The passing away of `Stan' Kearns last Saturday evening, 25 March, although anticipated for a number of weeks, was nevertheless a shock to all his comrades and friends.
Stan was one of the best known and much liked political activists from the Newry and South Armagh constituency.
The news in early January of this year that Stan was suffering from cancer sent shockwaves throughout a community that had loved and known him for so long. Shortly after being diagnosed and recovering from a serious operation, Stan was honoured on the official opening of our new offices in Patrick Street, Newry, when Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams made a personal presentation to him.
When it wasn't so popular to be a republican in our time, Stan unashamedly pronounced his support for the struggle for Irish independence. When the traumatic and emotional events surrounding the Hunger Strikes were prominent in the hearts and minds of republicans and nationalists throughout this island, Stan travelled the length and breath of Ireland to lobby on behalf of the Hunger Strikers. He could be relied on to answer the rallying call for protest action at a moment's notice.
Stan was to the forefront of Sinn Féin's political development in the area and as a result, faced the intimidation and violence of the state first-hand. His speech impediment was the subject of abusive and insulting comments by his enemies, most notably the Crown Forces. On more than one occasion, these same people waited for Stan's traditional weekly presence on the streets of Newry selling An Phoblacht and they dumped over 100 papers into the Clanrye River. In recent years, when street protests were once again to the fore, Stan faithfully turned up to every single event. He was an enthusiastic and prominent supporter of the Saoirse Campaign; in short, a true son of Ireland.
It was a matter of deep regret that Stan didn't receive the send off he not only asked for, but deserved. Republicans abided by the family request for a private funeral arrangement, although several hundred comrades and friends turned up for his final journey to St. Mary's cemetery.
Republicans will commemorate Stan at a time of their own choosing, when all his comrades and friends will be afforded the opportunity to honour him.