Irish American billionaire Chuck Feeney, a key player in the Irish peace process, has joined the Giving Pledge, a campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates last year asking members of the project to pledge the majority of their fortunes to charity within their lifetimes or after their deaths.
Feeeny has donated billions to educational projects in Ireland, and his Atlantic Philanthropies is the largest philanthropy operating there.
Feeney, who was born in New Jersey and became a billionaire after co-founding the Duty Free Shops Group in 1960, had initially decided not to participate in the charitable project. More than 25 years ago, Feeney transferred almost all his personal wealth and assets to the Atlantic Foundation, a precursor of his current charitable organization, the Atlantic Philanthropies, which has given more than $1 billion to Ireland.
He has now decided to join the Giving Pledge movement.
“Though I cannot pledge that which I already have given -- the Atlantic Philanthropies have made over $5.5 billion in grants since inception -- I want now to publicly add my enthusiastic support for this effort and celebrate this great accomplishment,” he said in a letter published on the Giving Pledge website.
Buffett welcomed Feeney’s announcement, saying, “As someone who shares Chuck’s belief that early giving is important, I admire his philosophy of giving while living and appreciate the enthusiasm that he brings to his philanthropic work.”
Said Feeney, “I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living –--to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”
Feeney was one of the Irish American leaders who secured a U.S. visa for Gerry Adams in 1994 which led to the IRA ceasefire.
Three million people in the world are descended from one Irish High King