Limerick priest and Concern co-founder Fr Jack Finucane dies aged 80

Fr Jack and late brother Fr Aengus Finucane earned worldwide recognition for their famine relief efforts

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Limerick priest and Concern co-founder Fr Jack Finucane dies aged 80

Jack Finucane, left, who helped found the charity Concern with his brother Aengus, right, has died aged 80 Pictures: Press 22

FATHER Jack Finucane, the Limerick priest who helped found the charity Concern, has has died aged 80.

Fr Jack and his late brother Fr Aengus Finucane earned worldwide recognition for their famine relief efforts in the late 1960s, and both were awarded the Freedom of Limerick in 2005.

In 1968, the Limerick brothers, as well as Fr Raymond Kennedy and John and Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy, founded Africa Concern, which later became Concern, which now has more than 3,000 staff working around the world. 

Since then, Limerick’s connections with Concern continue to run deep. 

Relative Susan Finucane, from the Ennis Road, has worked with their programmes in Rwanda, Burundi, Haiti and Tanzania. 

Born in Limerick in February 1937, Jack Finucane was ordained in 1963 and joined the Spiritan (Holy Ghost) missionary society before being sent to Biafra in Nigeria.

At 26, he was sent to Nigeria, and within four years he was engulfed in the fallout from the Biafra war and the ensuing famine. 

Concern was founded in response to the famine, with Jack was at the centre of the distribution of the relief goods flown into Biafra by Concern and other relief organisations.

He was appointed Caritas co-ordinator in Nigeria during the Biafra war at the age of 30, and joined Concern in 1973, working in Bangladesh. 

He was transferred to Ethiopia in 1974, and his considerable diplomatic skills and his relationship with the Ethiopian authorities were said to have greatly assisted Concern being able to mount a significant and immediate response to the crisis of that time. 

He went back to Bangladesh in 1977, and again returned to Ethiopia in 1984.

Jack returned to Dublin in 1990 where he was Concern’s Regional Director for a number of countries in Africa.

In 1994 he witnessed over one million people fleeing Rwanda into Goma, in Zaire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and four years later he saw the same population stream across the border to return home.

One of six children, he said his sister Patsy, a Mercy Sister "is the brightest of us.”

Speaking about the life of Fr Finucane, CEO of Concern Worldwide, Dominic MacSorley said he was "an unassuming leader, he brought intelligence, drive and passion to what is now Ireland’s leading humanitarian and development organisation.

"Along with his brother, Aengus, they were a bridge between Ireland’s long tradition of missionary work defining contemporary humanitarian response characterised by professional, practical, compassionate solutions on the ground. Together, they brought a nation with them.

"What Jack has achieved may never be fully quantified but he has saved and improved the lives of millions of people caught up in crisis and poverty. Sorely missed, he leaves behind a legacy of incredible humanitarian significance."

President Michael D Higgins praised "Jack, and his late brother Fr. Aengus Finucane (who) were inspirational figures among the large group of people in Ireland who value and embody the importance of the humanitarian spirit.

"Theirs was a distinctive voice and their life’s work leaves a real, positive, and enduring legacy for millions of people across the globe, as well as having contributed to Ireland’s reputation abroad in the best possible sense.

"I had the great privilege of meeting Jack Finucane in Somalia during the Famine, and on many occasions since. His commitment to the ethical basis for, as well as the practical application of humanitarian principles was exemplary. 

"Jack Finucane’s lifelong commitment to protecting the dignity of some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people will stand not only as a lasting tribute to all that is good about mankind, but is exemplary in its invitation not to avert our gaze from our current challenges of global hunger and poverty."

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that the late Limerickman will forever be a symbol of selflessness, caring and hope.

"In life there are many people placed on pedestals, people we consider, and rightly so, heroes. We all need people to look up to. But it is no exaggeration to say that Fr. Jack Finucane was the embodiment of what it means to be a hero - someone who protects and defends," said Bishop Leahy.

"In his deeds, he was a hero in that he dedicated his life to protecting and defending the weakest people on our planet. There is no greater Christian calling and he took it up selflessly and courageously, often putting himself at great risk but also completely indifferent to that risk."

Fr Jack Finucane will repose at Fanagans Funeral Home, 92 Lower Kimmage Road, this Friday and Saturday, from 4pm-6pm. Removal on Sunday to the Church of the Holy Spirit, Kimmage Manor arriving at 6pm for evening prayer. Funeral Mass on Monday, at 11.30am in Kimmage Church. Burial afterwards in Dardistown Cemetery. Donations if desired to Concern Worldwide, in lieu of floral tributes.