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A solemn and poignant State funeral as Thomas Kent returns home after 99 years

“Today Ireland comes to reflect on his courage, his dignity, his defiance, his sacrifice.”

THE STATE FUNERAL of Thomas Kent, one of only two men to be executed outside Dublin following the Easter Rising in 1916, took place this afternoon in County Cork.

The President, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and opposition politicians all attended the ceremony in Kent’s hometown of Castlelyons, at St Nicholas’ Church.

The ambassadors of the US and the UK were also present.

In his graveside oration, Enda Kenny said Ireland had come to pay tribute to Kent’s “courage, his dignity, his defiance, his sacrifice”.

“We come to claim and acclaim and to thank Thomas Kent.”

cast1 The scene at Castlelyons today. Source: RTÉ

Two days of commemorations

Thomas Kent’s remains arrived yesterday afternoon at Collins Barracks in the city.

The body lay in repose at the barracks overnight, with a ceremonial guard. Thousands of people turned out to pay their respects.

Who was Thomas Kent? 

Kent’s remains were discovered in Cork Prison earlier this year and were subsequently verified via DNA testing as being those of the 1916 leader.

Often referred to as the ‘forgotten patriot’ Kent and his brothers were among the nationalists who stayed at home after Irish Volunteers leader Eoin MacNeill countermanded orders to stage the Rising on Easter Sunday 1916. The Rising eventually proceeded the following day.

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He was arrested on 2 May 1916 at his family home and executed aged 52 following court martial on 9 May.

His brother William was also tried but was acquitted.

Following the offer of a State funeral being accepted by his family, the Taoiseach said the funeral “will ensure that Thomas Kent is never again described as a forgotten leader of 1916″.

crean Bishop William Crean leads the procession into the church. Source: RTÉ

“Thomas Kent was a man of his time,” Company Quartermaster Sergeant Gerry White said, in his eulogy to the leader.

“He was a religious man, with a strong belief in social justice who also believed that Ireland should be both Gaelic and free.”

Later, he noted that for ninety-nine years “Thomas Kent’s remains lay behind the walls of a prison”.

“It was a lonely grave in a lonely place. For many people he remained an obscure figure, the ‘Forgotten Volunteer’, someone they knew Kent Station in Cork was named after, but little else.

“Today, however, all that is changed.

“Today, because of the recent discovery of his remains, Thomas Kent has once again become someone who is very much in the present.

“Today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render the military honours that were denied him ninety-nine years ago. Today, he will no longer be the ‘Forgotten Volunteer’.

“Today, after ninety-nine years, Thomas Kent is finally coming home.

fun2 Source: RTÉ

“Today’s gathering in faith and prayer in memory of Thomas Kent is a most unusual funeral,” Bishop William Crean said.

“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.

“This strange and unusual set of circumstances were forged by the tragic events of ninety nine years ago when Thomas chose to give his life in the cause of freedom.

“He and others thereby sowed the seeds of the flowering of a new political dispensation which would become the Republic of Ireland, of which we are all beneficiaries.”

Graveside

At the graveside, after the ceremony, members of the Defence Forces removed the tricolour from the coffin – folding it and presenting it to members of his family.

Thomas Kent’s remains were then lowered into the grave.

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The Taoiseach began his graveside oration as Gaeilge before acknowledging the President, “distinguished guests, members of the Kent Family, people of Castlelyons”. 

Here continued:

“Today Ireland comes to reflect on his courage, his dignity, his defiance, his sacrifice.

“We come 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’.  

In Cork last night history escaped from the pages of old schoolbooks to beat in the hearts of the men and women who queued quietly thoughtfully in the dying light to pay their first, their last respects to Thomas Kent.”    

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Later he said the State Funeral honoured Thomas Kent “as one of the 16 patriots executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916 one of only two outside of Dublin”.

“Roger Casement in London.

“Thomas Kent in Cork.

“Now, we bear his remains home to Castlelyons as has long been desired by his relatives.”

This was the final passage of the Taoiseach’s speech: 

“The politics, the virtue, the sacrifice of Thomas Kent can never be abstracted from their human context.

“He and all who gave their lives stirred something deep and essential in those who had previously been hostile or indifferent.  

“Whether they were in a cottage, or a tenement, or a field.

“Or at Yeats’s ‘counter or desk or in grey 18th century houses’.

“Instinctively they sensed the futility of those ‘polite meaningless words’.

“That all was ‘changed, changed utterly’.” 

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“So from the trees here at Castlelyons and all along the Lee and Blackwater, Thomas Kent has long been sung to eternal sleep.

“Now, may he rest in peace among his own.    

“Tomás Ceannt, Gael agus laoch, laoch agus Gael: suaimhneas síoraí duit, go deireadh ama.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh d’ anam dílis.”

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Read: This forgotten patriot is getting a state funeral nearly a century after his execution

Read: Pictures: Incredible photos of a ruined Dublin after the 1916 Easter Rising

 

 

 

 

 

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