Murray, Charles Henry (1917–2008), civil servant and governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, was born 29 January 1917 in Dublin to Charles Murray and his wife Teresa (née Duke). Educated at Synge Street CBS, Dublin, he reluctantly abandoned pre-medical studies as family circumstances precluded his attending university. He joined the civil service 10 October 1934, the same day as T. K. Whitaker (b. 1916); both were later awarded a B.Comm. in economics from London University, and their rigorous economic training marked them as a minority among their professional contemporaries.
Murray worked briefly in the Civil Service Commission, spent fourteen years in the Revenue Commissioners (where he was appointed administrative officer (1938)), and moved (1948) to the Department of Agriculture for a year, before his appointment to the Department of the Taoiseach (1949). Here, as principal officer, Murray provided informal and ad hoc advice on economic and financial issues to taoisigh Éamon de Valera (qv) and John A. Costello (qv). Murray was consulted by Whitaker when researching his paper on 'Capital formation, saving and economic progress', delivered to the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland in 1956, urging capital formation to spur growth. Collaborating closely together, they drew on the Keynesian work of their former colleagues, the economists Patrick Lynch (qv) of UCD and Louden Ryan of TCD. Crucially placed to influence a discernible shift in thinking in the Department of the Taoiseach during Costello's second government (1954–7), Murray saw the need to engage with the impetus toward free trade in Europe.
Costello drew on Murray's advice in seeking to temper the austere impulses of the minister for finance, Gerard Sweetman (qv); Murray was appointed to a committee examining the production and pricing of flour and bread in February 1956. Surprised that nothing was known in the Department of Finance about the establishment (1947) and operation of the British Economic Planning Board, Murray, with the approval of Maurice Moynihan (qv), requested the London embassy make discreet enquiries about its workings. Murray's subsequent memo almost certainly influenced Sweetman's establishment of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee in October 1956. The committee's third report (1958) proposed economic planning to engender productive, rather than redistributive, investment, stressing the importance of attracting foreign capital. Murray represented Ireland at an OEEC conference in Paris in February 1957 discussing proposals to establish free trade in Europe.
Ireland's economy, emerging from three decades of protectionist isolation, needed to ensure continued market access to the UK and Europe for its agricultural exports. Murray, relieved of his duties as principal officer within the Department of the Taoiseach, was formally appointed (spring 1957) to coordinate a group of Department of Finance officials researching various facets of the economy. His work sought to orientate planning towards likely developments in Europe, however they should unfold regarding the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Shepherding informal discussions towards policy development, with assistance from Maurice Doyle in the Department of Agriculture, Murray edited memoranda during 1957 critically examining the outputs and facets of various sectors of the economy.
Although working in separate departments, Murray and Whitaker occupied offices on the same floor; together they acted as a bridgehead between Sweetman and his Fianna Fáil successor, James Ryan (qv), appointed in March 1957. Ryan, informed of their activities at Christmas 1957, gave his full support and implored other departments to assist their work. Murray was Whitaker's main collaborator in drafting Economic development (1958), the seminal treatise that advocated the abandonment of autarky, a Fianna Fáil shibboleth. It sought to alleviate the chronic unemployment and emigration of the 1950s by recommending tariff reduction and free trade to engender capital investment to spur output and exports.
The minister for industry and commerce, Seán Lemass (qv), won cabinet approval to prepare a shorter white paper, and Murray, supported by Whitaker and Lemass, supervised the drafting of the new document. The Programme for economic expansion was published on 11 November 1958, eleven days before Economic development itself, and spurred the establishment in September 1959 of the economic development branch of the Department of Finance under Murray. A 1961 reorganisation of the department saw Murray (transferred to Finance in 1959) appointed assistant secretary, heading the development division, which prepared the Second programme for economic expansion (1963–4), and focused on the macroeconomics of taxation and public spending. Murray cooperated with Garret FitzGerald (qv), then working with the Confederation of Irish Industry, on a four-year, detailed, sectoral analysis of the Irish economy (1959–63). They chose to circumvent the Department of Industry and Commerce, the natural locus of such work, owing to its continued support for protectionism despite Lemass's conversion to free trade. The move to planning and free trade greatly benefited from the buoyant world economy of the 1960s; growth averaged four per cent a year in 1960–69, as 10,000 non-agricultural jobs were created annually.
