State to honour Rising leader Thomas Ashe

The centenary of the Easter Rising leader Thomas Ashe’s death will be marked with a State commemoration in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery next Friday.

The Government decided during the summer on an official ceremony to remember the death of Kerry-born Ashe on September 25, 1917, after being force-fed during a hunger strike at Mountjoy Prison.

Just as the funeral of the veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovoan Rossa in 1915 and Patrick Pearse’s graveside oration marked the countdown to the following Easter’s rebellion, Ashe’s funeral in Glasnevin represented the military and political re-organisation of those who took part in the 1916 Rising.

The ceremony to be attended only by invited guests, likely to include Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, takes place at Ashe’s grave near that of O’Donovan Rossa and Fenian founder James Stephens.

It was at Ashe’s funeral that his fellow Irish Republican Brotherhood figure Michael Collins stepped forward from the crowd to make the briefest of eulogies on September 30, 1917. It was one of the first significant public events for the emerging figure in the revived separatist movement.

“Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian,” he said after a uniformed Irish Volunteer rifle party afforded military honours over the grave.

Relatives of Ashe, who was born in Lispole, Co Kerry, will be present and were consulted on the programme for next week’s ceremony. The details are expected to be announced today by Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys.

A similar commemoration marked the opening of the State’s 2016 programme, at the event for the August 2015 centenary of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral. It was attended by President Michael D Higgins and then taoiseach Enda Kenny, but Mr Higgins is not expected to be in attendance next week.

A programme of events marking the centenary of Thomas Ashe’s death has been taking place throughout the year and continues through to late October.

Fianna Fáil plan an event at Glasnevin tomorrow afternoon ok, and a commemorative group will re-stage the funeral procession from Dublin city centre to Glasnevin tomorrow week.

University College Cork history lecturer Gabriel Doherty will speak about Ashe’s life and legacy at Douglas GAA Club in Cork on Monday night, and a statue of Thomas Ashe will be unveiled tomorrow week in Kinard, Co Kerry.

Ashe died on September 25, 1917, but had previously been sentenced to death for his role in the Easter Rising when he was commandant of the Irish Volunteers’ Fingal Battalion. They engaged in one of the few battles with crown forces outside of Dublin, at Ashbourne, Co Meath, resulting in the deaths of 11 policemen and two Irish Volunteers.

State to honour Rising leader Thomas Ashe
Thomas Ashe

Ashe’s death sentence was commuted in May 1916, along with many other leaders of the Rising, and he spent the next year in custody in British detention camps and prisons.

Arrested for a seditious speech in Co Longford not long after his release in August 1917, he joined the tactic of Irish Volunteers and other prisoners of beginning hunger strikes to secure temporary release under Britain’s so-called “Cat and Mouse Act”.

When efforts to force-feed him went drastically wrong at Mountjoy, he was transferred to the nearby Mater Hospital but died soon after.

His funeral marked the first significant public gathering of the Irish Volunteers after the previous year’s rebellion, as hundreds marched in uniform in a sign of the re-organisation that was already gathering pace around the country.

The death of Thomas Ashe also left only one commandant from the Easter Rising still alive — Éamon de Valera — who had been elected Sinn Féin MP for East Clare in June 1917.


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