The Late Marian Finucane and the Ballydesmond Aunt’s Influence

The Late Marian Finucane pictured at the graveside of her ancestors in Ballydesmond in November 2000 during the wreath laying ceremony to the memory of her aunt, teacher and Credit Union pioneer, Nora Herlihy. The man in the photograph is historian, Seán Radley from Millstreet. ©Photograph: John Reidy 27-11-2000
Ballydesmond native, teacher and credit union founder, Nora Herlihy,1910–1988.

The shock at the announcement of broadcaster, Marian Finucane’s sudden death last night has been replaced to a degree this morning by a flood of tributes from colleagues and friends on RTÉ Radio One.

Her courage and strength in the face of the depth of criticism she faced for the topics she tackled in a very different Ireland to today’s is coming through from those who worked closely with her.

Greatly Influenced

She feared ‘neither priest nor gunman’ as the late Con Houlihan described the rising generation of the 1970s in his Wheels of the World documentary.

Marian Finucane was greatly influenced by an aunt who changed the face of Ireland – rural and urban – when she founded the credit union movement here in the 1950s.

Nora Herlihy’s photograph can be found today in most credit union offices around the country.

Nora Herlihy Museum

At the end of November 2000 Marian Finucane travelled down to Ballydesmond for the opening by John Hume, MP / MEP of the Rathmore Credit Union / Nora Herlihy Museum.

Ballydesmond native Nora Herlihy was born in February 1910. She attended school at the Sisters of Mercy Secondary School in West Limerick and began her teacher training at Carysfort College in 1931.

She started her teaching career in Ferrybank in Waterford in the mid 1930s and was soon hired by the Irish Sisters of Charity in Dublin.

Poverty, Unemployment and Money-lending

As a national school teacher in Dublin during the 1950s she came face-to-face with the effects of poverty, unemployment and money-lending on her students and their families.

She got involved in finding alternative methods for families to access help when it was needed as far back as the early 1950s.

The first two credit union offices were opened under her influence before that decade was out and from there it caught the hold it has on the Irish psyche today.

Served as Unpaid Secretary

In 1960 she was instrumental in the formation of the Irish League of Credit Unions which she conducted from the living room of her Dublin house.

She served as unpaid secretary for the organisation, teaching full-time and funding the movement’s development with her earnings.

In 1963 the board of the Credit Union League of Ireland recognized her as having made the greatest individual contribution to the Irish credit union movement.

Her efforts aided the passage of the 1966 Credit Union Act and she stood beside President Éamon de Valera as he signed the act into law.

Commendation and Praise

Marian Finucane is worthy of every syllable of commendation and praise today for her contribution to Irish life in her time.

I just thought it no harm to remind readers of the influence of another strong Irish woman who couldn’t but have influenced her in her work in airing and opening up so many aspects of life as we knew it and for opening our eyes to what we didn’t.  May God be good to them.

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