Doyle, Maurice Francis (1931–2009), civil servant and governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, was born 14 December 1931, the only son of Valentine Doyle, builder, and his wife Agnes (née O'Growney), of 212 Collins Avenue, Drumcondra, Dublin. Educated at O'Connell School, North Richmond Street, he graduated BA in economics from UCD (1952) and BL from King's Inns (1953), and entered the civil service in 1953 as an administrative officer. Seconded to the Revenue Commissioners for two years (1954–6), he was recruited in late 1957 by T. K. Whitaker to work on the research, coordinated by Charles Murray (qv), used in the publication of Economic development (1958). Doyle compiled the research on agriculture, then the mainstay of the Irish economy. Seconded to the Department of the Taoiseach (1958–9) for the first programme for economic expansion (1958–63), he also worked on the design and implementation of the second (1964–70) and third (1969–73) programmes.
Doyle was rapidly promoted from assistant principal to second secretary (1971) in charge of medium-term and structural economic planning in the Department of Finance. In November 1974 he represented Ireland at the negotiations leading to the founding of the International Energy Agency, an OECD body established in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Involved with early manifestations of social partnership, he attended meetings of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) from its establishment in 1973, and filled a range of ex officio roles, garnering valuable experience in EEC and international economic policy. He was Irish representative on the economic policy commission of the OECD, led the Irish delegation during the establishment of the EEC regional development fund, and in July 1975 was elected vice-chairman of the resulting regional policy committee. In 1977 he became second secretary in charge of the public expenditure division, and in November 1981, at the age of 49, was appointed secretary of the Department of Finance.
Experienced in the management of public expenditure, Doyle had seen taxation develop from a means of revenue generation to become an 'instrument for social and economic development' (Doyle, 67). Amid rumours of a likely Irish default as international debt increased by a third in 1982, he wrote in October 1982 to the Times of London denying insolvency was imminent. Managing to convince Minister for Finance Ray McSharry of the parlous state of the exchequer that month, Doyle urged spending restraint as debt-servicing costs mounted, and developed a reputation for being forthright with his political masters. The government minister Jim Mitchell (qv) would publicly recall to Doyle in 1999: 'I remember very well you terrorising the cabinet with your laconic wit … in '82 to '87' (Ir. Independent, 5 May 1999).
Doyle worked closely with Minister for Finance Alan Dukes (December 1982–February 1986) on an austere fiscal adjustment that by 1987 had eliminated the primary budget deficit, albeit at the cost of rising unemployment. Critical of the excessive burden of taxation borne by PAYE workers in comparison to the agricultural and corporate sectors, Doyle highlighted the consistently poor return on investment generated by commercial state enterprises. After briefly serving with the top level appointments committee from January 1987, Doyle became governor of the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) on 1 May 1987.
Although speaking sparingly in public, Doyle consistently denounced the over-reliance of successive Irish governments on deficit financing. As agent, advisor and banker to the government, managing the exchange rate (determined by the minister for finance) and setting interest rates, Doyle exercised a public role centred around shepherding the Irish pound's value within the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of the European Monetary System (EMS). With European Monetary Union (EMU) envisaged to commence in 1992, Doyle repeatedly highlighted regional disparities in European living standards and opined that 'Ireland did not join the European Communities in order to become the Appalachia of western Europe' (Ir. Times, 11 February 1988). He strongly supported generously redistributive EEC regional policy to aid economic convergence and to finance high-quality, capital-generating infrastructure, lest peripheral regions become mere 'national parks, suitable for vacations' (Ir. Times, 12 December 1988). Alongside fellow central bank governors of the member states, Doyle served on the 'Delors committee' (June 1988–April 1989), chaired by European Commission president Jacques Delors, which laid out the necessary steps to be taken in going from the single market to full EMU. Committed to the European project, Doyle lamented the subdued level of Irish public debate on political and economic implications of EMU as 'a process akin to sleepwalking' (Ir. Times, 20 April 1991).
