Leading businessman and a founder of Taca


DESMOND MACGREEVY: Desmond MacGreevy, who died on March 12th aged 78, was a leading Dublin quantity surveyor, who in the 1960s believed that the economic future of the State was best assured through the financial support of Fianna Fáil by leading industrialists.

As a founder member and first chairman of the controversial Taca fund-raising organisation for Fianna Fáil, Desmond MacGreevy was close to young ministers including Donogh O'Malley and Charles Haughey who were making their mark in the party under Seán Lemass's leadership. But he soon became disillusioned with the in-fighting which began to tear the party apart following the succession of Jack Lynch and concentrated on building up what was to become one of the biggest quantity surveying firms in the State.

He was born in Phibsboro, Dublin, on February 17th, 1924. His father, William MacGreevy, was a buyer for Arnotts drapery store who had come to Dublin from Newport, Co Mayo. The family roots, Desmond MacCreevy said, traced back to the area around Boyle, Co Roscommon, and the ancestral seat of Moylurg. But his own roots were in Dublin and he held that the only true Dubliners were those, like himself, born between the two canals.

He was educated at St Vincent's Christian Brothers School, Glasnevin. After leaving school, he studied the economics of construction and quantity surveying at Bolton Street College of Technology. After getting his diploma he sat for the examinations of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, then the principal body for the profession in Britain and Ireland.

After qualifying as a chartered quantity surveyor in 1948, he worked for a time with Dublin Corporation and then for a year with a company in Cork before setting up his own practice in Dublin in 1950. Two years later he married Kay Armstrong.

It was an era of economic depression and a particularly difficult time for the construction industry. When the economic climate improved under the stimulus of the Whitaker programme for economic expansion and the leadership of Lemass, the rising tide lifted the MacGreevy practice, which expanded into a flourishing partnership. His political contacts with the leading lights in Fianna Fáil helped to secure valuable work on some large construction projects including Ballymun.

Under the Taca system 500 invited members paid an annual subscription of £100 and attended dinners at which Fianna Fáil ministers were present. One of these, Kevin Boland, recalled later how heavily the construction industry was represented. Unfavourable publicity about Taca soon led to its dissolution by Lynch. Desmond MacGreevy resigned soon afterwards from Fianna Fáil but retained his interest in politics.

He used to claim that he had influenced Donogh O'Malley as Minister for Education to introduce free secondary school education. He regarded himself as a radical and with some sympathy for socialism. He travelled widely and studied building methods and ideas in the Soviet Union and other countries.

He succeeded Donogh O'Malley as chairman of the National Building Advisory Council and when it was merged with An Foras Forbatha he was appointed a director. He resigned two years later over a disagreement with the way it was being run. He was also a founder director of the Building Centre of Ireland, which his brother Don, an architect, helped set up.

Meanwhile, his quantity surveying practice was expanding as he secured many major contracts. These included the new Central Bank headquarters on Dame Street; the expansion of RTÉ at Montrose; the engineering and agricultural faculties at Belfield; the new Dublin Airport Hotel; the National Currency Centre in Sandyford; Ireland House in London and an office block in Brussels. His firm also worked on the renovations of the colleges of technology at Bolton Street and Kevin Street.

The firm opened offices in London and Düsseldorf. It was through the latter that MacGreevy and Partners were appointed quantity surveyors to the development of the port of Bandar-e 'Abbas in Iran, a $90 million contract which was interrupted by the fall of the Shah but was resumed under the new Islamic regime.

His sympathy for victims of oppression was shown by his involvement in the Chilean Refugee Committee in Ireland following the overthrow of President Allende. He was also chairman of the Council of Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland.

He remained active with his firm up to the day of his death. He was a Peace Commissioner; a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; a Fellow of the Institute of Directors; a founder director and chairman of MacGreevy Keane Mediation and a founder director of Gallery 22, in which his brother Don was involved.

He is survived by his wife Kay and sons, Dara and Conor. He was pre-deceased by his brothers, Don and Oliver, and by his twin sisters, Eileen and Moira.

Desmond MacGreevy: born 1924; died, March 2002