A force behind country's economic growth in the 60s

Sat, Nov 17, 2001, 00:00

Professor Patrick Lynch, who died on November 16th aged 84, was closely involved with the economic, academic, commercial and administrative life of the country.

Professor of Political Economy at University College Dublin until 1980, he was a civil servant for over a decade, served as chairman of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta and was also vice-chairman of AIB.

A profound thinker on the relationship between social and economic affairs, he was described by one colleague as radical when the prevailing orthodoxy in the Republic was very conservative.

Patrick Lynch believed in a positive role for the State in the promotion of economic and social development. He contributed much to the thinking behind the Whitaker plan for economic development which helped to create the economic growth of the 1960s.

But he also warned against pursuing economic growth as an end in itself, noting that it contributed less to the general welfare of the community than spending on education, health, housing and social security.

Patrick Lynch was born in May, 1917, in Dublin, the first child of Daniel and Brigid Lynch. He was educated at the Catholic University School, Dublin, and at University College Dublin, where he achieved outstanding academic success.

The college never lost its hold on him and he was later to give up a promising career in the Civil Service to return there as a lecturer.

Upon graduating in 1941, he joined the Department of Finance as a civil servant. Seven years later he was chosen by the department to become private secretary to the Taoiseach, John A Costello, who had asked for someone with a good knowledge of economics. Along with Alexis Fitzgerald, he helped persuade Costello to adopt a Keynesian approach to economic policy.

Two years later he was appointed assistant secretary to the inter-party government led by Costello and he continued in this post when Fianna Fβil resumed power in 1951. He had also become chairman of the inter-departmental Foreign Trade Committee.

But the pull of the academic life remained strong. He had never lost contact with the university and when the new post of lecturer in economics was created in UCD in 1952, he left his Civil Service career to take on the job, a move seen as unusual at the time.

However, he continued to serve the State in other ways. In 1954, he was appointed chairman of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta at the young age of 38, taking on the task of turning the £60,000 deficit of the companies into a profit.

In 1959, already working in the academic and semi-state sectors, he became involved with the private sector when he became a director of the Provincial Bank of Ireland. It later became part of AIB and Patrick Lynch was made a director of the bank in 1970 and vice-chairman of the group in 1975.

In spite of the remarkable variety of commitments which he already had, he found time to become founder chairman of the National Library Society of Ireland in 1969.

He also became the first Irish member of the Club of Rome, with members drawn from among scientists, humanists, economists, sociologists, educators and civil servants, in 1973.

At this time, in addition to his many other interests, he was also chairman of the Institute of Public Administration, treasurer of the Royal Irish Academy and a member of the National Economic and Social Council.

He was elected to the Seanad in 1972 as a representative of the National University of Ireland.

The NUI conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Economic Science on him in 1985. A year earlier, the Royal Dublin Society had conferred honorary life membership on him in recognition of his contribution to academic, economic and business life and to the advancement of economic planning and development.

He also served on the Public Advisory Council, the National Industrial Economic Council and the Medico-Social Research Board.

He was rather scathing about his period on the Public Advisory Council, which he said "achieved nothing whatever in promoting reform because of the absolute resistance to change among senior civil servants."

But he could be scathing about the universities, too, describing them as "the most conservative forces in our society."

He was a member of the Association for Civil Liberties and of the Anti-Apartheid Movement although he did not agree with the academic boycott of South Africa.

In 1986, when violent protests forced Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien to abandon a series of lectures at the non-discriminatory University of Cape Town, he publicly attacked the Anti-Apartheid Movement's then chairman, Kader Asmal, who had accused Dr O'Brien of betrayal.

The academic boycott of open universities was a perversion of the role of the movement, he said.

Patrick Lynch enjoyed reading and music and was an excellent conversationalist. Described by friends as warm and enthusiastic, he was predeceased by his wife, Mary Campbell, whom he married in 1965.

He subsequently married Mary Moloney, by whom he is survived along with family members Gordon, Louanna and Patrick and his sister Margaret.

Professor Patrick Lynch: born 1917; died, November 2001