It’s started. Only the other day I predicted (yes I do get the occasional one right) that the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail politicians in the south were going to have a hard time commemorating/celebrating Easter 1916, while continuing their barrage of criticism against the political violence that went on here for several decades. It seems that Enda and chums have, for now, joined the ranks of the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them brigade. As today’s Irish Times makes clear, there will be a state funeral next month for 1916 rebel Thomas Kent. The Taoiseach has said the State will be “pleased to be able to offer the honour of a State funeral” to the descendants of Mr Kent, who was executed in Cork Prison in May 1916. “Thomas Kent was one of many young men who,in pursuit of the goal of Irish freedom, paid the ultimate sacrifice”.
Kent was arrested after a gun fight between the RIC and Kent at his family home. One of Kent’s brothers and an RIC head constable were killed in the exchange. Kent was tried by court martial, found guilty and executed by firing squad on 9 May 1916.
Not everyone agrees with Enda’s move. That vocal anti-republican, former Professor John A Murphy: “We could do without another manifestation of this morbid, self-indulgent nationalist propensity” the Cork ex-Professor says. We’ll take that as a thumbs-down then, John A.
It’s easy to see what’s worrying Enda. When the remains of Kevin Barry were exhumed and buried in Glasnevin cemetery, the streets of Dublin were black with people silently watching the funeral procession. It’s perfectly possible that the transfer of Thomas Kent’s remains from what was the prison to the family plot in North Cork will have a similar effect. If you’re giving this kind of attention and respect to a man who clearly was committed to violence, and in this case violence against fellow-countrymen in the RIC, you’re running the risk of people thinking you approve of this class of carry-on. John A says he’s agin it because it’s morbid, etc. He thinks it’d be better to leave the man where he is and erect a “suitable monument” there. That way, the whole thing could slip in and out of the public consciousness without much hoo-ha.
John A, as a historian, knows the dangers of the transfer of remains – think O’Donovan Rossa. Enda thinks that if he can present himself as a man full of respect for the heroes of 1916, he’ll have shot Sinn Féin’s fox, so to say. We’ll know next month which of the two stout anti-Shinners is right.