Séan(pronounced Shan) is the Irish for old and it is also used for wise as well. Hence Shannon and Senan/Séanan. The chief meaning could have been extrapolated from the old and wise meaning - ie an elder.
But I also found this http://www.surnamedb.com /surname.aspx?name=Shanley which argues for an English meaning. It is not unusual for a surname in Ireland to have both an English/Scottish/Welsh and Irish origin.
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