The United Irish League in Mayo

 In History

The United Irish League was founded on the 23rd January 1898 after a public meeting at the Octagon Westport, by William O’ Brien MP.  A broad range of nationalists was present.  The League pledged to show reverence for the ideals of the men of 1798 to provide poor relief to alleviate distress, to deal with migration and to redistribute the estates to prevent further famines and end the cruel evictions and to ostracise land grabbers and to finally to form the United Irish League that would be open to all sections of nationalists.   The main aim was to boycott land grabbers and to overcome agrarian injustice.  The RIC identified the object of the UIL as to boycott and intimidate the holders of grazer farms. The UIL was founded in Bonniconlon in November 1900 and in Attymass in May 1899.

Within a year the league had spread all over Mayo members of the league were approaching land owners to persuade them to sell their estates to the Congested Districts Board to enable the tenant farmer to bring up his family in decency and comfort.

A branch was formed in Attymass and the earliest recorded meeting was on the 21 May 1899.  Land and local politics dominated the agendas of the early meetings.  The resolution of land grabbing was one of the chief concerns.  As was the compulsory purchase of untenanted estates.  The parliamentary fund was opened for Attymass on the 5th March 1901 and it received tremendous support.

A branch of the league was founded in Bonniconlon on the 18th November 1900.  There was apparent division between the councillors and the clergy in the area at the early stages but they were united by April 1901 and the parliamentary fund was established by then.

On the 23 march 1905 Bonniconlon became affiliated to the National directory by paying the £3 fee.  Attymass had done so in January of that year.  A meeting was held at Bofield Cross on the 5 February 1905 to reorganise the league in the area.  It was a well-attended meeting with delegates from Bonniconlon and Attymass.  A special platform was erected for the main speakers at the meeting.  The meeting called for Home Rule, the return of the land and the establishment of a Catholic university.   The overall resolution from the meeting was that the combined forces of the parishes of Attymass and Bonniconlon would overcome the power of the landlords.  The reinstatement of evicted tenants and the end to grabbing were other resolutions.

Between 1907 and 1910 Attymass and Bonniconlon branches of the United Irish league continued to affiliate to the National Directory.  At am meeting held in Bonniconlon on the 9th January 1910 the main item on the agenda was the Land Act and the buying out of the estates in the parish.  The main issues at branch meetings in Attymass and Bonniconlon were the purchase of estates and the redistribution of the lands as well as the Land Bill and Home Rule between 1911 and 1913.

The Bonniconlon branch began 1911 in a healthy position with 64 members present.  There was a public meeting in Bonniconlon on the 23 April 1911 with 79 persons present and a large delegation from Attymass.  A mass demonstration in favour of Home Rule was held in Bonniconlon on the 1st June 1913 and there were over a 1,000 persons present they marched under the banner slogans of We Want Home Rule and the Land for the People.

The success of the United Irish League was that the buying out of the estates in the area started in 1915 and ended in 1917/18 and this was the first stage in the land ownership with which we are familiar today following the 1923 Land Act and the Land Act of 1933.  These purchases were facilitated by the Wyndham land Act of 1903 and the Birrell Compulsory Purchase Act of 1909.  The motto of the land for the people had become a reality and would continue over the decades to follow and into the decades of the first half of the 1900’s.

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