Finn (O'Finn), Edmund (Edward) (1767–1811), United Irishman and soldier in the French army, was born in Co. Cork, one of at least two sons of a respectable small farmer and provision merchant; no further details are known of his parents. Information on him is scattered and at times contradictory. With his brother John he joined the Cork Legion of yeomanry, and then enrolled in the United Irishmen c.1796. He was a member, and possibly president, of the Munster executive, and met Arthur (qv) and Roger O'Connor (qv) on their trip to Cork in 1796. In January 1798 a warrant for high treason was issued against him, and he was named in the exile bill, suffering the penalty of death if he returned.
One account states that he escaped to London with his wife (name unknown) and became involved in merchant shipping. This was a convenient front, as he soon met up with Arthur O'Connor and joined a committee of militant United Irishmen allied with the London Corresponding Society. O'Connor and the Rev. James Coigly (qv) chose him to go to Paris to inform the United Irish organisation there of plans for an invasion of Ireland. Travelling as ‘Spencer’, he crossed over to Holland (then the Batavian Republic) with his wife and a brother, identified as Francis. On arriving in Rotterdam he was arrested as a British subject but soon released and permitted to go on to The Hague. There he was granted passports by the French minister Charles Delacroix, who knew Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv). Via Brussels he travelled to Paris, where he arrived in February 1798. A split had occurred among the United Irishmen there, and he aligned himself with James Napper Tandy (qv). He was supposedly received by Napoleon Bonaparte and conveyed the detailed plans of O'Connor and Coigly for a French invasion of Ireland, in which he overstated the Irish rebels’ organisation and readiness to rise, while understating military needs. Unlike other Irish refugees, he made demands on the French authorities, exposing himself – according to Tone, who was asked to vouch for his countrymen – as ‘a mere adventurer and fellow of no character’ (Life, 855). Though he may have been an ADC to Tandy, he did not sail on his expedition to Donegal in September 1798. An ‘O'Finn’ is listed as a fugitive rebel on a list of Paris United Irishmen submitted to Talleyrand on 13 September 1799. Later that year, with his brother, he petitioned French officials, claiming that the revenues arising out of the sale of the Irish College had been made available to the minister of the interior to aid needy Irish patriots exiled in France.
Finn joined the French army and rose to the rank of colonel in the Lanciers de Bergh, and fought throughout the peninsular war. On the morning of 25 September 1811 he led a reconnaissance party towards the Lower Azava river, to the south-west of Ciudad Rodrigo in Spain, until they met a force of British cavalry and infantry and were driven back across the river. Finn was cut off with a small group of his men on a bridge, while covering his regiment's retreat. Refusing quarter, they were eventually surrounded and killed. A British officer, Col. O'Donovan, who had known Finn in childhood, recognised him and insisted on burying his body personally.