McHugh, Patrick Aloysius (1859–1909), journalist and politician, was born in March 1859 in Annagh, Co. Leitrim, son of Peter McHugh, farmer, and Mary McHugh (née Keany). He was educated locally and studied philosophy and theology at St Patrick's diocesan college, Cavan, but abandoned his studies in 1879 when he moved to Paris, seeking work as a journalist. He returned to Ireland the following year and served as a teacher at the College of the Immaculate Conception in Athlone and Sligo before becoming proprietor and editor of the Sligo Champion in July 1885, a position he held till his death. It soon became perhaps the most popular nationalist newspaper in Connacht, owing to his forthright support for the Plan of Campaign (launched October 1886). By the summer of 1890 he had served a total of one year in prison (over three sentences) for supporting boycotting activities and accusing the local grand juries of gross corruption, yet during this time he was elected mayor of Sligo twice and was continually reelected as county chairman of the GAA and the local leader of the National League. Considered by the Irish party during the late 1880s as too radical to be nominated for parliament, after the demise of the Plan of Campaign he was selected and duly returned as the anti-Parnellite candidate for Leitrim North. After being reelected mayor of Sligo (1895–8), he also ran for Clare East, but was narrowly defeated by William Redmond (qv).
During 1897, by supporting the efforts of Joseph Devlin (qv), William O'Brien (qv), and the catholic clergy, he succeeded in breaking a republican monopoly over the 1798 Centenary Committee (est. January 1897) and played a significant role in helping to found the United Irish League (January 1898). Elected first chairman of Sligo county council in 1899, he renewed his attacks on the non-elective grand juries, causing him to be sentenced to six months' imprisonment for making libellous remarks. On his release (April 1900) he was granted the freedom of Dublin, but only weeks later was imprisoned again for three months for slandering another local judge. When he was released (September 1900) he was formally declared bankrupt and forced to resign his parliamentary seat. Immediately thereafter he was sent by the Irish party to the USA and, together with Devlin, made a partly successful attempt to lay the foundations for the United Irish League of America (est. October 1902). A fervently loyal supporter of John Dillon (qv), he regularly denounced all critics, rivals, and opponents of the Irish party as ‘factionists’; a fact that made him particularly intolerant of the new young radicals emerging in Irish popular politics through the Gaelic League. Reclaiming his Leitrim North seat in an October 1903 by-election, he was returned for this constituency and that of Sligo North in the 1906 general election, but chose to represent the latter. Although quite sympathetic towards the ‘ranch war’ (1906–9), he was no longer very politically active, due to bad health, but still concerned himself with attempting to suppress dissent from the Irish party, most notably the Sinn Féin challenge in his old Leitrim North constituency during 1908. He died in hospital on 31 May 1909. A key figure in maintaining a radical, agrarian political tradition in Connacht, McHugh earned notoriety by his willingness to suffer imprisonment in defence of the freedom of the press. Notwithstanding his quarrels with republicans in later years, during the 1880s he was generally respected by IRB activists and was suspected to be an IRB man by Dublin Castle.
He married first (1880) Mary Harte (d. 1894), and secondly (1900) her sister Katie, who survived him. One of his two sons was the secretary of Sligo county council at the time of his father's death. In October 1916 a statue of P. A. McHugh was unveiled outside Sligo town hall.