Cognisant of the ballooning debt-to-GDP ratio, and critical of the subsidisation of public and private housing as unnecessary, Doyle urged the cessation of generous supports for the semi-state sector and the professions. He pursued a strong exchange rate within the Bundesbank-led ERM as a means to limit inflation and ensure price stability, accepting higher interest rates if necessary. In response to the differential between German and Irish interest rates, he noted that 'we are making progress, but we are still paying for past sins' (Ir. Times, 9 February 1990), as inexorable exchange-rate tensions emerged in 1990–91. With the balance of political and economic interests seeking a strong Irish pound, Doyle faced a paradox: Ireland's quest for enhanced exchange rate stability within the EMS required a floating exchange rate with the UK, its main trading partner. Favouring a strong Irish pound to combat inflation, Doyle increased the inter-bank overnight borrowing rate to 100 per cent (26 November 1992) in an attempt to forestall speculative short selling of the Irish pound, which had commenced with sterling's ERM exit in October. On 12 January 1993, he privately reported to his EEC central bank colleagues at a Basle meeting how over fifty European banks had simultaneously adopted large speculative positions on the Irish pound 'unrelated to investment or trade transactions' (James, 369). Publicly questioning the societal value of such speculation, he urged the imposition of windfall taxes on such profiteering. While domestic, particularly agricultural, interests dependent on the UK market (which absorbed 30 per cent of Irish exports) clamoured for a devaluation of the Irish pound, the new minister for finance, Bertie Ahern, faced interest rates approaching 20 per cent in defence of the Irish pound. Drawing on the expertise of Doyle, Peter Sutherland, Michael Somers of the National Treasury Management Agency, and Sean Cromien and Maurice O'Connell of the Department of Finance, Ahern devalued the Irish pound by 10 per cent on 30 January 1993. Despite its being a political decision, Doyle was widely blamed for the devaluation.
In an address to the TCD Philosophy Society (18 November 1993), Doyle decried the emigration of half a million Irish citizens over the previous decade. To improve Ireland's economic performance, he called for a widening of the tax base, integration of the social welfare and tax systems to improve incentives and remove distortions, and warned of the pernicious impact of 'distributional coalitions and lobby groups' (Ir. Independent, 19 November 1993). Press comment focused on his brief remarks about social welfare fraud; the ensuing furore was amplified when on 1 December 1993 he refused a request to appear before the dáil public accounts committee from its chairman, Jim Mitchell.
Doyle's appointment on 1 January 1994 as vice-president of the European Monetary Institute, precursor of the European Central Bank, was indicative of the professional esteem in which his fellow central bankers held him. Awarded an honorary LLD by the NUI (April 1991), he retired from the CBI at the close of his seven-year term (30 April 1994), and became president of the Economic and Social Research Institute (1995–9) and a member of its executive committee. His expertise and experience were employed by many other public and private bodies: he was a member of the RDS management board and of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, and a director of Eircom, Citibank Ltd, HP International Bank plc and GMAC plc. In January 1997 he was appointed by Minister for Transport Alan Dukes to examine routeing options for the Dublin Luas tram project. Doyle retained his characteristic bluntness throughout his career. Giving evidence to the dáil public accounts committee's DIRT enquiry (August 1999), he described the efforts of the Fine Gael–Labour coalition of 1983–7 to combat tax evasion as 'emasculated', and noted that the utilisation of bogus non-resident accounts was a matter 'of common discourse at cattle marts and pubs around the country' (Ir. Examiner, 1 September 1999).
In his leisure time Doyle was a keen swimmer, yachtsman, and an accomplished classical pianist. He lived in Rathfarnham, and later Clonskeagh, Dublin, with his wife Maev (née O'Connell); they had married in October 1959, and had two sons and two daughters. He died 10 September 2009 at Blackrock hospice, Dublin.