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Humanitarian Priest Fr Jack Finucane Passes Away

The humanitarian priest, and valuer of human life, Fr. Jack Finucane, passed away today at the age of 80.

Ordained in 1963; Fr. Jack was a brother to the late Fr. Aengus Finucane, latter a former Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide, and earlier a former teacher at Rockwell College, secondary school close to New Inn, Cashel, here in Co. Tipperary.

The brothers were both natives and ‘Freemen’ of Limerick; being aptly recognised in 2005 for their inspirational and tireless work with the starving of Africa and Asia. Fr. Jack, with his brother Fr. Aengus, tended to some of the poorest people in the world; from Biafra in Nigeria to Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

Fr. Jack would later became an adviser to Sir Bob Geldof and his Live Aid team, and in 1985, escort a young Bono (U2 fame) on his first trip to Ethiopia, greatly influencing latters future thinking.

This staunch belief by both men; based on the view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and therefore should be treated as such, would lead to the formation of the organisation known as Concern Worldwide in 1968.

Fr. Jack and Fr. Aengus had been sent to Nigeria by the Holy Ghost Fathers and were at the ‘coalface’ in the distribution of aid, flown into Biafra by Concern and other relief organisations. Both Finucane priests had become involved in the distribution of this humanitarian aid, following the Nigerian government’s blocking of food supplies to the breakaway state of Biafra (Biafran War or Nigerian Civil War carried on from July 6th 1967 to January 15th 1970 with the loss of over 1 million lives).  This food blockade caused massive starvation and continued despite receiving, back then, worldwide condemnation. The Finucane priests organized food to be sent through makeshift airstrips, including one at Uli, Anambra.

Frederick Forsyth CBE, with Fr. Jack Finucane, latter who passed away today. 

The Royal Air Force pilot, novelist (70 million books), political commentator and spy, Mr Frederick Forsyth CBE, (Works include ‘The Day of The Jackal,’ ‘The Odessa File,’ ‘The Dogs of War’, ‘The Fourth Protocol,’ ‘The Biafra Story‘ and ‘Cry of the Innocent,’ latter film made here in Ireland), who was then a journalist covering the Biafran war, knew both Fr. Jack and Fr. Aengus; indeed Mr Forsyth regularly dined with both men close to Umuchima village, Uli, at the airstrip code named ‘Annabel Airport’, during his stay of some 2 years.

Both religious brothers were involved in using old Douglas DC6s and DC7s from the 50’s, together with old worn out Lockheed Constellations planes from a similar era, in their efforts to get sick children out and food provisions in, and while dodging Nigerian MiG-19 jets supplied by East Germany and manned by East German pilots.

Frederick Forsyth, wrote of the children airlifted out of Biafra, stating that these children were a “living, breathing monument”  to the work of Fr. Aengus Finucane and his colleagues.

Irish President Mr Michael D. Higgins stated today;  “His (Fr. Jack Finucane) 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.”

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

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