Mayo Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Michael Davitt

Michael Davitt was born in Straide, Co. Mayo at the height of the Great Famine in 1846.


In 1850, Davitt's family were evicetd from their home and so emigrated to Haslingden, England. In 1865, Davitt joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) which had strong support among working-class Irish immigrants . He soon became part of the inner circle of the local group. Two years later he left the printing firm in which he worked to devote himself full time to the IRB, as organising secretary for Northern England and Scotland, organising arms smuggling to Ireland using his new job as "hawker" (travelling salesman) as cover for this activity. Davitt was to bceome a member of the IRB's Supreme Council.


Davitt frequently insisted at Fenian meetings that "the land question can be definitely settled only by making the cultivators of the soil proprietors" and so on returning to Ireland he set about orgainsing the Irish. On 16th August 1879, the Land League of Mayo was formally founded in Castlebar, with the active support of Charles Stewart Parnell and was eventually superseded by the Irish National Land League. Parnell was made its President and Davitt was one of the secretaries. Imprisoned for his agitation, Davitt was elected Member of Parliament for County Meath in an 1882 by-election but was disqualified because of his incarceration. However, Davitt was subsequently elected for North Meath in the 1892 general election, for North East Cork in 1893 and for South Mayo in the 1895 general election. He left the Commons in 1896 with a prediction that no just cause could succeed there unless backed by massed agitation. Davitt then co-founded in 1898 together with William O'Brien the United Irish League and organised it in Mayo and beyond. In 1899 he left his seat in parliament for good in protest against the Boer War, visiting South Africa to lend support to the Boer cause.


Davitt died in Elphis Hospital, Dublin on 30th May 1906. His remains were then taken by train to Foxford, Co. Mayo, and buried in the grounds of Straide Abbey at Straide.