McGuire, Edward Augustine (1901–92), businessman, politician, painter, and sportsman, was born at his grandfather's home in Tramore, Co Waterford on 28 August 1901, the eldest of five sons (one son died in infancy) and two daughters of John Francis McGuire (qv) and his wife Mary (May) (née Moloney). His father was managing director of Hearne and Co., a large general drapery and furniture manufacturing business in Waterford. The McGuire family background was prosperous, well read and musical. It was deeply nationalist in the Home Rule tradition, the family being supporters of John Redmond (qv). In addition to being a strong supporter of the Irish Party John Francis McGuire was adjutant of the Waterford battalion of the National Volunteers. Edward McGuire was educated in Waterford at the Ursuline Convent and Waterpark CBC, and later at Clongowes Wood College (1915–16, 1918–19), and Douai School in Berkshire (1916–17). He enrolled at UCD in 1919 but left after a year to go into business with his father.
In 1920 the family moved to Dublin and three years later John Francis McGuire became managing director of Clerys department store. From 1920 Edward – known as Ned to family and friends – assisted his father, first in the McGuire-owned Shelbourne House on Merrion Row, and from 1923 at Clerys, where a loss making enterprise was turned into a highly successful business. The McGuires were pioneers in the introduction of modern methods of trading and advertising, flamboyant and adventurous in their methods, appealing to a mass market through a policy of small profits and high turnover. Following the rift with the board of Clerys in 1933, McGuire senior purchased the failing Brown Thomas store on Grafton Street from Gordon Selfridge and soon, largely under Edward McGuire's direction, this dowdy old fashioned business was transformed into the most aesthetically pleasing and fashionable store in Dublin. McGuire junior introduced a range of fashionable new products – names like Dior and Fontana appearing for the first time in Dublin – and revolutioned display, by drawing on the talents of the artist Norah McGuinness (qv), whose sophisticated line and elegant colour sense ‘permeated the windows and interiors of Brown Thomas . . . every aspect of the shop took on a Paris chic and a New York air of fantasy’ (James White, appreciation of Norah McGuinness, Ir. Times, 24 Nov. 1980). It was a highly profitable operation and McGuire remained in control, first as managing director and then as chairman, until December 1970 when the company was sold to Galen Weston.
In a city not rich in entrepreneurs McGuire's success was quickly noted and he was invited to help organise the city's employers to deal with the growth of the trade union movement. He played a leading role in the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade and in 1937 was invited in to become chairman of the Federated Employers Ltd. Under his leadership full-time professionals were appointed, industrial relations modernised and eventually, to meet the provisions of the Trade Union Act (1941), the Federated Union of Employers came into existence in April 1942. McGuire's leadership was a key factor in establishing what became the main employers negotiating organisation in the country and he remained on as its president until 1967, when he was honoured with the title of ‘founder patron’. The principal achievement of the Federated Union of Employers was to establish structures and procedures which moved industrial relations from the era of the lockout to a situation where national wage agreements became not just possible but the norm.
During the 1939–45 emergency he served as a district leader in the Local Defence Force. After the war he became actively involved in politics. From the 1920s he admired the Cumann na nGaedheal party, and was friendly with many of its leaders. In 1948 he became a Fine Gael senator, nominated by the taoiseach, John A. Costello (qv); he remained a senator until 1965. He always regretted the fact that Fine Gael was not an avowedly pro-business party but these reservations were never expressed publicly. He became the main fundraiser for the party, albeit on a modest scale, acting as its link to the business community and, on four successive occasions from 1951, showed great persuasiveness and charm in persuading the often rough-hewn county councillors to elect him to the seanad on the industrial and commercial panel. He was very perturbed when Declan Costello and T. F. O'Higgins (qv) (1916–2003) sought to persuade Fine Gael of the merits of the ‘Just Society’ policy in the early 1960s – ‘pure socialism of the most dictatorial kind’ (Manning, James Dillon, 362) – and strongly opposed its adoption. After he lost his seanad seat in 1965 – through carelessly spending most of the campaign on a continental cruise – he remained a strong Fine Gael supporter and was particularly close to Liam Cosgrave.
McGuire was an accomplished painter, somewhat in the style of Jack B. Yeats (qv): ‘his work has shown in different degrees the influence of Yeats, Roualt and Vlaminck, and he has finally adopted the technique of expressionism’ (E. C. Curran [Elizabeth Solterer], The Bell, ii/6 (Sept. 1941)). He numbered among his friends most of the leading painters of the day, and was a member of the Dublin Painters’ Group and the Academy of Christian Art. He was also one of the most astute collectors of his time, building up an impressive collection of international repute. His publications included ‘Pastel portrait painting in Ireland in the XVIIIth century’ (The Connoisseur, January 1939) and ‘Aesthetics and advertsising’ (Irish Monthly, lxxx (July 1952). An early proponent of good design in industry, he published in 1937 ‘Art and industry’ (Ireland To-Day, ii/1 (Nov. 1937, 19–31), and in 1939 he was appointed to the advisory committee on design in industry by the minister for industry and commerce. He served as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Gallery of Ireland for thirty years and as its chairman for 16 years, during which he played a leading role in developing the NGI, in addition to being a significant benefactor. He was appointed by Éamon de Valera (qv) as an inaugural member of the Arts Council (1951–6).
An all-round sportsman, McGuire excelled at tennis. He was renowned for his drop shot and played on the Irish Davis Cup team (1924–6, 1928–35, on two of four teams in 1936, 1937). In 1931 he was Irish single's champion, and was men's doubles champion with various partners on four occasions (1928, 1929, 1931, 1937).
In July 1926 he married Bridget Patricia (Billie) Neary of Newry, Co. Down; they had two daughters and two sons (John McGuire (1929–2000), managing director of Brown Thomas to 1971, and the painter Edward McGuire (qv), who died in 1986). Billie McGuire died in February 1953 and in 1958 he married Kathleen Adolphine Sophia (Karey) (née Rappalle), of English and Belgian parentage, who had been previously married to Basil Eyston. From the 1940s to 1976 he lived at Newtownpark House, Blackrock. The later years of his life were spent between his homes in Dublin and Spain. He died 27 October 1992 and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery.