seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Execution of Thomas Kent

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thomas-kentIrish nationalist Thomas Kent is executed at Cork Detention Barracks on May 9, 1916. Kent’s story is one of the stranger episodes that happens after the rebellion in Dublin has been quelled. Unlike the Dublin rebels, Kent does not go out to fight. Rather the British come to him looking for trouble.

Kent is part of a prominent nationalist family who lives at Bawnard House, Castlelyons, County Cork. After spending some time in Boston he returns to Ireland because of poor health. He is active in the Land League, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. With the launch of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, he is prominent with another legendary Cork man, Terence MacSwiney, in organizing and training recruits.

The Kent family is prepared to take part in the Easter Rising but when the mobilisation order is countermanded by Eoin MacNeill, commander of the Irish Volunteers, on April 22, they stay at home. The rising nevertheless goes ahead in Dublin on Easter Monday. The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) is dispatched to arrest well-known sympathizers throughout the country including, but not limited to, known members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Volunteers.

When the Kent residence is raided at 3:45 AM on May 2, the RIC is met with resistance from Thomas and his brothers Richard, David, and William. A gunfight lasts for four hours, during which RIC officer Head Constable William Rowe is killed and David Kent is seriously wounded. Eventually the Kents are forced to surrender, although Richard makes a last minute dash for freedom and is fatally wounded.

Thomas and William are tried by court martial on May 4 on a charge of “armed rebellion.” William, who is not political, is found innocent, but Thomas is found guilty in the death of Constable Rowe and is sentenced to death. Before being led out for his execution, Kent says, “I have done my duty as a soldier of Ireland and in a few moments I hope to see the face of God.” He is executed by firing squad in Cork in the early morning hours of May 9. David Kent is brought to Dublin where he is charged with the same offence, found guilty, and sentenced to death, but the sentence is commuted and he is sentenced to five years penal servitude.

Apart from the singular case of Roger Casement, Thomas Kent is the only person outside of Dublin to be executed for his role in the events surrounding Easter Week. He is buried on the grounds of Cork Prison, formerly the Military Detention Barracks at the rear of Collins Barracks, Cork. The former army married quarters at the rear of Collins Barracks are named in his honour.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny offers a state funeral to the Kent family early in 2015 which they accept. Kent’s remains are exhumed from Cork prison in June 2015 after being buried for 99 years. The state funeral is held on September 18, 2015 at St. Nicholas’ Church in Castlelyons. Kent lay in state at Collins Barracks in Cork the day before. The requiem mass is attended by President Michael D. Higgins, with Enda Kenny delivering the graveside oration.

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