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Saturday 17 November 2018

Mourners say farewell to Bishop Tom, 'innovator' and champion of the west

Tom Shiel

HE was known simply as Bishop Tom, but his funeral yesterday was filled with pomp, ceremony and the highest churchmen in the country.

The remains of Dr Thomas Finnegan, a former Bishop of Killala, were laid to rest beside the graves of two predecessors who died in the 1800s.

Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, together with Bishop of Killala John Fleming, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary and Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones, joined bishops and clergy from around the country at St Muredach's Cathedral in Ballina, Co Mayo.

Dr Finnegan, who championed the west of Ireland, died aged 87 on Christmas Day after a short illness. He was a leading educationalist, a reformer and a voice for exiles and underdeveloped communities.

Dr Fleming recalled his often innovative manner of tackling a task or problem.

More than 40 years ago, the then Fr Finnegan was president of Summerhill College, Sligo, and brought in a rock band to raise funds for an extension to the diocesan college.

"Only Bishop Finnegan would have thought of inviting a rock band to a fundraiser in the 1970s," he said.

With support from the Kennedy Charitable Foundation, he established the Newman Institute in Ballina, as a first phase of his dream for a Catholic university for Mayo.

He was a founder member of the Council for the West, which later prompted the government to establish the Western Development Commission.

The chief mourners at yesterday's Mass were the former bishop's sister-in-law Mary Teresa Finnegan; his nieces Olivia Ward, Leonie Curran, Theola Finnegan, Davona Finnegan; and nephews Shane Finnegan and Coleman Hanly. One of the prayers of the faithful was read by RTE's Tommie Gorman, a former pupil.

Irish Independent

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