Little, Patrick John (‘P. J.’) (1884–1963), journalist, lawyer, and politician, was born 17 June 1884 in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, son of Philip Francis Little and Mary Jane Little (née Holdwright). His father, born in Canada of Irish parents, was a former leader of the Liberal party in Newfoundland, and served as premier, attorney general, and high court judge in Newfoundland, before coming to Ireland, where he became a supporter of the Irish parliamentary party.
Educated at Clongowes Wood College, Little studied law at UCD, where he was a prominent figure in the Literary and Historical Society. Associated with journalism from his time as manager of UCD's St Stephen's magazine, he was editor of various Sinn Féin newspapers between 1915 and 1926, including Old Ireland, New Ireland, Éire, Sinn Féin, and An Phoblacht. Involved in the forgery of the ‘Castle document’ which ordered the suppression of the Irish Volunteers prior to the Easter rising, he was on the Sinn Féin executive 1917–22, and stood as Sinn Féin candidate for Dublin Rathmines in the 1918 general election but was defeated by the unionist Sir Maurice Edward Dockrell (qv). From April to December 1921 he was a diplomatic representative of Dáil Éireann, visiting South Africa and South America, and in January 1922 attended the Irish Race Conference in Paris as Brazilian representative. He also became a partner in the legal firm Little, Proud, & Ó hUadhaigh, where one of his partners was Seán Ó hUadhaigh (qv).
An opponent of the Anglo–Irish treaty and founder member of Fianna Fáil, he was elected TD for Waterford in the June 1927 general election, a seat he held until his retirement from politics in 1954. Having served (1933–9) as parliamentary secretary to Éamon de Valera (qv) as minister for external affairs and president of the executive council/taoiseach, he was minister for posts and telegraphs 1939–48, which included responsibility for broadcasting. As minister he utilised the influence of his office for the development of arts and music. He had a particular interest in developing the potential of radio, and promoted the broadcasting of traditional and classical music on Radio Éireann, which included the hosting of a large series of public symphonic concerts by RÉ during the 1940s. Opposed to direct political control of broadcasting, he believed that it should be administered by a semi-state body.
Throughout the 1940s he championed unsuccessfully the establishment of a national concert hall, which he linked with his support for a council of national culture. When the British government established the Arts Council of Great Britain in late 1945, he looked to it as a model of what might be established in Ireland. The Arts Act 1951, which established An Chomhairle Ealaíon (Arts Council) and was enacted shortly before the government of John A. Costello (qv) left office, was essentially what Little had proposed in 1946. It was appropriate that de Valera, who regarded Little as his arts advisor, should appoint him director for a five-year term (Costello had intended to appoint Thomas Bodkin (qv)). Despite his age (he was 68 on appointment) he was an energetic director, and effective to the extent that the financial constraints of the early 1950s permitted. He established specialist panels to advise on particular aspects of the arts and followed the British example in launching local advisory committees (an initiative that ultimately petered out). Little did not stand in the 1954 general election.
Outside politics, Little was involved for many years in working for the sick in Lourdes as a brancardier and was made a chef de service in 1935. He married (1917) Seonaid Ní Leoid; they had no children, but Seonaid had two daughters and a son from a previous marriage. He died 16 May 1963 at his home, Clonlea, Sandyford, Co. Dublin.