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Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Members of the Fifth Dáil - Patrick J. Little

Patrick J. "P. J." Little (17 June 1884 – 16 May 1963) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician. A founder-member of the party, he served in a number of Cabinet positions, most notably as the country's longest-serving Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Born in Dundrum, County Dublin, Little was the son of Philip Francis Little and Mary Jane Holdright. Both his parents were Canadian natives, while his father had served as the first Premier of Newfoundland before settling in Ireland. Here he became involved in the home rule movement.

Little was educated at the exclusive Clongowes Wood College before later attending University College Dublin. Here he studied law and qualified as a solicitor in 1914.

Little was engaged in the independence struggle from an early stage. Following the Easter Rising in 1916 he had formed, together with Stephen O'Mara, the Irish National League, who while being opposed to the Irish Parliamentary Party and supportive of abstentionism, were wary of the militarism of the Irish Volunteers. In 1918 the Volunteers, the Irish National League, and Count Plunkett's followers, the Liberty Clubs agreed to merge under the Sinn Féin banner with Éamon de Valera as President to fight the 1918 Westminster Election on an abstentionist platform.

Little contested the constituency of Dublin Rathmines but lost to the Unionist Maurice Dockrell, the only Unionist elected outside of Trinity College, Dublin in what was to become the Irish Free State. He remained in the background of the Sinn Féin party for the next number of years. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and fought with the Four Courts Garrison during the Civil War.

Following his release from jail he became the first editor of An Phoblacht in 1925.

Little joined Fianna Fáil shortly after its foundation in 1926. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the June 1927 general election for the constituency of Waterford. He represented the constituency until 1954.

Little was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary, the equivalent of the present Minister of State in 1933. Little was appointed Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in 1939 and remained in this office until 1948. Accordingly he was responsible for much of the censorship that was introduced by the government during The Emergency. He was not re-appointed to the Cabinet in 1951. In 1952, following the death of Bridget Redmond, Fianna Fáil won the resulting by-election and held three seats out of three in the constituency. This would have been unsustainable in the next general election so Little announced his intention to retire from politics.

He was the first chairman of the Arts Council from 1951 until 1956. Patrick Little died in May 1963. He is a great-uncle of former Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe.

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