Thursday 14 December 2017

'Forgotten Patriot' Thomas Kent finally laid to rest in 'a most unusual funeral'

The remains of Thomas Kent are shouldered to St Nicholas Church Castlelyons, Co Cork, as family members follow his coffin Photo: Mark Condrenthe
The remains of Thomas Kent are shouldered to St Nicholas Church Castlelyons, Co Cork, as family members follow his coffin Photo: Mark Condrenthe
Taoiseach Enda Kenny greets mourners before the funeral mass of Thomas Kent in Castlelyons, Co Cork Photo: Mark Condren
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

It was 99 years and four months after he was led away from his native Cork village - in shackles and under armed guard - that an Easter Rising patriot finally returned home to an heroic welcome.

Thomas Kent (50) left Castlelyons, Co Cork, bound for his execution in Cork Prison in May, 1916, under an armed escort from the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British Army.

He was later buried in Cork Prison yard despite the protests of his family, who pleaded for the return of his body.

Yesterday, his hearse arrived back to a Tricolour-bedecked Castlelyons with a full Defence Forces honour guard.

Tributes were paid by President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Thousands lined the north Cork route to honour a man once referred to as 'The Forgotten Patriot'.

Also present were the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean; the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Chris O'Leary; and the Mayor of County Cork, Councillor John Paul O'Shea.

The most emotional moment came when more than 70 members of the extended Kent family, most still based in the area, entered St Nicholas Church to respectful applause from the huge crowd.

The descendants were led by the patriot's nieces, Prudence Riordan and Kathleen Kent.

Another niece, Eileen Kent, had long campaigned for his memory to be honoured.

For the Kent family, the State funeral was Ireland finally giving the rebel the honour he deserved.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in his graveside oration, hailed Thomas Kent for his sacrifice.

"Their (the crowd's) very presence is their tribute to a man, a leader who lived and died for Ireland - the future that they now inhabit," he said.

"An Ireland that is free. An Ireland that is open and tolerant. An Ireland where, 100 years on, if we carry any 'papers' at all they are our international credentials of respect, dignity, compassion.

"We come here today to claim and acclaim and to thank Thomas Kent. Today, we take him from the political potter's field to lay him with all honour among his own," Mr Kenny said.

In the eulogy, Company Quarter-Master Sergeant and historian, Gerry White, said the circumstances of his final days didn't fully reflect the life of Thomas Kent.

"(His) death was a huge loss for his family and for the (Irish) Volunteer movement. However, while he was a talented officer and an efficient administrator, there is nothing in his history that indicates that he was a violent man," he said.

Dr Crean, in his homily, admitted it was "a most unusual funeral".

"It writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family as today serves as a moment of closure as they lay Thomas in his final resting place amongst his own people and alongside his family."

Mr Kent was buried in the yard of Cork Prison after being executed by British forces following a failed rising at his family's Bawnard farmhouse on May 2, 1916.

An RIC officer was killed during the four-hour gun battle, while Mr Kent's brother, Richard, was shot and fatally injured.

The battle erupted when Dublin Castle ordered the RIC to search the homes of known republican sympathisers nationwide after the Dublin rising.

Thomas Kent was executed on May 9, 1916.

His body was successfully identified after its exhumation this summer thanks to DNA genetic testing.

Following Requiem Mass, Mr Kent's remains were laid beside those of his father, David, and brothers - William, Richard and David.

Two of his brothers went on to serve as members of the early Dáil.

Irish Independent

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