Friday 21 October 2016

Special tributes paid on centenary of Thomas Kent's death - the only 1916 rebel executed outside Dublin

Published 09/05/2016 | 11:53

Thomas Kent on the left and William Kent being led across Fermoy Bridge in May 1916.
Thomas Kent on the left and William Kent being led across Fermoy Bridge in May 1916.

The only Easter 1916 rebel executed outside Dublin was commemorated in the Cork prison yard where he was shot.

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Relatives of Thomas Kent (50) including his niece, grandniece and grandnephew attended a special Defence Forces ceremony in the old Cork Prison to mark the exact anniversary of his execution.

Special tributes were also paid at the spot in the prison yard where, for 99 years, Thomas Kent lay buried.

The tributes were led by Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Mark Mellett and Brig General Philip Brennan.

"Thomas Kent longed for a free Irish Republic. Today we live in a free Irish Republic," Mr Kehoe said.

"We have come together today to remember Thomas Kent and to honour his memory."

Prayers for the executed patriot and commander of the Galtee Brigade of the Irish Volunteers were read out by Defence Forces chaplain, Fr Gerry O'Neill, and Irish Prison Service chaplain, Fr Alan Kelly.

Wreaths were laid at the spot where he was executed by his niece, Kathleen, and his grandniece, Nora who had an honour guard of Cpl Alan Dully and Cpl Peer O'Flynn.

To further honour his memory, a special public exhibition on Thomas Kent's life was opened in the old Cork Prison with further material at the Collins Barracks museum.

On the instructions of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Kent’s grave was located in Cork Prison yard and his remains exhumed last year.

He was reburied with full military honours last September in the Kent family plot in Castlelyons in north Cork at the request of his family.

To mark the patriot’s centenary, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) yesterday opened the old jail to the public to allow viewing of his execution spot.

The public were also allowed view a special plaque erected on the old Cork Prison wall in 1966 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the cell in which Mr Kent was held prior to his execution.

The Kent family said they were delighted to see his sacrifice being recognised.

"We are very proud of the sacrifice he made for Ireland and we are also delighted to see that his memory is being commemorated in this way," Nora said.

The patriot’s other descendants include his niece, Prudence Riordan, his grandniece, Norma Riordan, his grandnephew, Michael Riordan and his great-grandniece, Hazel Riordan.

Despite Irish Volunteer contingents being on standby in Cork city, Kerry, Wexford and other major centres the only serious fighting in Easter 1916 took place in Dublin and at Castlelyons in north Cork.

Thomas Kent, his brothers and mother resisted an attempt by a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) contingent to seize arms from their farmhouse on May 2-3 1916 because they were known Irish Volunteer and Gaelic League members.

Several of the Kent brothers had previously been jailed for land rights agitation.

In the four hour gun fight which erupted, senior RIC constable William Rowe was fatally wounded.

Thomas Kent's brother Richard was later shot and killed trying to escape.

Thomas was captured and executed in Cork Prison on May 9, one week after being marched across Fermoy bridge with a military escort.

He was sentenced to death by a military court martial on May 4 for taking part in “an armed rebellion and in waging war against his majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be prejudicial to the defence of the realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy.”

The iconic stone bridge across the River Blackwater was renamed Kent Bridge in his honour last Monday – 100 years after he was forced to walk across it barefoot and in shackles by an armed British escort.

His brother, David, who was injured in the gun battle, was also sentenced to death but his sentence was later commuted to a prison sentence.

Yet another brother, William, was acquitted before a military court martial later released from custody.

With Roger Casement, who was hanged in London for his role in attempting to smuggle German arms to the Easter Rising rebels through Kerry, Thomas Kent was the only rebel executed outside Dublin for the events of 1916.

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