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Taoiseach praises sacrifices of patriot Thomas Kent

Thousands attend State funeral for executed 1916 rebel at home in Castlelyons, Co Cork

President Michael D Higgins speaking with Thomas Kent’s nieces Kathleen Kent and Prudence Riordan and his grandnephew Michael Riordan, after Kent’s State funeral. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Ireland needs people who believe in their community, their country and in putting others before themselves, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told mourners at the State funeral for 1916 martyr Thomas Kent.

Mr Kenny told several thousand mourners gathered in Kent’s home village of Castlelyons near Fermoy, Co Cork, that it was thanks to sacrifices by Kent and others like him that Ireland was free to exhibit the same humanity and idealism that informed his life.

“Today in our time, we are not called upon to die for our country but even now, even with our freedom, in our own and very different time, we need men and women who believe. We need men and women who believe in community, country, in putting others before themselves,” the Taoiseach said.

“This includes the members of our Defence Forces – Óglaigh na hÉireann – who continue their time-honoured tradition of service of their country, both at home and abroad, and it is fitting that they have brought Thomas here on his final journey.”

Delivering the oration at the Kent family plot at St Nicholas’s Church, he said Ireland today was free and all over the world Irish men and women served their fellow man in famine and conflict zones.

“Today, in the blue and grey of the Mediterranean, it is the green, white and orange borne by the men and women of our Naval Services that symbolise human hope and heart and dignity . . . It is that same humanity, dignity and hope that kept and moved Thomas Kent.”

Following the requiem Mass by Bishop of Cloyne Dr William Crean, Mr Kenny recalled the events of May 2nd, 1916, which led to Kent becoming only one of two men (along with Roger Casement in London) to be executed outside Dublin after the Easter Rising.

He recalled how Kent and his brothers had fought a party of RIC who called to their family home as part of a round-up of nationalists in the wake of the Rising and how they only surrendered when they ran out of ammunition.

Earlier, military historian Quartermaster Sgt Gerry White delivered a eulogy for Kent in which he recalled that for 99 years Kent lay in a lonely grave in what is now Cork Prison.

“Today Thomas Kent has become someone who is very much in the present – today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render him the military honours that were denied him 99 years ago,” he said.

Leading the mourners were members of the Kent family, including nieces Prudence and Kathleen, grandnephews Mike Riordan, John Kent, Liam Kent, Eamon Walsh, Tom Walsh and Seán Walsh and grandniece Nora Riordan.

Also present were President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and Ministers of State Kathleen Lynch, Dara Murphy and Seán Sherlock.

The funeral was also attended by Opposition leaders Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil and Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin, as well as former Fianna Fáil leader Brian Cowen, the Lord Mayor of Cork Chris O’Leary and Mayor of Cork County, John Paul O’Shea.

Papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, US and British ambassadors Kevin O’Malley and Dominick Chilcott also attended, as did Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Rear Adm Mark Mellett, Maj Gen Kieran Brennan and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.