Maurice Gerard Moynihan (December 1902 – 21 August 1999) was a senior Irish civil servant, co-drafter of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, Secretary of the Government of the Irish Free State in 1937, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland in 1960, and Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1959.
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Moynihan was born in Tralee, County Kerry, brother of Sean O'Muimhneachain, a member of the Irish Volunteers, and later Sinn Féin and both sons of Mary and Maurice Moynihan (died 1918) of Tylough, County Kerry, a leading nationalist who was campaign manager for the constitutional nationalist Thomas O'Donnell, M.P. The two brothers took opposite sides, Maurice for, and Sean against, the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, but both ended-up working for Éamon de Valera. A third brother, Michael, who joined the British Army, was killed in action in World War I on 3 June 1918. Their sister Johanna was a member of Cumann na mBan, interned along with Sean during the Irish Civil War. Maurice was also a cousin of Patrick Denis O'Donnell, with shared interests in Irish history. Maurice married US-born Mae Conley in 1932, and they had five children.
Moynihan began his civil service career working in the Department of Finance in 1925, and his talent was quickly recognised by Finance Minister Ernest Blythe. He was promoted to become Private Secretary to the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera in 1932. He was appointed Secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach, and Secretary to the Government in 1937, in which post he served until 1960. In 1960 he was appointed as Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, having been a Service Director thereof from 1953 to 1960. He was one of the "architects" of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland.
After his retirement from the Central Bank of Ireland in 1969, he devoted much of his time in the following years to writing. His considerable archives are now in the custody of University College Dublin (UCD). During his retirement, he also served as Director of the Trinity Bank. He died at age 96 in the Leeson Park Nursing Home, and was buried in Clontarf Cemetery in Dublin.
Influence and legacy
He is acknowledged to have played a “central, constructive role in the coordination of government policy generally”, and “his contribution to the development of the State was significant and enduring....matched only by his modesty and courteous manner” in the early formative years of the newly independent Irish Free State and later Republic of Ireland.
He was also a close collaborator of de Valera in defending Ireland's neutrality during the World War II. He is also credited by the Central Bank with having stewarded its development in areas such as the issuance of credit advice to banks marking the beginnings of monetary policy, the provision of rediscounting facilities, active participation in the market for government securities, the development of clearing systems and preparatory work for a money market, and the widening of fund backing to include non-sterling assets. During his Governorship, the Bank assumed responsibility for the administration of exchange controls, the printing of banknotes in Dublin, as well as banking supervision. He oversaw the supervision of the bank mergers, and the centralisation of foreign exchange reserves. He also initiated monetary research and economic policy formulation in the Central Bank. He initiated the construction of the modern Central Bank premises in Dame Street in Dublin.
Honours and tributes
He was conferred with an honorary Doctorate in Economic Science by the National University of Ireland in 1955, and was invested as a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1959.
On his death, he was acknowledged by Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, as having served his country “with great distinction and integrity, employing the finest qualities in the public service”. He was also described as a “most independent civil servant, respected by politicians and civil servants alike”, by Professor Patrick Lynch, prominent economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Government. J.J. Lee, Professor of History in Cork, described him as one of the greatest public servants who ever served the State, and “a man in whom the institutions of the State found an absolutely trustworthy protector”. He was "imbued with a profound sense of loyalty and commitment to public service”. Echoing Professor Lee, he was considered in the view of the Irish Times "one of the greatest civil servants in the State."
- Currency and Central Banking in Ireland – 1922–1960, by Maurice G. Moynihan, published by the Central Bank and Gill & MacMillan, Dublin, 1975.
- Speeches and Statements by Eamon de Valera – 1917–1973, by Maurice G. Moynihan, Gill & MacMillan, Dublin, 1980.
- O'Halloran, Marie (23 August 1999). "Central Bank ex-Governor, Maurice Moynihan, dies". The Irish Times.
- Kennelly, Padraig (26 August 1999). "Death of Maurice Moynihan, who signed the banknotes". Kerry's Eye.
This article attributes Moynihan with a key role in supporting de Valera's success in dissuading British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from re-occupying Irish ports during World War II.
- "Maurice Gerard Moynihan 1902-1999" (PDF). Bulletin. Central Bank of Ireland. Winter 1999.
- McMahon, Deirdre (Spring 2000). "Maurice Moynihan (1902–1999) Irish Civil Servant: An Appreciation". Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review. Dublin. 89 (353): 71–76. JSTOR 30095327. (registration required (. ))