CONCERN Worldwide’s director of public affairs, Richard Dixon likes to consider himself a Clare man. He’s not from Clare. He belongs to that group of Clare exiles living in Dublin who believe in their hearts that they are from Clare.
Richard’s parents hail from Kilkee and moved to Dublin in the early 1970s. They naturally took young Richard with them and that’s part of his claim to Clare. Of course, he is back there every few months and has close links with the Banner County.
Richard has been working with Concern for over 20 years and his new job as director of public affairs is in many ways a culmination of the vast experience he has gained with the aid agency.
He sees his new job as a link between Concern and its supporters. “It’s my job to talk coherently with our supporters and by supporters, I mean anyone who does anything for Concern.
“It’s my job to see that as many people as possible in Ireland see the work that Concern is doing but it is also important that they are proud of what we do. And it is my wish to get across the message that Concern is really a great Irish success story,” he said.
He is emphatic in pointing out that his door is always open to anyone who wants to talk to him about any aspect of the organisation. He stresses that the person who contributes one cent has exactly the same call on his time as those who make large donations.
“We have to take great care of every cent we get. Eighty-eight cent of every euro we receive goes to our programmes in the 28 countries where we are working. And, of course, it is vital we recognise those people who make our work possible.
“Concern is respected in every village in Ireland – that’s our bedrock because people know Concern is passionate about making life better for the poorest of the poor. Naturally that trust means that we have a huge obligation to those who support us. It is part of my job to make sure that trust is not broken,” Richard said.
In his two decades with Concern, he has been on five overseas assignments. In 1991 he was with the Concern emergency response team helping Kurdish refugees during the Iran-Iraq war. The following year, he was in Tanzania supporting the Concern team distributing food and working in logistics. In 1998, he spent six months in South Sudan where he was seconded to the United Nations where he was again working in logistics. He spent four months in Kosovo assisting refugees from Kosovo.
“People often ask me if Concern makes a difference. I have been back in a place called Aweil in South Sudan and I have really been impressed with what I saw and how life has improved for the people living there,” Richard remarked.
In 1999, Richard opened the Concern office in Chicago where he spent three years.
“The late Fr Aengus Finucane opened our New York office in 1993. We have good connections in the US. In 2009, we raised €10m ($8.34m) in the States.
“The day I arrived in my new job in Chicago, I attended a function at Gaelic Park where I met Maura
Corry from Coore. She moved to Chicago as a teacher in 1990,” he said.
These days she is back in Ireland and as fanatical about Clare as her husband, Richard. They live in Tyrellestown, near Blanchardstown, with their two-year-old triplets.