Wednesday 21 March 2018

Always had the town in his mind and heart

Tributes flow in for longest serving editor of The Sligo Champion

Paul Deering

Sligo is mourning the loss of one of its true champions this week, the passing of former Sligo Champion Editor, Seamus Finn at the age of 70.

His funeral Mass takes place this morning (Tuesday) at St Joseph's Church, Ballytivnan followed by burial at Sligo Cemetery.

The late Mr Finn, who retired as editor after 37 years in 2009, was fondly recalled this week by former and present staff members.

Tributes have been paid far and wide to Mr Finn whose time as editor has been widely acknowledged as one of campaigning journalism at its finest.

He always had Sligo and its needs upper most in his thoughts and words and played a significant role in pressing for major projects for the county such as a new hospital, and the Inner Relief Road.

He also campaigned through his editorials and his well read On the Line column for a kidney dialysis unit at Sligo General Hospital and many other worthy causes. Other fundraising campaigns he backed included overseeing a restoration fund for the Holy Well at Tobernalt which had been ravaged by winter storms.

Mr Finn joined the editorial staff of the newspaper as a reporter on October 28th 1968 and became editor in January 1973 at the age of 24, the youngest editor in the country at the time.

Mr Finn had nearly 41 years service with The Sligo Champion and has been one of the longest serving editors in provincial journalism.

During his long career he was a regular contributor to RTE Radio Sport's Sunday evening programmes for many years and to RTE television's Today/Tonight and other radio and television current affairs programmes, particularly at general election times. He was a member for a period in the 1990s of the film censorship board.

He helped instigate the County Sligo Person of the Year and Community Awards in association with Sligo Mental Health Association which ran for 25 years.

He launched a major campaign in conjunction with the One Mind Club to raise funds for the dialysis unit at Sligo General Hospital and was responsible for the production of The Sligo Champion Sesquicentenary supplement which marked the 150th anniversary of the paper in 1986.

This was a major project stretching to over 100 pages which he worked on for over 12 months, compiling, researching, and editing the material along with writing most of it. The supplement has become a collector's item.

Mr Finn along with a small group of journalists and IDA personnel, travelled to South Korea to visit Saehan Media plants prior to the opening of their Sligo factory in 1991. Amongst the many major stories he covered during his time with this newspaper was Pope John Paul's visit to Knock in 1979 and the murder of Lord Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in August, the same year.

He was also a member of many local committees aimed at promoting the town and county. He was on the committee which founded the Queen Maeve Festival and Warriors' Run in 1985. Mr Finn, apart from his journalistic endeavours also had a keen interest in photography.

He was a former Chairman of Sligo Camera Club and was a highly regarded landscape photographer whose work has featured in many exhibitions. He was regarded as a black and white specialist and had his own darkroom at his home in Ballinode.

He was a member of the NUJ during his 41 year career and was a former Chairman of the North Connacht Branch NUJ. He will be fondly remembered for his many hardhitting editorials, particularly around issues which affected the town.

Indeed, his editorials surrounding the issue of the re-homing of ex-prisoners at Kazelain, Finisklin won him the overall national award in the Connacht Gold/John Healy Memorial Journalism Awards in June 2004. He was cited for coverage which took the heat out of the controversy and resulted in its acceptance in the community. He also won the local print award for his endeavours on the subject.

Seamus passed away peacefully at North West Hospice last Friday afternoon. He was predeceased by his wife Sheila six years ago and he his survived by his sons, Seamus and Kevin, sisters Eileen, Mary and Breege, grandchild Ilan, daughters-in-law Keren and Ester, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and friends. He reposed at the Foley & McGowan funeral home on Monday evening from 6pm until 8pm with funeral to St. Joseph's Church, Ballytivnan on Tuesday for funeral Mass at 11am with funeral proceeding afterwards to Sligo cemetery.

Sligo Champion