The events of the week leading up to Easter Sunday 23Rd April 1916, the date set originally by the I.R.B. for the armed rising which was to proclaim an Irish Republic, created great confusion. This in turn posed problems for many of the volunteers, among them the Fingal Brigade.
Thomas Ashe had his men mobilised on Easter Sunday and he kept them together until he was assured officially that the rising was off. Dismissing his men he told them to be ready for duty as they could be summoned to action at very short notice.
The following morning Ashe received written notice from Padraic Pearse through Joe Lawless to strike at one o’clock. He sent out instructions immediately for the battalion to mobilise at Knocksedan Bridge near Swords at 10.00 am.
Ashe’s task was to disrupt and destroy enemy communications in north Co.Dublin. The Volunteers travelled on bicycles, which enabled them to strike swiftly and silently. This task was a major undertaking for a force of between 65 and 70 men. The force was reduced to about 50 men when, at the request of James Connolly, Ashe sent 20 men into the city to re-enforce the garrison in the G.P.O.
He divided his men into four garrisons – three to engage in military operations and the forth to take charge of camp and provisions. The duties were to rotate.
On Tuesday the Fingal Volunteers who were joined by Lieutenant Dick Mulcahy and two comrades who were unable to get in touch with their own unit in the city took part in what was perhaps the most successful engagement in the Rising. Their first task was to make the Great Northern Railway between Belfast and Dublin impassable by blowing up Rogerstown Bridge. During the week they captured Swords, Donabate, Baldwinstown and Garristown Barracks and disrupted telephone and other communications. By Thursday Ashe and his men virtually controlled the whole Fingal area.
Their actions were providing inspiration to the republican forces in the city as reflected in James Connolly’s manifesto issued from the GPO on Friday 28th April;
Army of the Irish Republic
Headquarters, April 28 1916
This is the fifth day of the establishment of the Irish Republic, and the flag of our country still floats from the most important buildings in the country…..The men of north County Dublin are in the field, having occupied all the Police Barracks in the district, destroyed all the telegraph on the Great Northern Railway up to Dundalk, and are operating against the trains of the Midland and the Great Western……Courage boys we are winning…. Never had man or woman a cause, never was a cause more grandly served.
Signed, James Connolly, Commandant General, Dublin Division
On Friday the plan of action was to capture Ashbourne R.I.C. barracks and disrupt communications in that area so that British reinforcements could not reach Dublin from that direction. Having placed his men in position Ashe called on the garrison to surrender but was greeted with a hail of bullets. The Volunteers attacked and after about half an hour the garrison surrendered.