Irish: Tomás Ághas
12 January 1885|
Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland
|Died||25 September 1917
|Allegiance||Irish Republican Brotherhood
|Years of service||1913–1917|
Thomas Patrick Ashe (Irish: Tomás Pádraig Ághas; 12 January 1885 – 25 September 1917) was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers.
He was born in Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland. Having entered De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 he began his teaching career as principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, County Dublin in 1908. He spent the last years before his death teaching children in Lusk, where he founded the award-winning Lusk Black Raven Pipe Band as well as Round Towers Lusk GAA club in 1906. During the summer of 1913, Douglas Hyde, president of the Gaelic League, attempted to expel him and other members.
Commanding the Fingal battalion of the Irish Volunteers, Ashe took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Ashe's force of 60–70 men engaged British forces around north County Dublin during the rising. The battalion won a major victory in Ashbourne, County Meath where they engaged a much larger force capturing a significant quantity of arms and up to 20 Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) vehicles. Eleven RIC members, including County Inspector Alexander Gray, and two volunteers were killed during the five-and-a-half-hour battle. Twenty four hours after the rising collapsed, Ashe's battalion surrendered on the orders of Patrick Pearse. On 8 May 1916, Ashe and Éamon de Valera were court-martialled and both were sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to penal servitude for life. Ashe was imprisoned in Lewes Prison in England.
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.
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 was 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 Austin Stack, demanded prisoner of war status. As this protest evolved Ashe again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. On 25 September 1917, he died at the Mater Hospital after being force-fed by prison authorities. 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".
Ashe's death had a significant impact on the country increasing Republican recruitment, his body lay in state at Dublin City Hall, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
He was also a relative of Catherine Ashe, the paternal grandmother of American actor Gregory Peck, who emigrated to the United States in the 19th century. The Ashe Memorial Hall built in 1928, housing the Kerry County Museum, in Tralee is named after him while Nelson Street also in Tralee was renamed to Ashe Street.
- List of people on stamps of Ireland
- The First Hunger Striker: Thomas Ashe 1917, Sean O Mahony. Publisher: 1916–1921 Club.
|President of the
Irish Republican Brotherhood