Irish people no longer have to die for their country, but other selfless deeds are needed from those living in the free Ireland for which 1916 patriot Thomas Kent gave his life, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
One of 16 men executed after the Rising, Kent’s remains were buried in the family plot in a north Cork churchyard almost a century after his execution and burial at a military prison yard in Cork City on May 9, 1916.
In his oration, Mr Kenny said the 5,000-plus people of all ages who streamed past Kent’s coffin at Collins Barracks in Cork on Thursday did so in tribute to a man who lived and died for the Ireland and the future in which they now live.
“An Ireland that is free, an Ireland that is open and tolerant,” he said, watched by the family of Thomas Kent, who had hoped for so long to see his reinterment in his home village of Castlelyons, after being buried for 99 years in the prison ground where he died.
“Today, in our time, we are not called upon to die for our country. But even now, even with our freedom, in our own and very different time, we need men and women who believe,” the Taoiseach said, watched in the churchyard and on large screens nearby by more than 4,000 visitors to the village.
“We need men and women who believe in community, who believe in country, and in putting others before themselves.”
Kent was commandant of the Galtee Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, precursor to the Irish Defence Forces, who Mr Kenny said are a voice of comfort today in famine regions, the hand of peace and protection in war zones, and the symbol of human hope and dignity in the Mediterranean.
Kent and his brother Richard, who died of gunshot wounds after trying to escape arrest at the family home at Bawnard House, will be commemorated at Glasnevin Cemetery next year, the Taoiseach said.
But so too, he said, will William Rowe, the Wexford-born Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) head constable who died in a gun battle with the Kents the same night. It was a signal of intent about how those who lost their lives in 1916 will be remembered in the centenary year.
But the State funeral was equally, or perhaps foremost, a family affair, in accordance with the wishes of Kent’s nieces, Prudence Riordan and Kathleen and Eileen Kent. The family listened inside earlier to a eulogy from military historian Gerry White, who highlighted Kent’s prominence in the Gaelic cultural and language revivals long before the events of 1916.
They heard Catholic Bishop of Cloyne William Crean — descendant of a Kerry-born RIC sergeant killed in a Co Cork ambush in 1920 — describe the circumstances leading to yesterday’s funeral as strange and unusual. He said they were forged by tragic events of 99 years ago when Kent 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,” he said.
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