Gilhooly, James Peter (1847–1916), politician, was born in 1847, son of Peter Gilhooly of Bantry, Co. Cork, officer in the coastguard service. Gilhooly was early involved in Fenianism; he was believed by the RIC to be head centre for Bantry during the 1867 rising, and thereafter he was referred to as a Fenian, though he does not appear to have maintained strong links with the movement. He set up a draper's shop in Bantry, where he lived all his life as a prominent citizen. A member of the poor law board, he was also active by 1881 in the Bantry Land League, and in February of that year was up before the magistrate on charges of inciting people to boycott. Though his demeanour was modest and unassuming, he was easily roused: in January 1883 he was sentenced to three months for making incendiary speeches at a meeting of the National League. Two years later he was elected nationalist party MP for Cork West (1885–1916). His election agent was Jasper Wolfe, a prominent political activist, who helped to secure him protestant and unionist votes.
Election to parliament did nothing to temper Gilhooly's behaviour. In October 1886 he was up for charges of assault and the following year was served with three summonses under the crimes act, which he refused to answer. In order to show ‘the whole venal crew of miserable myrmidons the contempt in which he held the summons’ (Times, 8 Nov. 1887) he wiped his boots on it at a National League meeting. During the plan of campaign he was imprisoned several times (April–May 1888, August 1889) and this drew the attention of William O'Brien (qv), who mentioned him to John Dillon (qv) as one of only four MPs who were fighting for the tenants. Gilhooly subsequently became one of O'Brien's strongest supporters and was among the few who remained faithful to the end. O'Brien claimed Gladstone picked out Gilhooly for special notice and even for confidential consultation, but this seems unlikely given Gilhooly's propensity for resorting to violence.
In commons debates he generally confined himself to precise questions relating to his constituency on such matters as the mail service, transport, poor law, and local government, but in February 1901 he practised obstruction with the rest of his party and carried this to extreme lengths during an education debate on 5 March, when, together with other nationalist members, he refused to leave his place. After a violent scene, the police were called, and Gilhooly and eleven others were removed one by one. Despite Gilhooly's frequent involvement in such fracas, he always held himself blameless. Tim Healy (qv) wrote mockingly that he would be remembered as ‘the judicious Gilhooly!!!’ (Callanan, 615) if only his own account of events survived.
His unquestioning loyalty to O'Brien led to his being attacked at a general meeting of the party on 9 February 1909. A Belfast opponent of O'Brien threatened to slaughter Gilhooly with a baton, and a fight between the two broke out within feet of Redmond's chair. O'Brien later coined the phrase ‘the baton convention’ for the meeting. Six weeks later Redmond publicly denounced the All-for-Ireland League, and at a meeting (23 March 1909) not attended by O'Brien or Gilhooly, the party voted that membership of that League was incompatible with party membership. Gilhooly therefore fought every subsequent election as an O'Brienite and was elected each time, since he was an excellent constituency MP. He died in Bantry on 16 October 1916 and was survived by his wife, Mary (née Collins) and by two sons. His seat went not to the O'Brienite Frank Healy (qv) but to the Redmondite Daniel O'Leary (1878-1954), whom Gilhooly had defeated in three previous elections.