Dillon, James

(1902—1986) politician

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(1902–86), party leader and government minister. The son of John Dillon, he transmitted some of the Nationalist Party's values into the politics of the independent Irish state. He was a critic of both the pro-treaty and republican forces in the early years of independence and was a co-founder of the Centre Party in 1932. The success of this venture meant that Dillon was an important figure in the Dáil; and he was one of the architects of another, and more lasting, force in Irish politics, Fine Gael (1933). He was a strong opponent of Irish neutrality during the Second World War, and resigned from Fine Gael in February 1942, having failed to persuade the party to support the Allies. He was minister of agriculture in the interparty government of 1948–51, and (while his substantive achievement is open to question) he proved a political success: his Land Rehabilitation Project echoed the concerns of his father, and helped to steal the thunder of Clann na Talmhan. Dillon held the same ministerial portfolio in the second interparty government (1954–7) and was a lacklustre leader of Fine Gael (1959–65). His politics united the values of the Irish propertied elite with some vestiges of agrarianism. A cautious and conservative patriot, he was often (and unfairly) seen as West British and retrograde.

From The Oxford Companion to Irish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: European History.

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