Malley, James Young (‘Jim’) (1918–2000), civil servant and airman, was born 24 July 1918 near Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone, one of four sons and one daughter of Francis William Malley, a local farmer and merchant, and his wife Ruby Elizabeth (née Young). The family was methodist. He began his education locally before attending Dungannon Royal School and then later joined the Northern Ireland civil service as a clerk in Belfast. On the outbreak of the second world war he joined the Royal Air Force and was commissioned as a navigator and bomb-aimer in Bomber Command. He was later joined in the service by two of his brothers and remarkably, given its high casualty rate, all three survived the war relatively unscathed. Malley himself took part in attacks in the early part of the war on the major German cities as well as targets in Poland and northern Italy, receiving a DFC in 1941. A transfer then sent him to the Middle East, and after leading a daylight raid on shipping in the heavily guarded port of Tobruk, he was awarded a bar to his DFC in 1943, followed by promotion to squadron leader and a return to Britain to take charge of navigator training. Around this time he contacted TB, and although this appeared to rule out his return to operational flying, a sympathetic medical officer passed him fit. Malley subsequently joined 139 Squadron, 8 Group (Pathfinders), based at Upwood near Peterborough, England, and during service with them earned a DSO. Service with the Pathfinders involved a longer tour of operations and greater exposure to the German defences while marking targets with flares for the main bomber force. In all, throughout the war Malley was to fly a record 127 operations over Europe, including some thirty-seven over Berlin.
He left the RAF at the end of the war in 1945 and returned to his work in the civil service in the Ministry of Finance based at Stormont. In 1956 he was appointed private secretary to Capt. Terence O'Neill (qv), who had recently become minister of finance, and thus began a close working relationship between the two men. When O'Neill succeeded the long-serving Lord Brookeborough (qv) as prime minister in 1963, he opted to take Malley with him. Over time, to the dismay of some unionist backbench MPs as well as certain members of the cabinet, O'Neill increasingly appeared to rely for advice on a small group of close political confidants, including Malley, in pushing ahead with his stated objective of reforming and modernising Northern Ireland society. The long-term danger of this was that O'Neill, a notoriously shy individual and a poor communicator, became increasingly isolated from his parliamentary colleagues as well as certain elements of the unionist electorate, many of whom had grown suspicious of him. This was illustrated by certain events in early 1965, in which Malley was closely involved.
Since becoming prime minister O'Neill had been seeking a rapprochement with the Dublin government in order to encourage economic development and improve community relations within Northern Ireland. In the pursuit of these goals he hoped to arrange a meeting with his southern counterpart, Seán Lemass (qv), but needed some means to begin the negotiations to bring this about. However, while minister of finance he had attended meetings of the World Bank in New York along with Malley, and both men had come into contact with T. K. Whitaker, then secretary of the Department of Finance in Dublin. In time a friendship developed between Malley and Whitaker, who had been born north of the border in Rostrevor, Co. Down. With Whitaker now a close confidant of Lemass as well as being one of the leading Irish civil servants, it was agreed that Malley would meet him in Dublin to discuss the possibility of the two prime ministers meeting. Thus, early in January 1965, Malley travelled to Dublin in secret to meet Whitaker, and later in the day visited Lemass to pass on the proposal personally. An agreement was reached, and 14 January was fixed as the date on which Lemass would travel north for the meeting with O'Neill. The arrangements were made in virtual secrecy with few people outside O'Neill's closest advisers being told, and on the day itself Malley was dispatched in a police car to escort Lemass from the border to Stormont.
Over the next few years, as internal opposition within the unionist party and the community at large grew against O'Neill, Malley remained at the prime minister's side. When O'Neill was finally forced out of office in early 1969, his last official engagement was to attend a boxing tournament at the cross-community Newsboys Club in Belfast; and at this function, by his side (as had long been the case) was Malley. In the wake of O'Neill's political demise Malley served as registrar-general for Northern Ireland, supervising among other things the periodic census of population, as well as the recording of births, deaths, and marriages, till his retirement in 1978. Away from his public duties Malley was a dedicated outdoor sportsman, particularly in field sports such as shooting. He always retained an interest in the concerns and welfare of ex-service personnel. After a brief illness he died on 5 June 2000 at a private clinic and was survived by his two daughters, Sheila-Jane and Maeve; his wife, Sheila, had predeceased him in 1983.