James Dillon

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  • Roscommon People

James Dillon ( 1902-1986 )

As grandson and son of two of Irish history's most prominent politicians, it was unsurprising that James Dillon should follow in their footsteps.

Dillon was born on 26 September 1902 in Dublin. He was educated at University College Galway and Kings Inns in Dublin. Having qualified as a barrister, he studied business methods in London and at Marshall Field's department store in Chicago. He returned home to run the family business in Ballaghaderreen.

James Dillon was first elected to the Dáil in 1932 as TD for West Donegal. Between 1938 and 1969, he was TD for Monaghan. He was deputy leader of Fine Gael from 1938 until 1942, but resigned from the party when it accepted de Valera's policy of neutrality in World War II. Dillon was the only Irish politician to oppose neutrality and take a stand in favour of joining the allies.

He re-joined Fine Gael in 1953 and served as Minister for Agriculture from 1954-57. One of his major achievements as Minister for Agriculture was the Land Reclamation Programme. This scheme meant that more productive agricultural land was made available, especially in the West of Ireland.

Dillon served as leader of the Fine Gael opposition from 1959-65, defeating the young Liam Cosgrave in a leadership contest. To the surprise of many in the party, he adopted some of the principles of the Just Society, put forward by several younger deputies, as party policy.

Dillon was known as one of the best public speakers in Irish politics. He received many tributes from his Dáil colleagues on his skills as an orator when he died in 1986.