John Mitchel

John Mitchel (1815-1875) was a Young Irelander leader and perhaps the most esteemed republican to come from Newry. He was in fact born in Maghera, son of the Rev John Mitchel and Mary (Haslett) but the family settled in Newry from 1823 when the minister received an appointment here.



From 1842 Mitchel came under the influence of the Young Irelanders who were impatient with Daniel O’Connell’s conservatism. He was especially influenced by Thomas Davis of The Nation newspaper, who induced him to write a Life of Hugh O’Neill. After Davis‘s early death in 1845, Mitchel became main journalist of The Nation and the articles became much more radical and outspoken. In Dublin he lived first in Leeson Street, then at Charlemont Bridge. In 1846, with other friends he seceded from O’Connell’s Repeal Association to form the Irish Confederation. By 1848 Mitchel’s position was so radical that he had left The Nation to found the United Irishman. Encouraged by events in Paris the more radical Young Irelanders were contemplating a revolution.

In the American Civil War he sympathised with the South, lost two sons in the fighting and was for a short while imprisoned by the victorious Northern forces. He went to Paris where he observed his much-loved daughter Henrietta (Henty) – who had become a Catholic – die while still at school. 

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