Thomas Patrick Ashe
Martyr Thomas Ashe
Thomas Patrick Ashe
: Tomás Pádraig Ághas
; 12 January 1885 – 25 September 1917)
Ashe started branches of the Gaelic League in Skerries and other neighbouring villages. According to his sister Nora he would get the children to march over a union jack.
Thomas Ashe Memorial in Cavan
With the entry of the US into World War I
in April 1917, the British government was put under more pressure to solve the ‘Irish problem’. De Valera, Ashe and Thomas Hunter
led a prisoner hunger strike
on 28 May 1917 to add to this pressure. With accounts of prison mistreatment appearing in the Irish press and mounting protests in Ireland, Ashe and the remaining prisoners were freed on 18 June 1917 by Lloyd George
as part of a general amnesty.
Thomas Ashe was released from jail in June 1917 under the general amnesty which was given to republican prisoners. Upon release, Ashe returned to Ireland and began a series of speaking engagements. In August 1917, Ashe was arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford where Michael Collins had also been speaking. He went on the run but was captured in Dublin and detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including other Kerrymen Fionán Lynch and Austin Stack, demanded prisoner of war status. As this protest evolved Ashe again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. As this was a breach of prison discipline the authorities retaliated by taking away the prisoners’ beds, bedding and boots. After five or six days lying on a cold stone floor the prisoners were subjected to forcible feeding.
On 25 September, Fionan Lynch saw Ashe being carried away to receive this treatment and called out to him: ‘ Stick it Tom boy’. Ashe called back ‘I’ll stick it, Fin’. That was the last time they spoke to each other. Ashe was carried back, blue in the face and unconscious. He was removed to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital (which actually faces the prison) where he died within a few hours. “Tom Ashe’s body lay in state in the hospital morgue, dressed in his Volunteer Republican uniform, and 30,000 mourners filed by.
At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the “inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct”.
Another Good Irishman Killed by the British for His Fighting for His Country they invaded 800 years prior. Get Our Of my Country they said, rightfully. It finally happened in 1922. RIP.