Born in Limerick in 1937 and ordained a priest in 1963, Fr. Finucane was sent to Nigeria with the Holy Ghost Fathers and was at the heart of the distribution of aid flown into Biafra by Concern and other relief organisations. Following the surrender of Biafra, he was arrested by the Nigerian authorities and spent several weeks in prison before being deported. He then went to the United States of America where he spent a period in parish Ministry and studied in San Francisco for a Masters in Education.
In 1973, he was posted to Bangladesh, a country he loved and returned to often. But it was the 1984 famine in Ethiopia where Fr. Finucane's knowledge of the country, his considerable diplomatic skills enabled Concern to mount a massive response to the crisis. By the time that famine received worldwide attention, Concern had a team of 46 expatriates and 890 national staff on the ground. He was an advisor to Bob Geldof and his Live Aid team. In 1985, he brought a young Bono on his first trip to Ethiopia and the singer has credited him with having a huge influence on his thinking with regard to international development.
In 1994, he witnessed over one million people fleeing from Rwanda into Goma, Zaire, and two years later he saw the same population stream across the border to return home. A powerful driving force, he visited the region almost every month, encouraging and supporting new and innovative resettlement programmes that included supporting hundreds of thousands caught up in horrific prison conditions or reuniting more than 30,000 separated and unaccompanied children.
Fr. Finucane formally retired in 2002 but never stopped working for Concern. In 2004, without hesitation, he abandoned all plans for the summer and flew to Sudan to lead Concern’s response to the Darfur crisis and later went on to oversee Concern’s operations in tsunami-affected Sri Lanka. Throughout, he remained passionate and engaged in everything to do with Concern including serving on the board of Concern Worldwide US.
Active to the end, Fr. Finucane walked around Inishturk Island, off the coast of Galway a few weeks ago with 70 Concern volunteers he had worked with over the years. His work will continue and he will remain an inspiration to all of us in the global fight against poverty.