Legacy of Michael Davitt, Castlebar in Co. Mayo

Michael Davitt was an influential figure in Irish history, who was born in the village of Straide near Castlebar. Davitt led the Irish people in a fight against the Irish landlordism system which had displaced his family and oppressed his fellow countrymen. A leading advocate of moral force and passive resistance his 'No Rent' campaign and 'boycotting' eventually ended the Landlord System leaving the Irish tenant farmers to purchase their land - a dream which they had fought to ascertain for many years.

Labour Rights Activist

Having suffered in an industrial accident himself (his right arm had to be amputated) Davitt was an avid supporter of labour rights and founded the Irish Democratic Trade and Labour Federation. Suggesting the formation of an All-Ireland Trade Union, Davitt paved the way for its formation in 1894. Author & International Humanitarian As an author, Davitt highlighted the plight of the underprivileged internationally including the Boers in South Africa, the Maoris in New Zealand, the Aborigines in Australia and the Jews in Russia, and people serving penal servitude. He was the author of six books, 'Leaves from a Prison Diary', 'Michael Davitt's speech before the Special Commission', 'Life and Progress in Australia', 'The Boer Fight for Freedom', 'Within the Pale', and 'The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland'.

GAA Patron

Michael Davitt also supported his home country, by becoming a patron of the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.) a sporting organisation that brought together nationalists from different towns, villages and counties in Ireland. While Davitt's name assured it's support, Davitt also offered financial help to the association. Political Life Towards the end of the 19th century, Davitt saw that Mayo people were suffering because of the potato crop failure and many were facing eviction by Canon Ulick Burke. A public meeting was called and a plan of agitation was put in place. Davitt himself did not attend for fear of being arrested but he did orchestrate the campaign of non-payment that forced Burke to cancel evictions and reduce rents.

Davitt founded the Land League of Mayo with help of Charles Stewart Parnell. This was followed by the Irish National Land League which united the various land movements and agitators as one entity seeking the ‘Three Fs’; Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale. The League worked tirelessly against evictions and for rent reductions. One campaign involved ostracising the land agent Captain Boycott, and this was so successful that the Captain left Ireland and 'boycott' entered the English language.

Davitt was elected an MP for South Mayo in 1895. His campaigning continued but he resigned for good in 1899. He passed away in 1906 from blood poisoning.


Michael Davitt laid the groundwork for the Irish Land Acts, was the driving force in campaigns that stopped evictions and saw rents reduced and was a rolemodel for those who sought Republican goals through non violent protest.