State funeral for executed 1916 rebel Thomas Kent

Funeral ‘writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family’

 

The State funeral of Thomas Kent has taken place 99 years after his execution following the Easter Rising. Thousands of people lined the route from Collins Barracks in Cork to the Church of Saint Nicholas, Castlelyons, Co Cork for the funeral mass.

A ripple of applause broke through the crowd when the funeral cortege arrived at the church near where Kent was born and brought up.

The church could not accommodate all the visitors so a marquee was set up in the grounds of the church.

Thomas Kent was executed after a gun battle with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who came to arrest him and his brothers on May 2nd, 1916, during the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

During the ensuing fight, head constable William Rowe was killed and Kent’s brother Richard later died of his wounds.

He was executed by firing squad on May 9th 1916 in the Military Detention Barracks, Cork and buried in an unmarked grave in its grounds.

In June 2015, his remains were exhumed and DNA testing confirmed their identity. Apart from Roger Casement, Thomas Kent was the only one of the 16 men executed after the Easter Rising to be executed outside Dublin.

President Michael D Higgins was in attendance at at the State funeral along with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

The diplomatic corps was represented by the British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, the US ambassador Kevin O’Malley and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown.

The extended Kent family was represented mostly by the relatives of Edmund and William Kent, Thomas Kent’s brothers.

His funeral “writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family”, the Bishop of Cloyne William Crean told the congregation.

“This strange and unusual set of circumstances were forged by the tragic events of 99 years ago when Thomas chose to give his life in the cause of freedom,” he said.

“ He and others thereby sowed the seeds of the flowering of a new political dispensation which would become the Republic of Ireland, of which we are all beneficiaries.”

He concluded with a poem from the American poet Denise Levertov who wrote: “Those who were martyred tell us that horror won’t cease on the earth till the hungry are fed, that … all of us are our brother’s keepers, members of one another, responsible, culpable, and - able to change. This is the knowledge that grows in power out of the seeds of their martyrdom.”

Delivering the funeral eulogy, Cmdt Gerry White said Thomas Kent was once known only for being the man who gave his name to Kent Station in Cork.

“Today, however, all that is changed. Today, because of the recent discovery of his remains, Thomas Kent has once again become someone who is very much in the present,” Cmdt White said.

“ Today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render the military honours that were denied him 99 years ago. Today, he will no longer be the ‘Forgotten Volunteer’. Today, after 99 years, Thomas Kent is finally coming home.”

Thomas Kent’s life was represented by a picture of the family home, rosary beads, a pioneer pin and a leabhair gaeilge representing his interests in life.

He will be buried in the graveyard at Castlelyons.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will give the funeral oration.