Thomas Ashe (1885-1917) centenary, September 2017

September 2017 marked the centenaries of the death and funeral of Thomas Ashe (1885-1917). Originally from Kerry and a teacher by profession, Ashe was a prominent activist in many of the major nationalist and republican organisations of the pre-independence period, and during the Easter Rising successfully led the Irish Volunteers at the battle of Ashbourne in Co. Meath (the most significant military engagement outside Dublin during the Rising). Imprisoned thereafter, he became a key figure in the revival of separatist republicanism in 1916-17. This led to his incarceration in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison in 1917. In August 1917 he and a number of other republican prisoners went on hunger strike, and Ashe died in the Mater Hospital on 25 September 1917 after being force-fed by the prison authorities. His subsequent funeral and burial on 30 September in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery became a significant milestone in the campaign for independence. Mary McAuliffe has written a short biography of Ashe for RTÉ’s Century Ireland website.

A wide range of events relating to Ashe took place nationwide. The official state commemoration for Ashe took place in Glasnevin Cemetery on Friday 22 September, followed by major commemorations in Kerry and Lusk on Saturday 23 September. The INTO, of which Ashe was a member, organised an event on 25 September while a seminar organised by UCD took place in the Mater Hospital on 27 September. A range of events to mark the Ashe centenary also took place around the country, a comprehensive list has been compiled by UCC’s Gabriel Doherty. Century Ireland also provided some context to his death and funeral, with articles on political imprisonment in Ireland during the First World War and the social history of Dublin as explored through other burials in Glasnevin on the day of his funeral. The National Archives of Ireland have made extensive files on the inquest into his death available online. A new exhibition on the broad theme of hunger-striking, funded by the Irish Research Council, opened in Kilmainham Gaol Museum from 22 September onwards, and the IRC have also funded a travelling exhibit developed by Trinity College Dublin and Glasnevin Trust, entitled ‘Dublin after the Rising, 1916-18’, which was on display in Raheny Library until the end of September before travelling through the Dublin Public Libraries’ network through 2017-18. A new book from Collins Press also examines the aftermath of the Rising and was being launched in Richmond Barracks on 21 September, while History Ireland have produced a new supplement on Ireland 1916-18 entitled Changed utterly: Ireland after the Rising, 1916-18, published in October.

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