I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of Chuck Feeney, founder of Atlantic Philantrophies. Chuck Feeney’s extraordinary generosity, selflessness and his philanthropic legacy have transformed the lives of people on the island of Ireland, north and south, young and old. He was a pioneer in the world of philanthropy.
Chuck’s support for education and reconciliation projects on this island delivered real and measurable change, and their impact endures and will continue to do so.
Chuck made it his ‘life-long ambition’ to give away his fortune during his lifetime, with over $1.5 billion invested on the island of Ireland. His incredible generosity was and is inspirational, impacting on both sides of the Atlantic over almost four decades. This support is still making a difference to lives right across this island today.
I was very pleased to work directly with Chuck in developing the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions. This programme allowed our education institutions to make a quantum leap in developing their research strengths and capabilities and in enabling our graduates to enhance both their skills and contributions to their communities.
In my home city of Cork, the legacy of Atlantic Philanthropies is still keenly felt, including through the €90m funding to UCC helping it develop leading-edge technology and library facilities, and in the incredible support given to the Marymount Hospice, a service which continues to give such crucial support to so many families today, and to Young Knocknaheeny. There are many other universities and communities on this island, north and south, that can tell similar stories of Chuck’s extraordinary generosity.
I’d like to pay particular tribute too to Chuck’s sustained support for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland over many years, helping cement peace through improving the quality of people’s lives and vindicating their rights. His contribution endures, through the ongoing work of the Human Rights Fund and the Social Change Initiative.
It was appropriate that Chuck’s contribution was marked while he was living, including the grant of a Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 2012. That same year, nine universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland jointly conferred an honorary Doctorate of Laws on Chuck – the first time such an honour was jointly bestowed. However, no award could properly encompass the remarkable impact Chuck made through the generous and always thoughtful work of Atlantic Philanthropies in Ireland over many decades.
I would like to pass on my personal sympathies to his wife Helga, his five children and his extended family.
Chuck made a difference. Ar dheis Dé a raibh a anam.