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Death of Thomas Ashe dominates Irish newspapers
A memorial postcard printed for the death of Thomas Ashe Photo: National Library of Ireland

Death of Thomas Ashe dominates Irish newspapers

8 October 1917 - The controversial death of hunger striker Thomas Ashe, has filled the news and editorial pages of the local press across Ireland.

Many of newspapers disposed to the cause of Irish nationalism agree that Mr Ashe’s death, and the circumstances surrounding it, have further damaged the standing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which has already been defeated in a series of by-election results this year. Some have put more vehemently than that.

Here’s a flavour of what’s being said:

Westmeath Independent: ‘The death of Thomas Ashe, and the circumstances attending it, has practically removed the last remnant of Redmondism from Irish life. Nothing could be more extraordinary than the manner in which the existence of the Redmondite Party has come to be ignored by the man in the street in the last ten days… It is fully realised that the politicians whom Mr. Redmond has so earnestly beseeched the Irish people to trust, are not in a position to effect any improvement, and that lesson has been driven home by the death of Thomas Ashe.’

Back and front of a memorial card for Thomas Ashe which includes a poem called 'Let me carry your cross for Ireland, Lord!' written by Ashe himself while in Lewes Prison in the wake of the Easter Rising. Click images to enlarge. (Images: National Library of Ireland)

Ulster Herald: ‘How shocking it is to think that men of the type of Thomas Ashe were held in execration during life by those who accept as the true gospel the fulminations of the Castle Journal [Freeman’s Journal] and to know that it is only in death his greatness of heart and soul is recognised by friend as well as foe… It is not Dublin Castle that Ireland is up against – it is the English government of Ireland...’

Roscommon Journal: ‘The Chairman of the Irish Prisons’ Board is Mr. Max Green, son-in-law of Mr Redmond. He was approached in the matter, but did not move. Indeed, he stated that forcible feeding is harmless! Mr. Green and many other…Castle jobholders would never have reached their posts but for the forcible political feeding imposed upon Ireland by the Redmond Party for the last ten years while public opinion was throttled and gagged by the Party machine…’

The Irish Times: ‘The circumstances of Ashe’s death were peculiarly unfortunate. Nobody who saw his funeral in Dublin yesterday can doubt that they have given a new stimulus to the Sinn Féin movement. That movement was beginning to suffer from the country’s gradual discovery that it is without a rational policy. Today it is reinforced by the wave of political feeling that will flow from the gates of Mountjoy Prison throughout Ireland and into the United States.’

Thomas Ashe died on the 25 September after being forcibly fed while on hunger strike. He was buried on 30 September in Glasnevin Cemetery.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.