Hooper, John (1846–97), journalist and politician, was born probably in the townland of Coolnagillagh Lower, near Millstreet, Co. Cork; his family was certainly living there in 1852. His father, Patrick Hooper (c.1800–83), was a land steward. He received a good education locally – reputedly from a ‘spoilt priest’ who himself had been educated in France – and moved to Cork city where he began work on the Cork Daily Herald in 1861. He subsequently joined the London staff of the Freeman's Journal and spent some years in the house of commons press gallery.
Hooper returned to Cork in the late 1870s to become editor of the Herald, of which he was later also part-proprietor. He was soon drawn into nationalist politics. Elected alderman for the south ward of Cork (November 1883), he was the acknowledged nationalist leader on the city council 1883–90. He also served as MP for Cork South-East 1885–9. He might have been mayor of Cork, but refused a nomination because of the demands of his parliamentary duties and his continued editorship of the Herald. As its editor, he was prosecuted (December 1887) under Balfour's new crimes act on charges relating to the publication of reports of meetings of suppressed branches of the National League, the constituency organisation of the Irish party at Westminster. He was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and sent to Tullamore jail. Like the others incarcerated there under the crimes act, he protested against being treated as an ordinary criminal and so was subjected to a very harsh regime. This seriously undermined his health. The long illness that he suffered afterwards led to his retirement from parliament in 1889. A fellow political prisoner, John Mandeville (qv), died allegedly as a result of maltreatment in Tullamore jail; he too had received a two-month sentence.
At the outset of the Parnell ‘split’, Hooper took the anti-Parnellite side and left Cork to help establish a daily newspaper in Dublin to challenge the Freeman's Journal, which had come out initially in support of Parnell. The National Press, of which Hooper was the general manager, first appeared on 7 March 1891. Overwhelmed by this unaccustomed competition, the Freeman quickly switched sides. A merger of the two newspapers, albeit under the Freeman's more venerable title, was accordingly arranged in March 1892. Hooper was then appointed editor of the Evening Telegraph, the Freeman's evening paper, and retained that post till his death on 20 November 1897 at the early age of 51.
He married (1870) Mary Jane (c.1847–1903), daughter of Jeremiah Buckley, printer, of Cork city; they had five sons and five daughters. Their eldest son, Patrick J. Hooper (qv), became editor of the Freeman and a member of the senate of the Irish Free State. Another son, John L. Hooper (1878–1930), became the Free State's first director of statistics. Three of their daughters died in early childhood.
William O'Brien (qv), MP, wrote of Hooper that he was ‘one of only two men . . . I ever met with whom a consultation meant the certainty of wise guidance in the most knotty difficulty’ (Recollections (1905)). In Ulysses, James Joyce accorded him the dubious honour of having been one of Molly Bloom's lovers, and on a mantlepiece in the Blooms' home in Eccles St., Dublin, was an embalmed owl described as ‘matrimonial gift of Alderman John Hooper’.