Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities, dies aged 90

First L’Arche community in Ireland for people with intellectual disabilities set up 40 years ago

Tributes have been paid in Ireland and internationally to Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche community for people with intellectual disabilities, who has died aged 90.

Mr Vanier founded L’Arche in 1964 in response to the treatment people with intellectual and developmental disabilities faced in institutions.

He helped set up Ireland's first L'Arche community in Kilkenny 40 years ago, which has since grown to include communities in Belfast, Cork and Dublin.

These new communities were aimed at honouring the “unique worth of every individual” by creating inclusive homes and workplaces for people both with and without intellectual disabilities.


Mr Vanier's death was confirmed on Tuesday at the Maison Médicale Jeanne Garnier in Paris.

In addition to his work with L’Arche, Mr Vanier co-founded the Faith and Light Christian community movement and published at least 40 books, many of which focus on how people with intellectual disabilities make essential contributions to building a more humane society.

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said he met Mr Vanier “and admired greatly his humility, wisdom and penetrating words”.

“His prophetic example, his untiring focus on helping us recognise the value of vulnerability and otherness and his constant underlining of the importance of community have always influenced me. We have much to learn from his life.”

L'Arche International leader Stephan Posner said Vanier "has left an extraordinary legacy."

“His community of Trosly, the communities of L’Arche, Faith and Light, many other movements, and countless thousands of people have cherished his words and benefited from his vision,” Mr Posner said.

L’Arche now includes more than 150 communities in 38 countries around the globe, with more than 10,000 members, Mr Posner said.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent