Belton, Patrick (1884–1945), revolutionary, politician, and businessman, was born 7 November 1884, youngest of seven children of Richard Belton, farmer, and Mary Belton (née Rhatigan), of Rathcline, Lanesborough, Co. Longford. Educated at McKenna's School, he joined the civil service in London (1901), where he got to know Michael Collins (qv), later claiming to have initiated Collins into the ‘republican organisation’ (Flynn, 93). Assigned (1910) to the land commission, Dublin, he took part in the 1916 rising, for which he was suspended from the civil service. Associated with the National Aid Association after the rising, he was court-martialled and imprisoned for about a year. On his release he left the civil service and started a dairy farm and market garden in Finglas. Later he purchased Belfield Park, Drumcondra, Co. Dublin.
From the mid 1920s he started building houses in Drumcondra, Donnycarney, and Santry, including the eponymous Belton Park, an area near Puckstown Lane, which he renamed Collins Avenue (he was also responsible for naming Griffith Avenue). In 1936 he refused to pay his building labourers the trade union rate of 1s. 3d. on the government-aided Belton Park housing development, but eventually gave way under pressure from both government and the ITGWU. Ever the entrepreneur, Belton established himself in the retail and licensed trades adjacent to his housing schemes; during the second world war he acquired the forest at Dunran, Ashford, from the Archer family, and supplied thousands of tons of split logs for fuel to Dublin. In the 1930s he bought Bellevue Park, Killiney, from David Barry (qv), chairman of the B & I company, and planned the Mount Belton estate in 1944, a scheme of 2–3,000 detached houses on 400 acres of the northern slopes of Killiney Hill, at an estimated cost of £4 million.
He unsuccesfully contested the general elections of June 1922 (Longford–Westmeath, as an independent) and 1923 (Laois–Offaly, for the National Democratic Party), and a by-election in February 1926 (Dublin Co., as an independent). Elected as a Fianna Fáil deputy (Dublin Co.) in the June 1927 general election, he left the party acrimoniously a month later and entered the dáil. ‘Of powerful voice and rugged mien’, he was (according to Séamus Hughes (qv)) an able but erratic individual with no use for discretion. Defeated in September 1927 (Dublin Co.) and again in 1932 (Dublin North), in both elections standing as an independent, he was elected in 1933 for Cumann na nGaedheal in Dublin North, but became for a time an independent. He was a founding member of the Co. Dublin Farmer's Association and a leading member of the National Farmer's and Ratepayer's League (1932), which later became the National Centre Party, which in its turn allied itself with Cumann na nGaedheal and the Blueshirts to become the United Ireland Party (Fine Gael). In October 1934 Belton was expelled from Fine Gael for his support for its former president Gen. Eoin O'Duffy (qv) and his perceived machinations to split the party. In 1935 he joined with O'Duffy in founding the National Corporate Party, a short-lived Blueshirt party.
Hysterically anti-communist, he strenuously opposed the Spanish Civil War (Non-intervention) Act, 1937, and unsuccessfully urged the Fianna Fáil government to break off diplomatic relations with Madrid. To Belton, the conflict in Spain was a ‘life and death struggle between the force of God and anti-God’ (Irish Independent, 31 Aug. 1936). A founding member and president of the Irish Christian Front (ICF), an anti-communist organisation with a strong corporatist influence, he persuaded the catholic hierarchy to hold a special national church collection to raise £40,000 for Gen. Franco; the ICF alone raised £30,000. Allegations of fraud surrounded the disposal of this money, and he was acrimoniously deposed as president of the ICF. Loudly anti-Semitic, he proposed that a Dublin corporation by-law exempting Jews from using the humane killer be revoked, commenting: ‘If the Jews do not conform to Christian ways let them go back to Palestine’ (Irish Press, 16 Dec. 1936). Unsuccessful when he stood as an independent in Dublin Co. in the 1937 general election, he was readmitted to Fine Gael in 1938 and won a seat in Dublin Co. in the 1938 election. In March 1939 he was among a substantial minority of Fine Gael deputies who wanted the party to oppose the Fianna Fáil government's Offences against the State Act, Belton himself arguing for opposition on libertarian grounds. In 1942 he again left Fine Gael but in the two subsequent general elections (1943 and 1944), when he stood as an independent, he was unsuccessful. In March 1943 the large farmer element of the Irish Farmer's Federation, led by Belton, remained outside the merger of Clann na Talmhan and the National Agricultural Party, the political wing of the IFF. In 1944, after locking out his agricultural labourers, he founded the National Agricultural Association to fight the Workers Union of Ireland.
Nicknamed ‘Two-gun Pat, the Drumcondra Financier’ by D. P. Moran (qv), he was a member of Dublin corporation, of its subsidiary bodies, and of Dun Laoghaire corporation, chairman of Dun Laoghaire council finance committee, a member of the Dublin port and docks board, the county council vocational committee, the Co. Dublin board of health, the Dundrum mental hospital, and the governing body of UCD. He was also a witness before the second banking commission (1934–8), a member of the Dublin chamber of commerce, a commissioner of Irish Lights, chairman of the Co. Dublin committee of agriculture, and acting lord mayor of Dublin. In failing health for some time, he died 30 January 1945 at his home, Bellevue Park, Killiney, Co. Dublin, leaving an estate valued at £18, 469.
Robert Belton, MCC, and John Belton, chairman (1945) of Longford county council, were his brothers. He married (2 October 1912) Mary (Molly) Fitzgibbon, a civil servant from Limerick working in London. They had four sons: the eldest was Senator Dr Richard Belton, father of Avril Doyle, later a Fine Gael minister of state and MEP. Jack Belton was a Fine Gael TD for Dublin North East (1948–63), as was Patrick (‘Paddy’) Fitzgibbon Belton (1926–87), TD (1963–77).