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Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney has passed away

Feeney is known for being the biggest donor in Irish history.

Chuck Feeney, the Irish American billionaire well-known for his philanthropy, has sadly passed away at 92-years-old.

Survived by his wife Helga and his five children, Feeney was best known by the people of Limerick for his donation of 181 million dollars to the University of Limerick Foundation from his own organisation, Atlantic Philanthropies. This donation allowed for the development of the University as it stands today.

UL was not the only third-level institute to benefit from Feeney’s generosity. Additionally, Queens University Belfast were gifted with 132 million dollars.

NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and Dublin City University were also recipients.

Feeney funded further afield than universities alone. In total 1.3 billion dollars has been given to Ireland by Feeney with a further 570 million dollars going to associations and institutes in Northern Ireland.

University of Limerick President, Kerstin Mey, spoke about the philanthropist, saying: “As the son of Irish American parents, maybe it is no surprise that over €1 billion of philanthropic support went to Ireland, and UL has been one of the main beneficiaries. At its simplest, the University of Limerick campus, over 18,000 students and 2,000 staff would not have been possible were it not for Chuck Feeney’s generosity.”

UL Foundation Chair Harry Fehily, founding president Dr Walsh, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, Dr Feeney’s biographer Conor O’Clery and Dr Feeney’s son Patrick launching the new Feeney Way on the University of Limerick campus. Picture: Arthur Ellis

His participation in the Northern Irish Peace process is another achievement from his illustrious lifetime, funding the Sinn Féin Office in Washington after the ceasefire in 1994. He also funded many other causes in Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the LGBTQ+ Community, children charities, as well as the elderly, and supplying free legal advice.

Chuck Feeney has always been known for his generosity. He earned his billions through Duty-Free Shoppers, the company he co-founded. However, Feeney didn’t behave as the typical billionaire might.

Chuck’s philanthropy began in 1984 when he placed all of his money into his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. This was kept secret and as far as the world knew, he was still a billionaire. His funding of the University of Limerick was anonymous – a condition he included in the funding.

Feeney is the biggest donor in Irish history.

The Irish-American’s famous phrase “Giving while Living,” came about in 2003, when he pledged to give away all of his riches, through the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation – a goal he achieved in 2020. It took him 38 years, a large part of which was a complete secret until a business dispute in 1997, revealing all.

Fortunately, Feeney was able to see the impact his charity created, despite his plan to remain anonymous being foiled.

Chuck will be remembered by the many he helped – especially by the University of Limerick. According to Kerstin Mey, the college wanted to “acknowledge Chuck with the Feeney Way dedication; for one, because we are hugely appreciative for what he has done for UL, this region and for Ireland and this was ultimately where his ‘Giving While Living’ started.” The Feeney Way dedication was revealed back in March 2023.

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