Our history

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Our history

For more than 45 years, Concern has been dedicated to reducing suffering and fighting hunger and poverty. Today, Concern’s work is needed more than ever.

John and Kay O'Loughlin with President Mary McAleese on the 40th anniversary of Concern's foundation.

Concern was founded by John and Kay O’Loughlin-Kennedy in 1968, as a response to the famine in the Nigerian province of Biafra. The famine was largely precipitated by the conflict that followed Biafra’s attempt to secede from Nigeria.

John’s brother, Father Raymond Kennedy, a Holy Ghost Priest, had returned to Ireland from Nigeria with news about the plight of people in Biafra where widespread famine was becoming a reality due to the Nigerian blockade of food, medicines, fuel and basic necessities.

John, Kay and Raymond held a press conference in the Shelbourne Hotel to raise awareness and funds. This allowed them send the first ‘mercy flight’ to Biafra.

But much more was needed,  some weeks later a larger meeting was called in the home of John and Kay, Africa Concern was formed and the fundraising continued.

Send One Ship

Africa Concern with the Knights of Columbanus launched an appeal in June 1968 for the famine in Biafra with the slogan "Send One Ship".

Becoming Concern

On 29 September, a 600 tonne ship named the Columcille arrived at Sao Tome, a Portuguese island off the coast of Biafra, filled with vital supplies of powdered food, medicines, and batteries. In 1970, a huge cyclone hit East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the public were asked to respond. Africa Concern simply became Concern.

Tribute to Jack Finucane

The radio feature below pays tribute to a lifetime of service by Father Jack Finucane. In the interview, Jack recounts the circumstances that led to the establishment of Concern, as well as his subsequent appointments in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. Jack was instrumental in transforming a small organisation into a humanitarian force equipped with skilled agriculturalists, nurses, doctors and engineers. 

Aengus Finucane biography

Aengus Finucane worked with Concern from its earliest days in Biafra in 1968 and served as Chief Executive from 1981 until his retirement in 1997. Broadcaster, journalist and well-known author, Deirdre Purcell, has just published a biography telling the story of Aengus Finucane, a man synonymous with the life and times of Concern.

Continued work

Since its foundation, Concern has gone on to work in over 50 countries, responding to major emergencies as well as working in long term development programmes. Today, with more than 3,200 staff of 50 nationalities, Concern operates in 26 of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to achieve major and long-lasting improvements in their lives.

The main areas of focus are health and nutrition, education, HIV and AIDS and livelihoods.

Preparing for disaster

Concern continues to respond to emergencies. Its disaster risk reduction programme also aims to prepare people for disasters in vulnerable areas. Concern’s work is funded by members of the public, governments and other donors.

Looking forward

Hunger and poverty continue to devastate lives in the developing world. Unfortunately, the fact remains that Concern’s work is needed now more than ever. Our 40th anniversary, in 2008, marked an opportunity to look back at the work Concern has done, to thank all those people who have made it possible and to renew Concern’s efforts to help people living in extreme poverty and hunger.