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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Members of the Fifth Dáil - Patrick Belton

Patrick Belton (1885 – 30 January 1945) was an Irish politician, anti-communist and leader of the Irish Christian Front. Belton provided a strong Catholic voice in an Irish nationalist context throughout his 20th century career. Supportive of Francisco Franco and an activist in favour of the forces against Bolshevism, Belton however opposed Eoin O'Duffy taking an Irish Brigade to Spain, feeling that they would be needed in Ireland to counter domestic "political ills". His family, including three sons and a granddaughter have also gone on to have careers in Irish politics.

He was born in 1885 in Rathcline, near Lanesborough, County Longford. He attended the local national school and subsequently won a scholarship to King's College London. Following his secondary education, he stayed in London and entered the British Civil Service. He became very friendly with Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins at this time. He was a prominent member of the Geraldines GAA Club in London, and he was for many years its chairman. In 1909 he became Secretary of the London County Board of the GAA.

In 1910, he was transferred to the Irish Land Commission in Dublin. He took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. His obituary in the Longford Leader noted that he "...was associated with Michael Collins and other London comrades when they came to Ireland in 1916 for the Rising. After the Rising he was suspended from the Land Commission on suspicion of having been connected with the event, but was later reinstated". In 1918 he was imprisoned in Belfast Jail, possibly because of his involvement in the National Aid Association.

In 1927, he was elected as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin County in the June 1927 general election. However he was expelled from the party soon afterwards as he broke with Fianna Fáil policy by taking the Oath of Allegiance and entering the Dáil.

In 1933, he joined Cumann na nGaedheal and was returned as a TD for Dublin North in the 1933 general election.

On 22 August 1936, the Irish Independent called for the formation of a committee to help the (pro Franco) citizens of Spain in their war effort. These calls for support resulted in the formation of the Irish Christian Front (ICF). The ICF held its initial meeting at the Mansion House, Dublin on 31 August 1936. Already a TD, an ambitious and charismatic leader, Belton became the organisation's president. The group had overwhelming support from the general population as well as the backing of the Catholic church. On ICF platforms would stand local sympathisers, priests, Bishops and local TDs usually from Fine Gael but some from Fianna Fáil and even the Labour Party. Belton would hold pro-Catholic and anti-communist rallies, drawing an estimated crowd of 30,000 on one occasion. He would publicise the massacres committed by the Spanish Republicans and sent aid and money to Franco's forces.

However Belton, a supporter of nationalist Spain, claimed that the important battle was to be fought at home and not abroad. An ex-Blueshirt, he went as far as opposing Eoin O'Duffy's dispatching of the Irish Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

The ICF would dwindle following Belton's loss in the 1937 general election. He was elected as a Fine Gael TD for Dublin County in the 1938 general election, however he once again lost his seat in the 1943 general election.

Belton died on 30 January 1945, at his home, Belleview Park, Killiney, County Dublin.
Three of his four sons – Richard, Jack and Paddy served as members of the Oireachtas, as did his granddaughter Avril Doyle.

Quotes from Patrick Belton:

"When our organisations work is complete we will make Ireland a very hot
spot for any communist to live in...if it is necessary to be a fascist to defend
Christianity then I am a fascist and so are my colleagues." – Irish Independent,
12 October 1936

"I did not agree with the wisdom of Irishmen going out to Spain." – Irish Press
(26 November 1936)

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