Thomas Ashe was born in 1885 at Kinard, Lispole, Co. Kerry. He trained to become a teacher at De La Salle College, Waterford, and was appointed as principal of Corduff national school in Co. Dublin in 1908. A native Irish speaker, he sat on the national governing body of the Gaelic League and was also heavily involved in radical nationalism as a member of both the Irish Volunteers and the IRB. He was served as commandant of the 5th (Fingal) Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, whom he led during the Easter Rising. Initially engaging in small ambushes and acts of sabotage, the battalion later launched an attack on the RIC barracks in Ashbourne, forcing the local police forces into surrender. Ashe was arrested and sentenced to death for his role in the Rising, though this sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. As one of the most senior figures to survive the Rising, Ashe’s influence grew exponentially amongst his fellow prisoners. Following his release in June 1917, he became president of the Supreme Council of the IRB and set about trying to reorganise the Irish Volunteers, but was arrested in August under the Defence of the Realm Act. While in Mountjoy prison, he organised a hunger strike in attempt to obtain “prisoner of war” status for himself and fellow republican prisoners. On the 25th September, five days into the hunger strike, he died after being force-fed. His death at the age of 33 became a focal point in nationalist propaganda for years to come.
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