Ireland’s leader Enda Kenny will deliver a graveside oration at the state funeral of Thomas Kent, killed during a siege in 1916. Thousands are expected to attend the ceremony on Friday, in Castlelyons, County Cork.
Thomas Kent (51) was executed and buried in the yard at Cork prison for his role in the failed rising on May 9, 1916. The armed clash with Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) members, outside Castlelyons in north Cork, was the only attempted rising outside Dublin in 1916.
He was the only rebel to be executed for actions taken outside Dublin during the Easter Rising.
Kent was buried in the Cork Prison, formerly the Military Detention Barracks at the rear of Collins Barracks, by the British, just yards from where he was killed, despite protests from his family.
DNA testing of remains from the grounds of a former prison in Cork recently confirmed that Kent was buried there. As per the Kent family’s wishes, on September 18, his remains will be exhumed from the prison grounds and re-interred with full honors at the family’s plot in Castlelyons, in north County Cork.
Gerry White, a military historian and member of the Defence Forces, will deliver the eulogy. President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will also be present, as will Tánaiste Joan Burton along with a number of a number of politicians, representatives from the Diplomatic Corps, the Garda Commissioner and senior Defence Forces personnel. The Mass will be celebrated by the Bishop of Cloyne, Most Reverend William Crean, together with the Castlelyons PP Fr Gerard Coleman, Fr Gerry O’Neill from Collins Barracks and Fr Michael Kidney from Cork Prison.
The re-interment will feature the key elements of a state funeral including a military firing party rendering honors, the “Last Post,” the “Reveille”, and the national anthem.
Police have confirmed that the main street in Castlelyons and the area around St Nicholas Church will be closed to traffic from 1.15pm, as thousands are expected to attend.
The funeral will pass through the town on its way to Bawnard House, the scene of the May 2, 1916, siege which led to Thomas Kent’s execution.
It is expected that the church will not be able to accommodate more than 400 people. An area will be set aside outside the church grounds for limited public seating in a covered area which will feature large screens relaying the Mass. The proceedings will be broadcast live on RTÉ 1 and it is anticipated that the ceremony will conclude at approximately 3pm, followed by the re-interment of remains at the Kent family plot located on site.
The “Forgotten Rebel’s” family, historians and the Organization of National Ex-Servicemen, including campaigner Tomas O'Siochain, fought for years for his remains to be exhumed and re-interred with full honors. Lord Mayor Chris O'Leary, Cork's first Sinn Fein mayor in more than 90 years, had given his support to the campaign.
Kent, an Irish nationalist, was court-martialed and executed after a gunfight with the RIC on May 2, 1916, at his family’s farm, Bawnard House, Castlelyons. They had been ready to join the Rising, but when the mobilization order was countermanded they stayed at the farm.
When the Rising went ahead in Dublin the RIC were sent to arrest all known sympathizers. They were met at Bawnard House by resistance from Kent and his brothers Richard, David and William. The gunfight lasted for four hours.
During the fight an RIC officer, Head Constable William Rowe, was killed and David Kent was seriously wounded. Eventually the Kents surrendered, although Richard made a last minute dash for freedom and was fatally wounded.
Thomas Kent was charged with armed rebellion. William was acquitted and David was sent to Dublin where he was charged with the same offense as Thomas, but his sentence was commuted and he served five years of penal servitude.
Here’s part of an Irish language documentary focusing on Kent: