Maurice Moynihan

Maurice Moynihan
Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland
In office
29 August 1960 – 30 April 1969
Taoiseach Seán Lemass
Jack Lynch
Preceded by James McElligott
Succeeded by T. K. Whitaker
Personal details
Maurice Gerard Moynihan

(1902-12-14)14 December 1902
Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland
Died 21 August 1999(1999-08-21) (aged 96)
Skerries, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Spouse(s) Mae Conley
(m. 1932; d. 1999)
Children 5
Alma mater University College Cork

Maurice Gerard Moynihan, (14 December 1902 – 21 August 1999) was an Irish economist and civil servant who served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland from 1960 to 1969.[1] He was also a co-drafter of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, Secretary of the Government of the Irish Free State in 1937 and Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1959.

Family background

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 American-born Mae Conley in 1932, and they had five children.


Moynihan was educated by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, and won a scholarship to University College Cork, where he graduated with a first-class honours degree in Commerce.


Moynihan began his civil service career working in the Department of Fiance in 1925, and his talent was quickly recognised by Minister for Finance Ernest Blythe.[2] 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.

Later years

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"[3] 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 of Ireland 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 Central Bank of Ireland 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, the then President of Ireland, as having served his country "with great distinction and integrity, employing the finest qualities in the public service".[1] 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".[4] Echoing Professor Lee, he was considered in the view of the Irish Times "one of the greatest civil servants in the State."[1]


  • 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.


  1. ^ a b c O'Halloran, Marie (23 August 1999). "Central Bank ex-Governor, Maurice Moynihan, dies". The Irish Times.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Maurice Gerard Moynihan 1902-1999" (PDF). Bulletin. Central Bank of Ireland. Winter 1999.
  4. ^ 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.

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