Archaeologists have begun preparatory work on a site at Cork Prison where the remains of a man executed after the 1916 Easter Rising are believed to be buried.
Thomas Kent was one of four brothers who resisted arrest when members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) came to their home at Castlelyons, near Fermoy, in Co Cork, as part of a round-up of prominent nationalists around the country.
When the RIC party came to Bawnard House to arrest the brothers , a firefight broke out.
During the violence, which lasted four hours, RIC Head Constable William Rowe was killed and David Kent was seriously wounded before the brothers were forced to surrender.
Another brother, Richard, tried to make a dash for freedom but was mortally wounded. Thomas and William Kent were arrested and brought to Victoria Barracks in Cork.
Both were tried by court martial on a charge of armed rebellion. William was acquitted but Thomas was found guilty and executed by firing squad on May 9th, 1916.
Thomas Kent’s remains were buried in the ground of the Military Detention Barracks – now Cork Prison – at the rear of Victoria Barracks which is now Collins Barracks in Cork.
Apart from Roger Casement – who was hung in Pentonville Prison in London – Thomas Kent is the only person to have been executed outside of Dublin for his role in the events of Easter Week.
The Irish Prison Service has confirmed archaeologists from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have begun the task of trying of to locate Thomas's remains.
According to the Irish Prison Service, excavation work will continue throughout the week and if human remains are found, DNA samples will be taken for identification purposes.
DNA identification process
A specialist laboratory, nominated by the State Pathologist’s Office, will carry out this DNA identification process which could take up six to eight weeks to complete.
The Irish Prison Service said it has been asked by the Kent family to wait until they have received any DNA test results before making any further comment.
It is understood the family want Thomas’s remains to be exhumed and re-interred with full military honours at the family vault in Castlelyons.