Murray was central in fleshing out the multifaceted economic and monetary implications of Ireland's accession to the common market (the timing and pace of tariff reduction; the pursuit and objectives of social and regional transfers; managing integration into the common agricultural policy). The question of balancing privileged access to the UK market (copper-fastened with the 1965 Anglo–Irish trade agreement, and facilitated by the two countries' coincident accession in 1973) with entry to the EEC was finally settled. Within the nine-state EEC, the Department of Finance focused on managing the intersecting interests of the agricultural and industrial sectors in Ireland as the buoyant world economy of the 1960s gave way to stagflation and price-wage spirals. Assuaging the dispersal of EEC regional fund transfers and the mechanics of the 'green pound' were as challenging politically as they were technocratically.
Murray and Whitaker together expounded the advantages of programmatic budgeting (defining and reviewing spending objectives) to the Devlin review (Public Services Organisation Review Group (1966–9)) in January 1969, successfully arguing the necessity to retain the government's economic planning function within the Department of Finance. The technocratic core of the Third programme for economic development (1969) enunciated that spending objectives should be driven by cost-benefit analyses. Overseen by Minister for Finance Charles Haughey (qv), with policy delineated by Whitaker, Murray and Doyle, it marked the gradual introduction of management accounting practice into the Irish public service by 1975. For some it marked an overdue electoral rebalancing of the needs of economic progress towards social cohesion.
Appointed secretary of the Department of Finance (1 March 1969), in succession to Whitaker who became governor of the Central Bank, Murray served Haughey until the latter's resignation in May 1970 owing to the arms crisis. The first witness (7 January 1971) appearing before the dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigation into the dispersal of the £100,000 relief fund voted by the dáil, Murray (the responsible accounting officer) claimed: 'I have never seen a government decision that was drafted in such wide terms' (Oireachtas reports, xix, pt 2 (1971–2), p. 8). He attended the PAC in subsequent months to clarify various points, giving evidence in closed hearings regarding the advice relied upon by Taoiseach Jack Lynch (qv) (who had consented to Murray's discussing what was proffered) for his May and November 1970 dáil statements.
Murray instigated informal contacts with his Northern Ireland equivalent, David Holden (qv), permanent secretary at the Ministry for Finance, but these went into abeyance after the collapse of the Sunningdale agreement (May 1974). In 1972 Haughey's successor in Finance, George Colley (qv), commenced a decade of unproductive deficit financing. Richie Ryan (b. 1929) succeeded Colley in 1973, and, as the oil crisis took hold, public finances suffered. Public debt, pay and pensions consumed 15.8 per cent of GDP in 1974, rising to 21.6 per cent in 1977 (Lee, 472); from 1974 to 1978, total national debt more than doubled, from £1.6 billion to £4 billion. Murray became increasingly frustrated throughout the 1970s with the absence of considered thought and action regarding the purpose, direction and form of economic planning. In retrospect he lamented that politicians were unwilling to accept the necessary cyclical adjustments required by their increasing reliance on expansionary deficit financing, which did little more than stimulate imports.
Murray and Whitaker formed a formidable partnership over almost two decades, representing Ireland in various European and international political and economic forums, accompanying the finance minister of the day to various EEC, OECD, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank meetings. During the political and economic turbulence of the 1970s, their experience and unity of purpose provided valuable policy continuity, aided by the relative absence of ideological differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments on economic and monetary policy. Murray (an ex officio board member since 1969) succeeded Whitaker as governor of the Central Bank on 1 March 1976. Addressing the monetary needs of the economy (mandated by the Central Bank Act, 1971), Murray fought a losing battle against successive expansionary deficit budgets which produced little in the way of productive investment, and he publicly urged restraint in the face of the inflationary impact of generous negotiated pay deals. Decrying the inability of politicians to address the unavoidable trade-off between living standards and the level of employment, he publicly criticised the continuation of deficit financing, damningly noting that 'involuntary emigration is a sign of failure' (Ir. Times, 24 October 1977). Mixed success in trying to stymie vigorous credit expansion in 1978–9 saw Murray oppose the granting of licences to foreign banks (under the auspices of a six-year, protective EEC derogation on economic grounds), and established the Foreign Exchange Market Committee to supervise foreign exchange transactions.
