplane during anti-war demonstrations at Shannon airport, which was used as a stopover for American troops on their way to Iraq.

“Although their actions jeopardize their future, their moral courage in speaking out in this dark time is a powerful inspiration to peace loving non-violent people everywhere,” said Sheen, who holds an Irish passport. The American actor, who also starred in the anti-war classic Apocalypse Now, also expressed anger at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

“The military has become our foreign policy and it is devastating. There is great concern about it in the States. Unfortunately, this man [President George W. Bush] is more popular now than any other president,” he was quoted as saying.

Fans of The West Wing are wondering if the season finale has anything to do with NBC angst over Sheen’s vocal anti-war protests. In the last program of the season he resigns as President Bartlet when his daughter Zoe is kidnapped. Since the vice president is already gone, the transfer of executive powers went to Republican Speaker of the House, played by John Goodman. We will have to wait until next season to see what happens. Meanwhile West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin will not be back, he has resigned from the show. ♦

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