Ó Móráin, Micheál (1911–83), politician, was born 24 December 1911 at Ross, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, one of the five children of Bryan Moran, farmer, and Ellen Moran (née Rowland). Educated at St Gerard's College, Castlebar, he then studied law at UCD. One of the few students of law to qualify before the age of twenty-one, he was apprenticed to the practice of P. J. Ruttledge (qv), who was later a Fianna Fáil minister.
An unsuccessful Fianna Fáil candidate at the 1937 general election, the following year Ó Móráin was elected TD for Mayo South (1938–69) and Mayo West (1969–73). For many years he was the youngest member of the house. He also served as a member of Mayo county council (1938–57) and was chairman of the county committee of agriculture in Mayo. He was responsible for the introduction of a successful strawberry growing initiative in the county, and was a director of the Castlebar bacon factory. In 1957 he was appointed minister for the Gaeltacht, a position he held until 1959 when he became minister for lands, fisheries and forestry. He combined the Gaeltacht ministry with lands from 1961 to 1968. His tenure was marked by an increase in the country's forestry acreage, the introduction of bonus incentive schemes and the encouragement of private tree planting. With fisheries he initiated the development of five major harbours. He courted controversy with his 1965 Land Act, which provoked one of the most hard-fought parliamentary battles of the decade. Increasing the powers of the land commission, it was contested clause by clause by Fine Gael and took more than two years to be passed by the oireachtas. The threat to test its constitutionality before the courts did not materialise. In an effort to decentralise power from Dublin he moved the Department of Lands to Castlebar.
Ó Móráin acquired a reputation as an assiduous constituency TD, but a mediocre minister. Nonetheless, following the cabinet reshuffle occasioned by the death of Donogh O'Malley (qv), he was appointed minister for justice in 1968. Inheriting a Criminal Justice Bill from his predecessor, Brian Lenihan (qv), he was forced to temper it in the face of hostile criticism from within his own party. He was renowned most, however, for his belligerent and often offensive contributions to political debate. In 1969 he declared that the Labour Party had been taken over by a collection of ‘Left-wing political queers from Trinity College and Telefís Éireann’ (O'Brien, 30), and in the course of a local squabble in Castlebar in 1970 he took to calling his Fine Gael opponent ‘the Maggot Durkan’ (Magill book, 284). Later that year he was forced to apologise publicly for allegations he made in the dáil suggesting that Garret Cooney, a prominent barrister, had revealed details of a confidential brief to a member of the political opposition.
On the eve of the arms crisis he resigned, on 5 May 1970, as minister for justice from his bed in the Mount Carmel hospital, Dublin. Illness was the stated reason but two visits by Jack Lynch (qv) to his bedside that day dispelled this pretext for many. Hours after his resignation, Charles Haughey (1925–2006) and Neil Blaney (qv) were dismissed. At the subsequent arms trial in September 1970 he stated that he had passed on garda intelligence reports about the involvement of cabinet ministers with the IRA to the taoiseach before the arms were seized at Dublin airport. Lynch denied this. A known party dissident, Ó Móráin's evidence at the trial was somewhat erratic, and at one point he was several hours late for his appearance before the court. Defeated in the 1973 general election, he retired from politics and returned to his Castlebar legal practice.
He died 6 May 1983 at his home in Sutton, Co. Dublin. With a Fianna Fáil guard of honour, he was buried in Castlebar. With his wife, Madge, he had one daughter, Sorcha, and two sons, John, and Michael, who died in a road accident in 1972.