Murray oversaw research, commenced by Whitaker, into the historic impact of the one-for-one link between the punt and sterling over almost 150 years. This served the political decision (exchange controls were introduced 18 December 1978) to abandon the link and join the European Monetary System (EMS) on 13 March 1979. The sterling link (formally broken 30 March 1979) had inhibited the Central Bank's control over interest rates, and to a lesser extent the money supply; Irish borrowers could easily turn to the London market circumventing Irish credit controls. Drawing on his own professional experience, Murray instituted econometric modelling of the Irish economy to inform Central Bank macroeconomic policy analysis, sharing the fruits with the Economic and Social Research Institute. He served as chairman of the committee of governors of the EEC central banks and the board of the governors of the European Monetary Cooperation Fund (1977–8). Under the EMS, Ireland retained responsibility for controlling its inflation and balance of payments, and Murray warned that this would require fiscal discipline and self-control in industrial relations, incomes and credit policy. By 1981, as inflation reached 21 per cent, Murray was urging the government to reduce public expenditure (to be funded from taxation alone) to address rising unemployment, interests rates and inflation. Although he welcomed the government's efforts to correct accumulated imbalances, he retired prematurely from the Central Bank at the end of 1981, reputedly on health grounds, before completing his full seven-year term. Unbridled from civil service constraints, Murray, a classical liberal, gave a speech in October 1982 denouncing 'Gladstonian' expansionary welfare policies that increased the burden of taxation on the private sector, distorting incentives to work, save and invest. He lamented the failure to deploy the hard-won fruits of economic planning (which he claimed were largely frittered away on unsustainable consumption) towards clear and explicitly enunciated social and political objectives.
He received numerous awards, including an honorary LLD from the NUI (1977), and was made a knight officer of the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (1978). Chairman (1957–60) and president (1980–85) of the Institute of Public Administration, he was also chairman of the Association of Higher Civil Servants (1957–9) and Taiscí Stáit Teoranta (1969), and a member of the National Science Council (from 1968), the National Economic and Social Council from its inception (1973–81), and Comhairle na Gaeilge.
Murray was a director of the Northern Bank (1982–8), and chairman of its wholly owned subsidiary Northern Bank (Ireland) Ltd (1986–9; renamed National Irish Bank in 1988). High court inspectors reported (13 July 2004) that National Irish Bank had opened and managed bogus non-resident accounts from 1986 to 1998, facilitating tax avoidance. In evidence to the Moriarty tribunal (10 March 2000), Murray accepted that the Ansbacher account of Ken O'Reilly-Hyland, a director of the Central Bank (1973–8, 1979–83), should have been brought to his attention and to that of the bank's board. The tribunal report noted that the Central Bank's concern to ensure bank stability though the late 1970s led it to be overly deferential to commercial and political interests.
Murray's various publications were collected and published as The civil service observed (1990). Among his proposals for better government were a five-year moratorium on government reports (which induce 'paralysis by analysis'), greater use of dáil committees, and reducing the number of departments and ministers (who should meet delegations less and curtail their public appearances). He decried the rise of the 'presidential' Department of the Taoiseach, criticised the dáil as a nineteenth-century oratorical chamber unsuitable for modern governance, and supported the establishment of an ombudsman system of independent oversight.
Known 'for his frequent use of never-quite-apposite aphorisms' (Honohan and Murphy, 5), Murray was modest about his contributions to Irish public life, and reluctant to take credit for his instrumental role in Ireland's economic transformation from the late 1950s. He died 31 January 2008 in Dublin and was buried in Cruagh cemetery, Rockbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin. In 1942 he married Margaret ('Marita') Ryan (d. 2003); they lived in Terenure, Dublin, and had one son and four daughters.