Thomas Kent believed a republic ‘morally superior to monarchy’

Historian tells commemoration Kent had a strong sense of duty informed by his family

A file image from September 2015 showing the remains of Commandant Thomas Kent lying in state at St. Michael’s Garrison church, Collins Barracks before a State funeral. Thomas Kent was one of the 16 men executed in 1916 following the Easter Rising. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

A file image from September 2015 showing the remains of Commandant Thomas Kent lying in state at St. Michael’s Garrison church, Collins Barracks before a State funeral. Thomas Kent was one of the 16 men executed in 1916 following the Easter Rising. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Irish patriot Thomas Kent believed a republic was morally superior to a monarchy, a 1916 Rising commemorative event in Cork was told on Saturday.

University College Cork historian Gabriel Doherty said because of this belief Kent had no hesitancy in making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of the Irish Republic.

Mr Doherty said Kent was notable for a number of qualities, including his steadfast support for causes in the face of official hostility and his courage in the face of adversity, both inspired by his belief in the need for a republic.

Mr Doherty said the courage of Kent and his brothers and their elderly mother was never more sorely tested than when the RIC called to their house in Castlelyons in East Cork in the early hours of May 2nd 1916, following the Easter Rising in Dublin and they refused to surrender.

“And in this crisis hour, when the dream of an Irish Republic itself seemed to the world to have been immolated in the burning ruins of Dublin’s GPO ...... one Cork family, responded to the challenge to submit to British rule, to British might, by saying, quite literally: ‘We will die before we surrender.’

Mr Doherty said it was clear Kent and the others who fought and died in Easter 1916 believed passionately an Irish Republic was worth fighting and dying for because they believed that a republic was a morally superior form of government to monarchy.

Mr Doherty said Kent believed in a republic because it was composed of citizens with rights and conferred on those citizens duties which ensured the success of the common good.

Addressing a crowd of around 100 including Thomas Kent’s grandniece, Jean Bracken and the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary at rededication ceremony by Iarnród Éireann at Kent Railway Station in Cork, Mr Doherty said Kent had a keen sense of duty.

“Thomas Kent’s view of duty is profoundly at odds with modern views of the subject and is all the more welcome for it,” said Mr Doherty adding that the modern obsession with individualism sees duty as a restriction of freedom whereas for Thomas Kent it marked an expansion of freedom.

Thomas Kent’s sense of duty could be traced back to a number of factors including his family background, his rural upbringing, his sense of national tradition and his religious faith all of which combined to create an informed conscience which led him to make the supreme sacrifice, Mr Doherty said.

Mr Doherty said it was fitting and appropriate that Thomas Kent faced his execution at Cork Military Detention Barracks on May 9th 1916 holding a set of Rosary beads, given that at its centre is the crucifix, “the ultimate symbol of the performance of duty unto death”.

Thomas Kent’s conscience led him to ask, as did President John F Kennedy almost half a century later, not what his country could do for him but rather what he could do for his country and the suffering he endured for being true to his conscience has ultimately been redemptive, he said

“Let the rightful honour conferred on Thomas Kent’s remains by last year’s dignified state funeral and today’s ceremony be a catalyst for a similar process of recovery of the giving sense of duty that marked the steadfast life and courageous death of this proud citizen of Ireland, ” he said.