The Land League

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  • Michael Davitt

Founding of the Land League

Davitt visited the US again in 1878 to meet some Irish nationalist leaders and to raise funds by doing a lecture tour. He called for an end to the landlord system in Ireland, and spoke out in favour of Irish self-government. Influenced by the Clann na Gael leader John Devoy, Davitt began to favour a 'new departure' in Irish politics. This meant that radicals, such as the Fenians, would support nationalists in Parliament as long as they acted in the interests of land reform and Irish independence.

In April 1879, a large protest meeting was held in Irishtown in Co. Mayo. Davitt persuaded Parnell to speak at another meeting in Westport, Co. Mayo in June. Due to Davitt's powers of persuasion, Parnell became involved in the land question. Davitt founded the Land League of Mayo in August of that year and was key in organising protests against landlords. His slogan was 'the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland'.

Later, Davitt persuaded Parnell to help take the Mayo Land League nationwide. The Land League was founded in October 1879. It was one of the most important mass movements in Irish history. Among its aims were fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale, commonly referred to as the 'three Fs'.The Land League used many tactics to achieve its aims, including rent strikes and boycotts. Parnell and other politicians used parliamentary actions, such as 'obstructionism'. This involved bringing the business of Parliament to a standstill through long, rambling speeches, and was much used by Parnell, who was following the example of earlier nationalist politicians, such as Joseph Biggar. These tactics were very effective in drawing attention to the land question in Ireland.