Thomas Ashe was a native of Dingle, Co. Kerry. An active member of the Gaelic League. At the time of the 1916 Rising
he was employed as a National School Teacher in Corduff, near Swords. He took a leading part in the Volunteer operations in
the Co. Dublin, notably that of Ashbourne, where a fierce conflict between police and insurgents took place, lasting five
hours. The police casualties were heavy: the County and District Inspectors, two sergeants and four constables were killed,
and 16 constables wounded" The Volunteer casualties were slight.
After the surrender Thomas Ashe was tried by court-martial. He was sentenced to death. This was commuted to penal
servitude for life. He was released at the General Amnesty', 1917.
After his release he addressed a number of meetings. Charged with sedition in a speech at Ballinalee, he was convicted
on the evidence of police 'mental note takers,' and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. He was committed to Mount joy, where
several other political prisoners were confined. He went on hunger strike as a protest against criminal status. After six
days he was removed to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, where he died five hours after admission.
The inquest was one of the most sensational in history. It lasted eleven days, and some of the leading counsel were engaged.
The verdict sums up the whole case as follows:
We find the deceased, Thomas Ashe, according to the medical evidence of Prof. McSweeney, Sir Arthur Chance, and Sir Thomas
Myles, died of heart failure and congestion of the lungs, on the 25th September, and that it was caused by the punishment
of taking away from his cell the bed, bedding, boots, and left to lie on the cold floor for fifty hours, and then subjected
to forcible feeding in his weak condition, after a hunger strike of five or six days. We censure the Castle authorities for
not acting more promptly, especially when the grave condition of the deceased and other prisoners was brought under their
notice by the Lord Mayor and Sir John Irwin. That the hunger strike was adopted against the inhuman punishment inflicted,
and as a protest against their being treated as criminals, and demanding to be treated as political prisoners in the first
division. We condemn forcible or mechanical feedings as an inhuman and dangerous operation, and should be discontinued.
' That the assistant doctor called in, having no previous practice in such operations, administered unskillfully forcible
feeding. That the taking away of the deceased's bed, bedding and boots was an unfeeling and barbarous act, and we censure
the Deputy Governor for violating the prison rules and inflicting punishment which he had no power to do, but we infer he
was acting under instructions from the Prisons Board of the Castle, which refused to give evidence and documents asked
On the following Saturday night an official statement was issued from the Privy Council, granting concessions to prisoners.
Modification of treatment was decided on. So by his death Thomas Ashe won the prisoners' fight— that was in 1917.
During the 1920-'21 War of Independence, Terence McSwiney and Michael Fitzgerald died. Joseph Murphy died in Cork of
5 days' fast. In September-November, 1923, 8,000 political prisoners were on hunger strike as a protest against scandalous
jail conditions. Two prisoners died. Denis Barry in Newbridge barracks, after 34 days, and