Beddy, James Patrick (1900–76), public servant and economist, was born 28 September 1900 in Cobh, Co. Cork, the eldest son and second of the three children of Thomas Robert Beddy, RIC constable, and Mary Beddy (née Barry), of Macroom, Co. Cork. The family moved first to Belfast (c.1906) and then to Dublin (c.1912) where he was educated at O'Connell CBS, Dublin (where he was a classmate of Seán Lemass (qv)), and then joined the civil service. He attended UCD while working with the revenue commissioners, and graduated B.Comm. (1924) with first-class honours; he was also the first graduate of UCD to obtain an M.Comm. In 1927 he became an inspector of taxes, in which capacity he served for a time in Tralee, Co. Kerry.
In 1933 Lemass appointed Beddy secretary of the newly formed Industrial Credit Corporation (ICC), with J. P. Colbert (qv) as the first chairman and managing director. During the early years of the ICC, between 1934 and 1938, Beddy was an intrinsic part of the team that helped to double the capitalisation of the Irish stock exchange. In 1949, as well as being made a director of the ICC, he was appointed chairman (1949–65) of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), newly established to attract foreign investment to Ireland. In its early years the IDA had little incentive to offer potential investors other than the invaluable advice of Beddy and his team.
Beddy was instrumental in 1950 in advising and assisting Tom Roche (qv) in the flotation of a company called Roadstone. The issue was hugely undersubscribed and the ICC, as underwriter, was forced to take up a large number of shares. However, the subsequent success of Roche's venture meant that taking up the shares was to prove more of a benefit than a burden. The relationships between Roadstone and the ICC and between Roche and Beddy were to prove enduring, and nowhere was this seen more clearly than when the ICC advised Roadstone during the transaction that resulted in the creation of Cement Roadstone Holdings.
From 1952 to 1965 Beddy was chairman of An Foras Tionscail, originally established to provide grants for foreign firms that established concerns west of the Shannon but later extended to include east of the Shannon. In 1952 he was one of several high-profile figures from public and private industry who came together to found the Irish Management Institute. Among the others were Aer Lingus chief J. F. Dempsey (qv) and the general manager of the Dublin port and docks board, Denis A. Hegarty (qv).
Colbert stepped down from the ICC in 1952 and Beddy served as chairman (1953–72) and managing director (1953–69) with full effect from April 1953. In the face of great hostility from the Federation of Irish Industry, the ICC was involved as lender or underwriter for many foreign enterprises operating in Ireland. The 1950s was a decade of economic gloom, and the ICC's role began to change from underwriter to that of lender, which resulted in a constant shortage of capital during the period. Strained relations between the ICC and the Department of Finance only served to make the situation more difficult. When Beddy approached the department to discuss ICC's difficulties in relation to capital, he was instructed that the ICC should divest itself of every share it had acquired through its underwriting business; only then would the department discuss the issue.
Beddy's standing within the public sector led to his appointment on 14 July 1956 as chairman of the committee of inquiry into internal transport. Among other members were Dempsey and James J. Stafford (qv). Despite the committee's title, its main concern was the future of the state-owned transport company CIÉ and the ever-increasing drain on public funds by its railway network. The committee carried out extensive oral hearings and received numerous lengthy submissions, including those of CIÉ drafted by its general manager Frank Lemass (qv). Beddy and his committee carried out an exhaustive examination of the railways, and when the report was published (4 May 1957) it concluded that there was little justification for funding a railway that was vastly underutilised and overstaffed. While the report outlined the numerous reasons for closing the railways entirely, it ultimately shied away from recommending full closure. Instead it concluded that the CIÉ be given time to allow the railway to justify its existence by contracting its operations to bring them in line with demand. Overall the report envisaged a dramatic 65 per cent reduction in lines and a 75 per cent reduction in stations.
Beddy's various roles in the later 1950s were all geared towards the one aim of stimulating industry, and that was made considerably easier when T. K. Whitaker as head of the Department of Finance supported a loan of £1.8 million to the ICC from the Irish banks. At the same time the Lemass government reduced import tariffs and removed restrictions on foreign ownership of Irish firms, thus easing Beddy's task of encouraging foreign investment. The record economic growth achieved throughout the 1960s saw the ICC's business become 80 per cent lending based. When Beddy had become chairman and managing director the reverse had been the position. To reflect this change in its core business, Beddy oversaw the establishment in 1969 of a subsidiary, Mergers Ltd, to deal with issues to the stock market.
Beddy was one of a generation of industrialists who viewed the development of the economy in patriotic terms. In addition to the roles already noted, he was a member of the industrial research committee of the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards (1946–60), chairman of the commission on emigration and other population problems (1948–54), a member of a three-man committee established to look into the 1955 bank dispute, and a council member of the Economic and Social Research Institute (1960–75). For more than three decades he pioneered the evolution and expansion of Irish industry, developing the institutional framework for the promotion and financing of Irish industry and travelling widely throughout Europe and North America encouraging investment in Ireland. Following a trip to the USA in 1956 he prophetically described the prospects of American investment in Ireland as ‘promising’. Considered to be above politics, Beddy continued in public service after his sixty-fifth birthday by special agreement with the taoiseach, Jack Lynch (qv).
Outside of industry Beddy lectured on economic geography at UCD (1936–51) and was awarded a D.Econ.Sc. from the NUI for his published thesis, Profits: theoretical and practical aspects (1940). He also published several articles on economic matters, was elected MRIA (1964) and served as president (1954–6) of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland (1954–6). In 1963 he was awarded an honorary LLD by TCD.
A hard worker, Beddy was loyal, considerate, and gracious, while being a tough negotiator. Slightly deaf and conscious of his health, he was regarded as a private man, though one with a dry sense of humour. A keen fisherman and an excellent shot, he was also a member of the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the St. Stephen's Green Club.
In 1925 Beddy married Teresa Coghlan (d. 1972), of Foxford, Co. Mayo. Her father was the sales manager of Foxford woollen mills. They lived at 15 Spencer Villas, Glenageary, and had one son and two daughters. Beddy died 28 September 1976 in St Michael's nursing home, Dun Laoghaire.