Barrington, Thomas Joseph (1916–2000), civil servant, was born 16 May 1916 in Dublin, the eldest of five children of Thomas Barrington (qv), civil servant, of Corrofin, Co. Clare, and his wife, Eileen, née Bracken, the half-sister of Brendan Bracken (qv) and daughter of J. K. Bracken (qv) of Templemore, Co. Tipperary, a founding member of the GAA. He attended Belvedere College, Dublin, and when his father died when he was thirteen, Belvedere waived his school fees. However, the family was left in straitened circumstances and he was unable to attend university. On leaving Belvedere in 1933, he went to work with Lalor's Candlemakers of Dublin. He later got a job editing and producing the Capuchin Annual, which enabled him to attend UCD as a night student; he graduated with a degree in economics in 1939.
In 1941 Barrington was appointed administrative officer at the Department of Finance, before being transferred to the Department of Local Government and Public Health in 1944. Some time afterwards, he was appointed private secretary to the then minister for local government, Seán MacEntee (qv), with whom he enjoyed a close working relationship. In 1945 he listed for the Department of the Taoiseach the major issues with which the Department of Local Government had been concerned during the 1939–45 emergency. By the early 1950s he was in charge of the personnel division of his department but regarded the civil service as a stagnant bureaucracy. As a result, he was one of a small group of senior civil servants who established discussion groups on the quality of civil service thinking and management. Inspired by academic articles on public administration by Basil Chubb (qv) and Patrick Lynch (qv), the discussion groups led to the launch of a journal called Administration, which was first edited by Barrington, and then to the creation of the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in 1957.
In 1960, Barrington was seconded from the civil service to become the institute's first full-time director, an office he held until his retirement in 1976. He was an important moderniser of public administration in Ireland who, along with an elite group of young civil servants, helped to professionalise the working lives of public sector employees. While disappointed during his career at the IPA's failure to become a civil service training college along the lines of the French École Nationale D'Administration, his legacy can be seen in the subsequent development of the institute, which later offered a BA programme in public administration, an MA in policy studies and a wide range of management consultancy and management training services. His work was never insular and he established links with many developing countries, especially in Africa, where he helped to introduce modern management skills. Always an advocate for greater decentralisation in Ireland, after his retirement he devoted much of his energies to this cause. His appointment as chairman of the advisory expert committee on local government reorganisation and reform was clear recognition by government of his expertise in the area, and the report of the Barrington committee in December 1990 influenced subsequent initiatives on decentralisation.
Barrington lived in Dublin and latterly in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. In recognition of his major contribution to the development of public administration, the NUI awarded him an honorary LLD in 1986. He held many positions on international bodies, serving at various times as executive member of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences and the European Group of Public Administration, Ford Foundation adviser on government institutions in Ghana, and council member of the Agency for Personnel Service Overseas. He published works on public administration, notably From big government to local government: the road to decentralisation (1975) and The Irish administrative system (1980). He had a lifelong love of Co. Kerry, which was clearly demonstrated when he published Discovering Kerry: its history, heritage and topography (1976). In 1941 he married Áine (née Cox; d. 1997), a teacher from Co. Dublin. They had six children, four sons and two daughters. One of his daughters, Dr Ruth Barrington (Delap), became chief executive of the health research board in Dublin. His brother Donal (b. 1928) served as a judge of the high court (1979–89), European court of justice (1989–95) and supreme court (1996–2000). Thomas Barrington died 27 April 2000 in St Joseph's Centre, Shankill, Co. Dublin.