O'Halloran, Michael Joseph (1933–99), railwayman and politician, was born 20 August 1933 in Doonbeg, Co. Clare, son of Martin O'Halloran, railwayman. He was educated at Clohanes national school up to the age of 14, when he left to work on the railways in London. He became an active trade unionist, first with the National Union of Railwaymen and later with the Transport and General Workers’ Union, joining the British Labour party in 1951. In 1963 he left the railways to work for the construction company J. Murphy & Sons, as a building works manager and later as office manager. While working for Murphy's he became a secretary of the Labour party in North Islington, London, and a councillor for the borough of Islington in 1968.
The premature death of the sitting Labour MP for Islington North, Gerry Reynolds, in 1969 afforded him the opportunity to enter politics on a full-time basis. He became the Labour candidate in controversial circumstances amid allegations of packing the convention and personation. There was sufficient doubt surrounding the selection process to prompt an investigation by the Labour party national executive; nonetheless, he became an MP, winning the by-election by a majority of 1,354 votes. He benefited from the large number of Irish voters in the constituency, which he played to by expressing nationalist opinions, even promising to work to ‘smash the border’ (Times, 30 Oct. 1969).
Such sentiments provoked Brian Green, an associate of Ian Paisley (qv), to stand as a National Front candidate against O'Halloran at the general election of 1970. Although Green suggested that O'Halloran offended British people ‘by flaunting his Irish passport’ (Times, 27 May 1970), his majority increased to near 6,000 votes. He repeated the performance in three further elections. He was an outspoken opponent of internment in Northern Ireland, but was largely silent in the commons; when he did speak, it invariably concerned local issues such as hospitals, prisons. and roads. He was thrust into the national spotlight rather peremptorily in 1977 when he was beaten at his constituency office by a group of constituents (mainly women) who were irritated at his opposition to legislation which facilitated abortion: O'Halloran was a practising catholic. In February 1982, a constituent stabbed him at his office, but his injuries were minor.
His conservatism alienated him from his constituency party, which had moved further to the left; and in September 1981, sensing his chances of being reselected as a Labour candidate were dwindling, he defected to the new Social Democratic party. Never happy in his new party, he later admitted leaving Labour was a mistake. When the number of seats in Islington was reduced from three to two, the SDP did not select him at the 1983 general election. He left his second party but was not welcomed back into the Labour fold, and he fought the election as an Independent Labour candidate. His failure to be reelected was not surprising in the circumstances and on leaving the commons he returned to the building trade, living quietly in Cheam, Surrey. He died 29 November 1999 in London.
He married (1956) Stella Beatrice McDonald; they had three daughters and one son.