Economist Kieran Kennedy dies

Kieran Kennedy was director of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) from 1971 to 1996. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Kieran Kennedy was director of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) from 1971 to 1996. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 00:00

The death has taken place of the economist and fine art enthusiast Kieran Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy (77) was director of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) from 1971 to 1996, and in 1982 was recruited by Taoiseach Charles Haughey to help formulate the economic plan “The Way Forward”.

Although Haughey was not returned to Government in the subsequent general election, The Way Forward was credited as being the blueprint for remedial measures taken when Haughey did return to power in 1987.

Of his experience working with the politician, Kennedy is reported to have said he never encountered a person with such an incisive mind and intellect as Haughey.

Kennedy began his career with the civil service in 1954 as an executive officer in the Department of Finance. He took evening courses at UCD and overcame a bout of TB before going on to win a travelling scholarship to study at Oxford and Harvard universities. While at Oxford he studied under Sir John Hicks and at Harvard under Simon Kuznets - both Noble prize winning economists.

Kennedy was only 35-years-old when he was appointed director of the ESRI and remained at the helm of the State’s principle economic think tank for the next quarter of a century.

On retirement he was apparently happy not to keep up his interest in economics and devoted his time to fine arts.

As a member of the Legion of Mary, he undertook evangelising missions to England. He worked on the papers of the Legion's founder, Frank Duff, whose cause for canonisation Kennedy helped to promote. He was also an active ecumenist.

His wife, Finola, to whom he was introduced by Mr Duff, is the author of the seminal sociological study on the Irish family. They have six grown-up children.