Nagle, John Charles (‘Jack’) (1910–96), civil servant, was born 7 March 1910 at ‘Archville’, Commons Road, Cork, fourth child among three sons and two daughters of Michael James Nagle, local cattle dealer, and Mary Nagle (née Scriven) of Killeens, Blarney, Co. Cork. About 1918 his family moved to ‘Riverview’, Montenotte, Cork city. Although he was raised in a suburban environment, both parental families shared a farming background and John was immersed in an agricultural milieu from infancy. He attended Christian Brothers College, Cork, and afterwards UCC. To his B.Comm. he added an M.Econ.Sc. by thesis on the theory and practice of eighteenth-century European agriculture. This afforded him an NUI travelling studentship to Jesus College, Cambridge.
Nagle joined the Irish civil service in 1933 as administrative officer in the Department of Finance. In 1934–8 he served as assistant secretary to the commission of inquiry into banking, currency, and credit (the ‘banking commission’). From 1940, early in the Emergency years of the second world war, he worked at the Department of Agriculture when food production was a matter of national survival. He was on the postwar departmental agricultural advisory committee (1945–8) that studied future policy, although trade restrictions and subsequent economic depression delayed any practical benefits for more than a decade. Nagle was a model of discretion and propriety, especially in managing funds, and was highly respected by colleagues and subordinates.
Appointed assistant secretary (1948), deputy secretary (1955), and departmental secretary (1958), Nagle reached the top of his career at precisely the time to implement agricultural policy within the three programmes for economic expansion (1958–63, 1963–8, 1969–72). In 1958 his colleague T. K. Whitaker, then secretary of the Department of Finance, had just completed the historic report, published as Economic development (1958), which envisaged an open, mixed economy where modernised agriculture, industry, and services joined forces to compete on the international level. Nagle, though protective of agricultural interests, fully supported Whitaker and in 1964 published the ‘Brown book’ on agriculture as part of his role in the second programme. He was an advocate of agricultural education and cooperative farming at every level, to prepare Ireland for membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), but farmers were sceptical and suspicious of government intentions. Protests in demand of higher prices and agricultural reforms, from milk suppliers and from the National Farmers’ Association (NFA) in 1966–7 during an EEC embargo on external produce, highlighted the urgency of preparing Ireland for Community membership. Nagle regularly represented Irish agriculture in trade missions abroad: from as early as 1961 he played an important role in negotiations leading to Community accession in 1973.
He had a genuine interest in Europe, especially in the Italian language and culture, including opera. In his wide experience of international agencies he chaired both the UN food and agriculture committee and the EC committee for the control of foot and mouth disease. His personality contributed in no small way to a positive image of Ireland abroad, particularly around 1970, as the political situation at home escalated into violence and instability in Northern Ireland. He had studied the northern situation at closer quarters than most when appointed to the secretariat formed after the historic visit of Sean Lemass (qv) as taoiseach to Terence O'Neill (qv), the Northern Ireland prime minister, at Stormont in January 1965.
Nagle retired in 1971. Unmarried, he studied for a doctorate at Newcastle University, resulting in his 1976 publication Agricultural trade policy. He was also, in retirement, chairman of the National Council for Education Awards (NCEA), which awarded him an honorary LLD. He was a devout catholic and followed his special interest in classical music by regular attendance at concerts in Clarendon St. Carmelite church, at St Francis Xavier Hall, at the RDS, and at the National Concert Hall. Jack Nagle lived at two addresses in Dublin: at 56 Lansdowne Rd., and latterly at 9 Winton Avenue, Rathgar. He died 17 April 1996 at the Meath Hospital, Dublin, aged 86, survived by his sister Helen Nolan. He was buried at Dean's Grange cemetery.