Cahill, Timothy J. (1912–91), civil servant and chairman of the Labour court, was born 3 April 1912 in Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry. Educated at St Brendan's College, Killarney, and UCG, where he was auditor (1933–4) of the Literary and Debating Society, he graduated BA in classics with first-class honours. In July 1937 he joined the civil service as an administrative officer in the Department of Industry and Commerce, and between September 1939 and July 1946 he served in the Department of Supplies. Returning to Industry and Commerce after the emergency, he served as an assistant principal officer (August 1946–January 1947) in the prices and foreign-trade sections, and as principal officer (May 1947–September 1953) in the labour court and foreign-trade sections. As assistant secretary (June 1959–April 1962) he served under Seán Lemass (qv) and Jack Lynch (qv).
In April 1962 he was appointed deputy chairman of the labour court, and the following July he became chairman. Unlike his predecessors Cahill was not appointed for a fixed term, and he became the longest serving chairman (July 1962–April 1977) in the court's history. His appointment came at a time when the industrial unrest of the early 1960s began to intensify as growth and inflation led to competing wage claims. Between 1964 and 1965 one million man days were lost through strikes and disputes, and – despite the best efforts of Cahill and the labour court – industrial relations remained poor. In 1966–7 there were large-scale disputes in the banking sector, the ESB, Dublin port, Bord na Mona, and Dublin corporation. 1969 was viewed as one of the most difficult years when the maintenance craftsmen went on strike. Rising inflation and growth in the private sector led to continued demands for increases in wages, and the oil crises of the 1970s made matters worse.
The problems in industrial relations were borne out by the increasing caseload dealt with by Cahill and the labour court. In 1962 the court was dealing with 322 disputes a year; by 1977, it was dealing with 1,324. Under Cahill's leadership the court grew apace to cope with this greater volume of work and the additional functions entrusted to it. In 1969 a new industrial relations act was passed that saw the first significant alteration to the Industrial Relations Act, 1946. Among the changes introduced by the new act were the rights commissioner, to deal with many individual cases at first instance; a permanent deputy chairman; and the possibility of the Court sitting in divisions. Broadly successful and largely more effective than his successors, Cahill retired 3 April 1977.
On his retirement he was to the fore in a campaign to ease the tax burden on the PAYE sector, and his newspaper articles were important in spurring the trade union movement to take action on the issue. A keen sportsman, he won a county senior football club championship medal with UCG and was actively associated with both Terenure College and UCD rugby clubs. Deeply religious, he was an active member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. He died 4 December 1991.
Cahill's wife Mary died in 1983; they had three sons and a daughter.