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Minahan, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) (1866–1933)

by Bede Nairn

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Patrick Joseph (Paddy) Minahan (1866-1933), boot manufacturer and politician, was born on 27 March 1866 at Killaloe, Clare, Ireland, son of Patrick Minahan, bootmaker, and his wife Mary, née Murphy. He arrived in Sydney about 1870 and by 1890 had opened a boot factory at Newtown. On 5 September 1900 at St Patrick's Catholic Church he married Catherine Kinsela (d.1914).

Minahan joined the Labor Party and was an executive-member in 1907-13, vice-president in 1909 and president in 1910 when he contributed much to the organizing and financing of the State and Federal electoral victories. He held the State seat of Belmore in 1910-17. On 1 July 1909 he chaired the meeting that established the Catholic Club (president, 1909-24).

At Rathgar Catholic Church, Dublin, on 3 June 1915 Minahan married Elizabeth Mary Ward. Back in Sydney next year he was stirred by the Dublin Easter rising. With D. M. Grant he was joint treasurer of the No-Conscription Campaign Committee and was a generous and effective chairman of the 1917 transport strike relief committee. Defeated for pre-selection for Belmore in 1917, he ran against ex-Labor premier W. A. Holman at Cootamundra, and lost.

Minahan had become wealthy, with retail properties in Sydney, and was known as the 'Boot King'. He combined Irish and Australian nationalism with romantic gusto. Impulsive and quick-tempered, in his presidential address to the Catholic Club in 1918 he asserted that 'we … will enforce our rights when necessary [as] we are a fourth of the community, and generally are of the intellectual and wealthy portion of the population'. Standing in 1920 for Sydney, he claimed that secret groups had planned that if conscription had been carried in 1916, 'there would probably have been a republic in Australia'. The Labor leader J. Storey said Minahan's 'little joke' was part of his platform oratory. He had signed the petition of the Labor Council of New South Wales for the release of the twelve Industrial Workers of the World prisoners and as a result had his endorsement withdrawn; but he won a seat as Independent Labor and was admitted to caucus when Storey formed a government.

In parliament with P. F. Loughlin, C. C. Lazzarini and others Minahan defended Catholic institutions against criticism from Sir Thomas Henley and T. J. Ley and praised Archbishop Mannix. Active in the St Vincent de Paul Society, he had helped to found St Vincent's Boys' Home (Westmead) in 1891-96, and contributed to other Catholic charities. He became foundation chairman of the Knights of the Southern Cross on 22 March 1919, and was national president in 1922-23. In 1920 he received the papal knighthood of St Sylvester.

In 1922 Minahan provided finance for the Daily Mail; it lost money, and next year was taken over by the Labor Daily. He was unpredictably active in party factionalism at that time and supported the executive's action in making J. J. G. McGirr leader in place of James Dooley. In 1923 he was recommended for two years expulsion over the 'sliding panel' ballot-box scandals, but the 1924 conference did not approve it. The Labor Sydney Electorate Council refused his endorsement at the 1925 election, but the executive reinstated him and he gained a seat when J. E. Birt died before being sworn in. He was bemused by renewed pressure of industrialists (trade unionists) under A. C. Willis for control of the party in 1926-27, and was suspicious of Premier J. T. Lang's links with them. But he welcomed the reforms of the government.

Minahan joined T. D. Mutch's group opposed to Lang when he reconstructed his ministry in May, and claimed that the new 'red rules' opened the door to 'Sovietism'. Commenting that the Labor Party was no longer the one he had known 'for over thirty years', he added that members of branches, who were 'representatives of science, literature and commerce, small manufacturers and employers', were now subordinate to trade unionists. He ran against Lang at Auburn as an Independent in the October elections, but lost.

Minahan died of coronary occlusion at his home at Lewisham on 3 October 1933, survived by his wife, five children of his first marriage and two of his second. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery. His wealth and restless individuality had made him an unusual member of the Labor Party; nevertheless he belonged there as a radical Irish-Australian, distrustful of authority and responsive to demands for social reforms, though antagonistic to what he saw as communist extremism.

James Mark Minahan (1872-1941) was his brother and associate in business. He was a member of the Legislative Council in 1925-34. The brothers belonged to a large, but diffuse and disunited group of Catholics in the Labor Party which increased from eight parliamentarians out of thirty in 1901 to forty-three out of 100 in 1925. Religiously, Paddy Minahan seems to have been the most politically active of them, but his party influence was negligible, and they never dominated events or policy, though at opportune moments of complex factionalism certain individuals may have gained from the connexion and the numbers.

Select Bibliography

  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 10 Feb 1910, 9 Dec 1920, 4 Sept 1924
  • Sydney Mail, 19 Apr 1922
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2, 8 Mar, 13 Dec 1920, 23 Apr 1924, 25 June 1925, 24 Jan, 26 July, 23 Sept 1927, 4 Oct 1933.

Citation details

Bede Nairn, 'Minahan, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) (1866–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/minahan-patrick-joseph-paddy-7598/text13271, accessed 23 November 2017.

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