James FitzGerald-Kenney (1 January 1878 – 21 October 1956) was an Irish politician and Senior Counsel. He was first elected at the June 1927 general election as a Cumann na nGaedheal Teachta Dála (TD) for the Mayo constituency. He was appointed to the Cabinet on his first year in Dáil Éireann as Minister for Justice.
He was born at his mother's family home Clogher, near Claremorris in County Mayo, second son of James Fitzgerald Kenney of Galway and Helena Crean-Lynch. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College and University College Dublin where he took his degree in 1898. He was called to the Bar in 1899 and rapidly built up a large practice on the Western Circuit. He was called to the Inner Bar in 1925.
He was re-elected at every election until he lost his seat at the 1944 general election. He subsequently retired from politics, and spent his remaining years farming at Clogher which he inherited from his mother. He died in 1956.
Historians have not paid much attention to his career as Minister: he is inevitably overshadowed by the more charismatic figures of his predecessor Kevin O'Higgins and the Garda Commissioner Eoin O'Duffy. His appointment after only a few months in Parliament naturally caused surprise, and his lack of experience made him the target of Opposition attacks. Admirers however praised his ability to shrug off such attacks and his barrister's talent for making impromptu replies. Unlike O'Higgins, he allowed O'Duffy complete discretion as to how he ran the police force. He occasionally invited ridicule in his willingness to defend O'Duffy : his claim that a victim of Garda brutality had been knocked down by a cow led to a brief fashion for referring to Gardai as "Fitzgerald-Kenney's cows".
W. T. Cosgrave
|Minister for Justice