Concern Worldwide co-founder dies after long illness

Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy set up humanitarian agency with her husband in 1968

Kay O'Loughlin Kennedy who, with her husband John, co-founded the international humanitarian agency Concern Worldwide, has died after a long illness.

Recently she had been cared for by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm at Our Lady's Manor in Dalkey, Co Dublin.

In December 1967, she and John called a meeting in their home on Dublin's Northumberland Road to hear Holy Ghost priest Fr Raymond Kennedy, who had recently returned from Nigeria and a brother of John's, give a harrowing account of the brutal civil war there as the province of Biafra sought to secede.

Nigeria was attempting to starve Biafra into submission. Those present at that Dublin meeting agreed to set up an agency to help feed the Biafrans and to call themselves Africa Concern, later Concern Worldwide. Their immediate aim was to raise funds for a mercy flight with supplies for Biafra's starving children.


Africa Concern was formally set up in March 1968. From the beginning it was multidenominational, involving a Methodist minister and a Freemason, as well as trade unionists. By the end of 1968, £3.5 million had been raised for Biafra, equivalent to €64 million today.

The agency now employs more than 3,200 people in 27 of the world’s poorest countries.

Ms O'Loughlin Kennedy, née Banahan, died on Sunday last and is survived by John, their son Paul and daughter-in-law Alva, their children, as well as her brother Pat Banahan.

Her remains will repose in the chapel at Our Lady's Manor from 4.30pm tomorrow (Wed), with prayers at 6.30pm. The funeral Mass on Thursday will be at 11am in Blackrock's Church of St John the Baptist, followed by interment in Deans Grange cemetery.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times