TRIBUTES have been paid to the late Fr Stephen Kearney, the local priest well-known for ministering to the people of Greysteel following the UFF massacre there in 1993.
Fr Kearney, who was a native of Plumbridge, was priest in residence at Knockmoyle in the parish of Cappagh.
He died in the early hours of Friday morning.
Scores of people lined the route of the funeral cortege as it made the journey from St Mary’s Church in Knockmoyle on Friday evening to St Mary’s in Killyclogher, where his funeral took place on Saturday afternoon.
He was interred afterwards at St Mary’s Cemetery in Aughabrack.
Fr Kearney had been a Catholic curate in Greysteel in the early ‘90s, and two years ago, told the Herald of how he continued to ‘feel the pain’ of that terrible event.
“That night, I was visiting a local family about half a mile from where the murders happened when the news came through.
“I immediately went to the bar and one of the first people who came to me was the parish priest, Fr Jack Gallagher.
“It was very much a case of believing that we were suffering together.
“Nobody in Greysteel at that time was expressing that wailing anger or bitterness, or hardness of heart.”
The Parish of Cappagh said that Fr Stephen had been unwell in the past few months, but that during this time his unique character remained strong and he had continued to brighten the lives of those around him.
“He was very much a people’s priest in the sense that people had a great affection for him,” said the parish priest of Cappagh, Fr Kevin McElhennon.
“The way he connected with people was through their place. Place was important and people were important.”
Glenelly GAA club also paid tribute, while Killyclogher GAA said Fr Kearney had a ‘great sense of humour’ and seemed to have a special hat for every occasion.
“He had a love of our native language, townland meanings and the old customs and traditions of rural Ireland,” a statement remarked.
“He was a proud son of the Butterlope and Clogherny, and never forgot his roots.”