Goods Council chief executive who created Buy Irish scheme

Sat, Mar 14, 2009, 00:00

VIVIAN MURRAY: VIVIAN MURRAY, who has died aged 76, was the former chief executive of the Irish Goods Council and spearheaded the “Guaranteed Irish” campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s.

He launched the initiative having come to the view that the money spent on the Buy Irish campaign would be better spent on a consumer-oriented campaign, which emphasised the quality of Irish goods rather than appeal to patriotic instincts no matter how high the price or poor the quality.

Guaranteed Irish was a double-edged weapon, encouraging manufacturers to live up to a quality image and encouraging consumers to place their trust where the after-sales service was.

Quality, which he defined as suitability for end use, was a major concern for him. Vivian Murray believed strongly that firms that cut corners just did not make the grade.

He was wary of the emphasis on exports, which, he argued, ignored the importance of home-based industry whose natural market was the home market.

However he favoured free trade over protectionism and insisted that the Irish Goods Council was not a lobby for protectionists.

“What the Irish Goods Council does is to create the selling environment, develop new patterns of consumer desire, build up goodwill and favourable attitudes,” he said in 1980. “These attitudes must then be exploited by the manufacturer.”

Speaking in a Seanad debate in 1980 Mary Harney, then a senator, congratulated him and his colleagues on their work, which ensured that many thousands of Irish people remained in jobs and that many young people had jobs they might otherwise not have had.

Subsequently Government backing for the Guaranteed Irish promotion was found to be in contravention of the Treaty of Rome. State funding was thus cut and his Irish Goods Council involvement ended. He retired from the council in 1989.

Born in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, in 1932, Vivian was one of the six children of Jeremiah Murray and his wife Mai (née Lynch).

Educated by the Christian Brothers at the High School, Clonmel, he began his working life in the town’s post office.

He later worked for Kelly and Shiel and Remington Rand before being appointed general manager of the National Development Association, which later became the Irish Goods Council.

As head of the development association, he helped to organise trade fairs of Irish goods, supported co-operatives and enhanced the profile of Irish exports.

In 1981 he was appointed chairman of Bord Iascaigh Mhara and served for two terms. Appointed chairman of An Post in 1990, he played an important role in revamping the company and returning it to modest profitability.

Proud of his roots, in 1990 he was happy to accept an invitation from the late Dr Tony Ryan to sit on the board of Tipperary Enterprise, which was set up to give the county’s business a boost.

However, with other board members he was shocked and angered to learn of “misapplied funds” that led to the company being wound up in 1993.

Following his retirement from the Irish Goods Council, he joined Gray-Murray consultants, which was subsequently renamed Indecon.

After he finally retired in the mid-1990s, he became closely involved in the work of the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe, based at the Irish College in Leuven in Belgium.

He was a member of the board and a trustee of the institute whose aim is to promote EU awareness in Ireland and Irish arts and culture in mainland Europe.

He was recently awarded a fellowship of the institute in recognition of his contribution to its development.

A fluent Irish speaker, he had a great love of Irish culture and worked with the late Fr James McDyer on community projects in Glencolumcille, Co Donegal.

Active in his parish, he was a member of the Priory Institute attached to St Mary’s Dominican Priory, Tallaght, Co Dublin.

A former member of the National Savings Committee, he was appointed to the first Independent Radio and Television Commission.

He was a former director of LSB College, Dublin.

He was named the Small Firms’ Association Business Person of the Year in 1989.

A keen golfer, he was a member of Castle Golf Club.

He is survived by his wife Nancy (née Clear), sons Dermot and John and daughters Mary, Anne, Bernie and Madeleine.

Vivian Murray: born July 22nd, 1932; died March 6th, 2009