Thomas Kent Funeral: ‘Our country is now free, open, and tolerant’

Enda Kenny delivering the oration. Picture: Jim Coughlan/PA

Thomas Kent, his brother Richard, and the RIC officer they shot dead on May 2, 1916 will all be commemorated together next year in Glasnevin to mark the centenary of the Rising and a country which is now now “free, open, and tolerant”.

That’s according to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who made the announcement yesterday at the state funeral of Thomas Kent in Castlelyons, Co Cork.

Mr Kenny told mourners the country was coming together to reflect on Kent’s courage, dignity, defiance and sacrifice.

He said that history had “escaped from the pages of old schoolbooks to beat in the hearts of the men and women” who queued quietly and thoughtfully in the dying light at Collins Barracks the previous night to pay their last respects to the patriot.

He said the mourners’ very presence was tribute to a man who lived and died for the Ireland, so they had the future they now inhabit.

The Taoiseach said that, nearly 100 years after Kent was executed by the British in Cork Prison, through his efforts this country had since gained independence and acquired international credentials of respect, dignity and compassion for others.

“Across the world at sites of famine it is an Irish voice that comforts. In zones of conflict it is an Irish hand that keeps the peace and gives protection,” he said before emphasising the Naval Service contribution.

Mr Kenny said that, in the Mediterranean, “it is the green, white, and orange borne by the men and women of our naval services, that symbolise human hope and heart and dignity”.

As he was speaking, the crew of LÉ Niamh were rescuing more refugees in three operations and just managed to get to a leaking dinghy in the nick of time before she sank with 129 refugees onboard.

“It is that same humanity, dignity, and hope that kept and moved Thomas Kent,” Mr Kenny said.

Thomas Kent Funeral: ‘Our country is now free, open, and tolerant’

He said the state funeral was to honour Kent as one of the 16 patriots executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916, one of only two outside of Dublin.

Mr Kenny acknowledged the presence of the large, loving extended Kent family who attended the requiem Mass and in particular paid tribute to his closest relatives — nieces Prudence Riordan, Kathleen Kent, and Eileen Kent.

“These three women have tended the flame of his memory,” said Mr Kenny.

“They make sure that Thomas Kent’s time extends to our own and that of our children.”

After outlining the history of the gun battle in Castlelyons which led to Kent’s execution, Mr Kenny said RIC Head Constable William Rowe, who was killed in the skirmish, would be honoured alongside them next year.

“Today, in our time, we are not called upon to die for our country,” Mr Kenny said. “But even now, even with our freedom, in our own and very different time, we need men and women who believe.

“We need men and women who believe in community, country, in putting others before themselves. This includes the members of our Defence Forces — Oglaigh na hÉireann — who continue their time honoured tradition of service of their country, both at home and abroad.”

He said it was fitting as he was finally laid to rest that people not only thought of Thomas Kent as a patriot, nationalist, commandant, volunteer, but also as a neighbour, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a son, and that he was “an extraordinary man from Castlelyons”.

“He and all who gave their lives stirred something deep and essential in those who had previously been hostile or indifferent. Now, may he rest in peace among his own,” Mr Kenny added.

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