Yes. Davitt came from a Fenian tradition which is obviously a republican tradition, you know, and it contemplated at some point the possibility of an insurrection against the British state and the setting up of an Irish republic. The failure of the Fenian movement in the 1860s in which Davitt had been involved and ended up spending quite a bit of time in jail, led Davitt to rethinking the strategy that was needed and he ... When he was in jail he jotted down writings that he thought ... Rather than concentrating on a purely military rising, that there, if you like, should be social republicanism around this slogan of ‘Land For The People’ ... the development of a mass movement. He certainly did not rule out in any way an insurrection. He thought first of all you had to have absolutely mass support for a movement and that’s how Davitt went into launching the Land League. He’d already got the support of the Fenian brotherhood in the United States for taking that view. It was called the New Departure at that time. I mean, in the United States there was still a lot of support for a pure military struggle. You can almost see a dialectic at work as well when the Land League is surging forward and getting massive support, then the Fenians in the United States are prepared to let that go. As soon as anything is seen to be failing at that, they tend to drop that movement and go back to the idea of guns, dynamite or anything else but Davitt ...

  • Allan Armstrong
Tuesday 25th May 2010