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A biography of Aengus Finucane

Father Aengus Finucane died today. Here, we remember his life and work.

Born in Limerick in 1932, Aengus Finucane joined the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) in 1949, after completing secondary school with the Christian Brothers. The experience he had working with the poor during his school years motivated much of his work: helping alleviate poverty later in life.

After graduation from University College Dublin, a two-year teaching appointment in Tipperary and theological studies in Dublin, he was ordained a priest in 1958. He was assigned to the Nigerian Missions in February 1960. While there he taught school, did parish work, was hospital and prison chaplain and always active in social work and with youth organisations.

Biafran war

In 1967, Father Finucane was taking a course in Development Studies at the University of Wales, Swansea when civil war broke out in Nigeria. He returned to breakaway Biafra where he became parish priest of Uli in 1968 as the Nigeria/Biafra war continued. In extremely dangerous conditions, Father Finucane and his co-workers unloaded and distributed up to twenty flights of relief supplies each night.

"Uli was bombed every day," Father Finucane recalled, "yet the Biafrans were lined up in the forest with truckloads of gravel ready to fill the craters in the runway before nightfall."

Working with Concern

In 1968, Father Finucane and fellow missionaries appealed to the Irish public to respond to the famine in Nigerian/Biafra victims. His initial work with Concern was assisting with relief and refugee work in Biafra and Gabon.

He went to Bangladesh as Concern's Field Director in 1972. After six years there, he undertook a research masters in Third World Poverty from Swansea University.  

In 1979, he led a team surveying South East Asian refugee camps for UNHCR. Later that year, he set up Concern’s operation for refugees on the Thai/Kampuchea border. He moved to Uganda, in 1980, setting up a programme in response to the famine in Karamoja Province.

Father Finucane was appointed Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide in 1981.

Travelling across many of the world's disaster areas of the last 20 years, he witnessed firsthand the horrors of genocide in Rwandan. It is his tempered and sobered faith that emerges in his credo, "we have a strong inclination to do evil, and you have to fight like hell to do any good."

His commonsense call to stop people "drifting into urban environments where there is nothing for them" by providing free access to markets needs to be heeded.

Highly recognised

The prestigious National Council for Educational Awards presented Father Finucane with an Honorary Doctorate of Law in 1995.

In 1997, on retiring as Chief Executive, Father Finucane became Honorary President of Concern Worldwide USA.

In November 1999, Father Finucane was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Limerick honoris causa.

In 2005, Father Aengus and his brother Father Jack Finucane were awarded the Freedom of Limerick City.