Thomas Ashe (12th January 1885 – 25th September 1917) was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers. He was Commander of the Fingal Volunteers (5th Battalion) during the Easter Rising 1916 and won a major battle in Ashbourne, Co Meath during Easter Week. Ashe’s battalion surrendered on the orders of Patrick Pearse and on 8th May 1916 Thomas Ashe was court-martialled and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life following the reaction to the executions of the fellow leaders of the Rising. Thomas Ashe was imprisoned in Lewes Gaol in England and became one of the leaders alongside Eamon De Valera. Ashe was released on 18th June 1917 as part of a general amnesty. Ashe was elected President of the Supreme Council of the IRB. Ashe returned to Ireland and immediately began a series of speaking engagements around the country. Thomas Ashe was arrested in August 1917 and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, Co Longford. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. While in Mountjoy Prison, Thomas Ashe and other prisoners demanded prisoner of war status instead of that of ordinary criminal. As a result of prison staff taking away their beds, bedclothes and possessions, they went on hunger strike on 20th September 1917. Forcible feeding began on 23rd September. On 25th September Thomas Ashe was forcibly fed and immediately collapsed afterwards. He was transferred to hospital where his condition continued to deteriorate. Ashe died at 10:30pm 25th September 1917, cause of death according to the post mortem was heart failure and congestion of the lungs. Thomas Ashe’s death had a significant impact on the country, increasing Republican recruitment. Ashe’s body lay in state in Dublin City Hall until his funeral on 30th September. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
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