1881 – Irish Land League organiser, Michael Davitt, is arrested again for his outspoken speeches when he had accused chief secretary of Ireland W. E. Forster of ‘infamous lying’.

Davitt’s ticket of leave was revoked and he was sent to Portland jail. Parnell protested loudly in the House of Commons and the Irish members protested so strongly that they were ejected from the House. The government passed the Irish Coercion Bill.

On Gladstone’s return to office in 1880, William Edward Forster was made Chief Secretary for Ireland. He carried the Compensation for Disturbance Bill through the Commons, only to see it thrown out in the Lords. On 24 January 1881, he introduced a new Coercion Bill in the House of Commons, to deal with the growth of the Irish National Land League. Despite a 41-hour long filibuster in the House by the Irish Parliamentary Party, the bill passed, among its provisions being one enabling the British government in Ireland to arrest without trial persons ‘reasonably suspected’ of crime and conspiracy. However those arrested were often not always suspect, only supportive of the Irish National Land League’s movements.

Many hundreds were imprisoned at times under the Acts, including many prominent politicians and agrarian agitators, Joseph Biggar, Alexander Blane, Michael Davitt, John Dillon, James Gilhooly, Patrick Guiney, Matthew Harris, John Hayden, J. E. Kenny, Andrew Kettle, Denis Kilbride, Pat O’Brien, William O’Brien, James O’Kelly, Charles Stewart Parnell, Douglas Pyne, Willie Redmond, Timothy Sullivan.

Photo: Michael Davitt Monument, Straide House, Foxford, Co Mayo

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