Kevin Myers wrote a lovely insightful article about Michael Davitt in today’s Irish Independent newspaper, called “None dreamed such impossible dreams as Davitt did and then made them come true”.
Comparing Davitt to a nineteenth-century Ghandi, Myers writes, “Davitt’s real lesson for the world — which Ghandi learnt, but tragically Pearse and Connolly did not — wasn’t about the creation of a word but a concept: that peaceful, studiously non-violent mass-action in pursuit of a palpably just cause can create an almost irresistible political momentum. If unjust imprisonment be your fate, then lift your hand against no man, and go to jail.” Davitt did indeed go to jail in 1881, when the British government realised that he was encouraging starving tenants not to pay their overpriced rents. He went back to jail in England, peacefully and with dignity.
Myers goes on to say that “No single individual has ever transformed Ireland for the better as Davitt did; but best of all, he gave power to the powerless by perfectly peaceful means”.
Michael Davitt was one of the key intellects behind the formation of the Ladies Land League, which was headed by Anna Parnell. Both were accused by the media of the time of being extremists, but a closer look at their characters reveals the opposite. Both were pacifists, dedicated to using peaceful means to end the land struggle in Ireland.