Duffy, Luke J. (1890–1961), trade unionist, was born 26 March 1890 in Gurteen, Co. Sligo, into a farming family. Educated at Cloonanure national school, he began an apprenticeship in the drapery trade in Moon's in Galway. He immediately became involved in the trade union movement and joined the Drapers’ Assistants Association. His talent for organising was recognised by the union, and he was sent to Cork as an official in 1916. The following year he was appointed divisional organiser in Cork. He was later transferred in 1920 to the union's head office in Dublin. In 1921 the union changed its name to the Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks, and the following year Duffy became general secretary.
In 1922 he was involved in the many meetings held in the Mansion House, Dublin, which attempted to bring about a settlement in the civil war. In the September 1927 general election he stood unsuccessfully as a labour candidate for Cork Borough. In 1930 he was a member of the committee that set up the Irish Labour Party, independent of the Irish Trade Union Congress (ITUC). He stood down as general secretary of his union in 1933 and became general secretary of the party. When the party split in 1944, his attentions were focused until 1948 on reuniting it, which finally came about in 1950. During his time as general secretary he wrote most of the election programmes and pamphlets for the party. He was secretary of Labour Publications Ltd and was also editor of the Irish People, the party's newspaper. He also wrote many articles on economics and industrial relations. A committed nationalist, he vehemently opposed partition, and after the introduction of the 1949 Ireland act he represented Labour alongside William Norton (qv) on the committee in the Mansion House all-party anti-partition conference. Subsequently, he sent a letter on behalf of the Irish Labour Party, denouncing the act, to every member of the British Parliamentary Labour Party.
From 1922 to 1933 Duffy served as a member on the post office inquiry board, which reorganised the postal services in the country. In 1929 he became a member of the rates advisory committee of the tribunal established to investigate into the Dublin tramway dispute. He was also a peace commissioner and a member of Dublin county council. He served on the Balrothery board of assistance and the committee and management of the Grangegorman mental hospital and Peamount sanatorium. From 1920 to 1934 he was a member of the executive council of the ITUC, and in 1923–4 and 1929 he was elected president. He was appointed to the Brennan Commission, set up by the Fianna Fáil government in 1932 to inquire into the civil service. Disagreeing with the majority view of the commission, he produced a minority report that questioned the wisdom of granting sole responsibility for the control of the civil service to the Department of Finance, which he regarded as ‘traditionally the most reactionary’ of government departments (Fanning, 566). He was also a member of the Banking Commission (1938) and caused considerable controversy by again dissenting from the commission's report and publicly condemning the maintenance of the link with sterling.
Elected to the senate in 1944, he resigned his seat in 1949, when he also stood down as general secretary of the Labour Party, to join the Industrial Development Authority, where he remained until his retirement in 1960. He died 3 August 1961 in Dublin.
He married (1920) Mary O'Donovan of Cork; they lived for some time in 6 Garville Avenue, Rathgar, Dublin, and later 33 Corrig Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, with their two sons and two daughters.