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The Association may be contacted through its Secretary,

Peter F Durnin, KC*SG, KM, GCHS, "Rosaire", Moneymore, Drogheda, Co Louth. A92 RF6F



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Personal Details

About me

1939 - 2009; First CE Trocaire 1973-1993. Born in a Catholic enclave close to the Protestant loyalist stronghold of Belfast's Tiger Bay, McKeown was educated at St Malachy's College before volunteering for missionary work with the Legion of Mary in Sierra Leone. At Queen's University, he met Gari whom he married after being appointed as assistant secretary general to CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic development organisations from Europe and North America, based in Brussels. In the Belgian capital, the couple met Cardinal William Conway, a Belfast man from the Falls Road, who was planning to establish a new overseas aid agency in line with papal thinking. In the small frame of the cigarette-smoking and whiskey drinking McKeown, "Big Bill" found the professional he was searching for to head the fledgling agency. A pastoral letter scripted by McKeown in the name of the Bishops of Ireland for the launch of Trocaire -- the Irish word for compassion -- defined its two-fold aims: "Abroad, it will give whatever help lies within its resources to the areas of greatest need among the developing counties. At home, it will try to make us all more aware of the needs of these countries and of our duties towards them. These duties are no longer a matter of charity but of simple justice." As chief executive, the casually dressed McKeown, who looked like a diminutive Che Guevara, found himself working with Trocaire's chairman, Bishop Eamonn Casey. An early project was the building of a hospital for children in communist Hanoi, ravaged by American bombs in the Vietnam War. A highpoint in McKeown's crusading career came in 1984 during a visit by US President Ronald Reagan, during which the Church hierarchy boycotted a state banquet at Dublin Castle in Reagan's honour in protest against the US government's interventionist policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. The absence of the Catholic bishops from the Reagan festivities was no coincidence. Through McKeown's far-seeing policy of allocating 20% of Trocaire's budget to educate Irish schools and parishes in the causes of poverty in developing countries, a grass-roots reformation was under way. After his retirement he founded a human rights body to continue his fight for social justice in Togo, Sierra Leone, Croatia, and the Congo. In glowing tributes, Justin Kilcullen and Bishop John Kirby, saluted the radical life-long commitment of McKeown -- who, according to his eldest son Tim, was a man "cast iron in his principles". He was buried in Shanganagh Cemetery on 4 August.