John Dillon

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  • Roscommon People

John Dillon ( 1851-1927 )

John Dillon was born on 4 September 1851. He studied at Trinity College Dublin and the Catholic University of Louvain, before studying medicine and eventually qualifying as a surgeon. He was a frequent visitor to his family home, Dillon House in Ballaghaderreen. He was elected as an M.P. for Tipperary in 1880. He resigned from that seat in 1883 for health reasons but was elected in 1885 to represent East Mayo. He continued to represent East Mayo until 1918.

John Dillon was very active in the Land League, whose aims were land reform in Ireland and justice for tenants. Charles Stewart Parnell was President of the League, with Michael Davitt as one of its main leaders. The Land League organised public meetings to tell people their rights and used many methods of campaigning, including boycotting.

Dillon was among those who organised a campaign whereby tenants paid their rents to the Land League instead of their landlords. If the tenants were evicted, they would receive financial assistance from a general fund established for that purpose. As a result of his involvement in this campaign, Dillon spent a number of months in jail.

In 1887, a rent strike took place on the estate of Lady Kingston near Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. Another of the Land Leaguers, William O'Brien, was brought to court on charges of inciting non-payment of rent. Dillon organised an 8,000 strong crowd to demonstrate outside the courthouse. Three estate tenants were shot by police and others injured. This incident became known as the 'Mitchelstown Massacre'.

John Dillon was a controversial M.P., and was once suspended from Parliament for using violent language. By 1905, he was second in command in the Irish Parliamentary Party and took over as leader in 1918 when John Redmond died. After a very poor result in the elections of 1918 he retired from politics and took over the family business in Ballaghaderreen. He died in 1927.