Farrell, Edmund (1913–75), company director, was born 28 January 1913 at 71 Kenilworth Square, Rathmines, Dublin, son of John Farrell, tobacconist, of that address, and Mary Farrell (née Redmond). Educated at Belvedere College, he later worked in the Capitol Cinema on Prince's St. (in which he later had a financial interest), before taking up a position in 1939 as secretary of the Irish Temperance Permanent Benefit Building Society (ITPBBS), founded in 1884. In 1939 the assets of the ITPBBS totalled around £3,000 and it was an insignificant player within the Irish financial industry. Irish building societies in general lacked the professionalism and outlook of the banks. From the outset Farrell was determined to inject a new dynamism and professionalism into the organisation. He took his lead from what he perceived at the time to be the more modern UK model of building society.
The year after he joined the ITPBBS he was responsible for changing the name to Irish Permanent Building Society (IPBS). He also introduced several key measures including full-time staff, modern management structures, and the option for savers to withdraw money at short notice; he instigated the policy of extensive advertising to attract new depositors and compete for business. By the time he became managing director of the IPBS in 1955, his aim of developing the Society into a financial institution that could compete with the regular banks was well under way, and nine years later (1964) the assets of the IPBS were around £12 million. In 1965 Farrell became chairman of the Society.
Despite attempting to compete with the regular banks, Farrell was firmly committed to the idea of mutualism that was at the core of building societies. He was chairman of the Irish Building Society Association and later (1967) served on the United Nations Committee of the International Union of Building Societies & Savings Associations. In 1972 his son Dr Edmund Anthony Farrell (qv) joined the board of the IPBS; coupled with the fact that another son also joined the board, this later led to claims that Farrell treated the Society as his own personal fiefdom. In 1974 the RTÉ current affairs programme ‘Seven days’ cast a critical eye over his managing of the IPBS. Despite this criticism, when Farrell died the IPBS had assets worth £111 million and was the largest building society in Ireland. In addition to his position with IPBS he was a member of the Irish board of the General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Group. Edmund Farrell died 31 May 1975 at Mount Carmel Hospital and is buried at Deansgrange cemetery, Dublin.
He and his wife Jessica (Josie) King had two sons and seven daughters; his son, Dr Edmund Anthony Farrell, succeeded him as head of the IPBS.