John O'Donnell (politician)

John O’Donnell (1866-1920) was an Irish journalist, Nationalist politician and MP. in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1900 to 1910.

He first became active in politics as an organiser for the United Irish League (UIL) in co. Mayo during 1898-89 as a protégé of William O'Brien .

In the 1900 general election he was elected MP. for South Mayo as successor to Michael Davitt who had resigned his Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) seat in protest against the Boer War. O’Donnell represented a newer generation of nationalist politicians. He became national secretary of the UIL, and remained loyal to William O’Brien even after O’Brien’s resignation from the IPP in 1903, trying to orchestrate his return to the party. He was rewarded for this by the deputy leader of the IPP, John Dillon arranging at the next UIL convention in 1904, O’Donnell’s replacement by his closest ally Joseph Devlin MP. of Belfast, a first IPP move in gaining control of O’Brien’s UIL..

O’Donnell bought the machinery of O’Briens closed down newspaper, the "Irish People", moved to Galway and there set up the "Connaught Champion". When land agitation flared up in 1905 he was imprisoned for his part in it to two months hard labour. He was re-elected in the January 1906 general election despite attempts by south Mayo priests to oppose him, squashed by O'Brien's threat to abandon a pact with the party to avoid contests at the election. After the election O’Donnell was identified as one of the little knot of O’Brien’s die-hard supporters, both he and D. D. Sheehan being expelled that autumn from the IPP, O’Donnell then in 1908 to formally rejoin the party on the initiative of its leader John Redmond, in the interest of unity.

In January 1910 general elections O’Donnell was returned for O’Brien's newly founded All for Ireland Party this time through clerical support against an anti-clerical opponent. However in the subsequent December 1910 general elections he was forced to retire through lack of support, while an Irish Party boycott drove his newspaper out of business in 1911. He retained links with O’Brien but never made a political comeback.


* Patrick Maume "The Long Gestation, Irish Nationalist Life 1891-1918" (1999) ISBN 0-7171-27443

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