Hughes, Peter (1878–1954), politician, was born in Dundalk. A merchant in Dundalk, and initially a home rule nationalist, he entered politics in his early twenties when he replaced his father on the Dundalk board of guardians, and in 1905 was elected to Dundalk urban district council. Secretary of the local branch of the United Irish League, he left the home rule party in 1916 after a split over the selection of an outsider, P. J. Whitty, nephew of Richard Hazleton (qv), as the official party candidate for the Louth North by-election, during which Hughes supported and acted as election agent for the unsuccessful independent nationalist candidate. Elected chairman of Dundalk urban district council in 1918, he was also president of the local Sinn Féin club, and from May 1918 till February 1919 was imprisoned as part of the fabricated ‘German plot’. During 1920–21 he played a significant role in the Sinn Féin–Dáil Éireann administrative revolution as a Sinn Féin member of Louth county council, chairman of Dundalk urban district council, and an arbitrator in the republican parish courts.
Elected unopposed to Dáil Éireann as Sinn Féin candidate for Louth–Meath in 1921, he supported the Anglo–Irish treaty and was reelected for the constituencies of Louth–Meath and Louth in the general elections of 1922 and 1923 respectively. His appointment as minister for defence in 1924 in place of Richard Mulcahy (qv), who resigned after the army mutiny, was controversial and heavily criticised by many of his Cumann na nGaedheal colleagues,especially those sympathetic to the army mutineers; Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll (qv) complained that he did not have sufficient education to hold the post, and seventeen Cumann na nGaedheal TDs signed a letter of protest. The appointment of a man who had no association with the army and virtually no knowledge of military affairs was seen as a deliberate act by W. T. Cosgrave (qv) aimed at reducing the importance of the army and the Department of Defence. After his appointment as minister, Hughes was obliged to resign from his local government posts.
Defeated in the general elections of June and September 1927 and of 1932 by the former Hibernian James Coburn (qv), he retired from political life and became chairman of the army pensions board and of the Hospitals’ Committee of Reference, established to allocate sweepstake funds (1931–3). He married, late in life, Lily McKevitt; they had two sons and two daughters and lived at Mount Avenue, Dundalk, where he died 24 June 1954, leaving an estate of £2,160. His brother Patrick, an early activist in Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers, also took part later in Dundalk local government.