Quigley, Paul (1923–2003), semi-state company executive, was born 4 February 1923 at 40 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, the youngest of four sons of James Quigley (see below), and his wife Linda (née Hynes). He grew up in the family residence at Leinster Road, Rathmines, attending the nearby St Mary's College. In 1939 he entered UCD to study engineering, enlisting in the Irish army in 1940. After completing basic training, he received a military exemption to resume his studies, graduating BE (civil) with honours in 1942. He rejoined the army, serving in the 22nd Rifle Battalion for nine months before being commissioned an officer in the Corps of Engineers and posted to the school of military engineering in the Curragh, where he taught explosives and bridge construction. He attained the rank of lieutenant but found his job increasingly tedious and deskbound following large scale demobilisation in 1945.
In 1946 he joined Irish Ropes Ltd of Newbridge, Co. Kildare, as a production engineer, later becoming a personnel and production manager. He was influenced by the firm's progressive owner-manager, Eric Rigby-Jones, whose scientific approach to man-management accorded with the methods Quigley had used as a military instructor and stimulated his lifelong fascination with the psychology of the workplace and the mechanics of training. His engagement with the emerging discipline of business management helped him to become director of the newly founded Irish Management Institute (IMI) in 1953. He was chosen from some 200 applicants, and was IMI's first staff member, receiving a yearly salary of £1,200.
The IMI was dependent on private subscriptions and Quigley's early years there were dedicated to recruiting members. He was praised for his industry and tact, and formed a good relationship with IMI's irascible chairman, Sir Charles Harvey. At first the IMI provided a forum in which managers, with Quigley's assistance, could organise study groups to discuss developments in management and share their knowledge and practical experiences in an informal fashion at lectures and conferences. By 1958 the IMI had become too large for its members to administer and its training became centred on taught courses, the composition of which was determined by the institute's teaching staff. Quigley lamented that this curtailed the members' capacity for pursuing their particular training interests. In 1974 he was made a life fellow of the IMI.
Shannon Free Airport Development Company In 1960 Quigley became general services manager of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company (SFADCo), a recently established semi-state company, which was to promote Shannon airport, then threatened by the introduction of long range jet aircraft capable of over-flying it on trans-Atlantic routes. SFADCo pursued its mission by selling the mid-west region as a tourist destination and by creating an industrial estate beside the airport in order to generate airfreight; it was also decided to build a town there to accommodate estate employees.
Quigley revelled in the freedom afforded to SFADCo staff members who were encouraged to experiment, improvise and proceed by trial and error. Work ranged widely over various inter-connected socio-economic spheres, leading Quigley to describe SFADCo as being composed of inspired amateurs. In December 1961 he was appointed general manager and as such was overshadowed initially by SFADCo's chairman and guiding spirit, Brendan O'Regan (1917–2008), whose vision and personal closeness to leading government ministers and civil servants were indispensable elements in the early progress of the project. But as the Shannon industrial estate and town complex took shape, O'Regan withdrew from day-to-day involvement, by the mid 1960s yielding effective authority to Quigley who adopted a low profile, working in a collegiate fashion with the formidable SFADCo management team. Inevitably some of the dynamism of its heroic founding period was lost but SFADCo retained an innovatory outlook, which found sporadic expression. O'Regan later lauded Quigley's management skills, declaring that he never received due credit for his role in SFADCo's success.
The industrial estate grew rapidly during the 1960s as various inducements – including corporation tax exemption on exports for twenty-five years, location in a duty-free zone, government grants and the provision of readymade factory facilities at reduced rents – attracted a number of large American concerns. In 1966 the estate accounted for 30 per cent of the state's manufactured exports in value terms, and by 1969 was hosting forty-four firms, employing 4,360 workers. The Shannon duty-free industrial zone was the first of its kind in the world and Quigley and other company staff were regularly seconded abroad as UN agents to advise foreign governments seeking to emulate their model.
The industrial estate could not generate enough airfreight to contribute significantly to the airport's survival, but it soon became an end in itself as an important regional employer. Nonetheless Shannon airport did benefit from SFADCo's development of the nearby castle at Bunratty as a tourist attraction. The castle was opened to visitors in 1960 but the breakthrough was the introduction there in 1962 of medieval themed banquets. Quigley wrote the script that for many years introduced the Bunratty banquet. Similar banquets were established at Dún Guaire and Knappogue castles, while package holidays based around luxury hotels, souvenir shops, medieval banquets and coach tours were developed for the area.
During the 1960s the construction and administration of the first new town in the state's history (boasting by 1970 a population of 3,000) was SFADCo's biggest pre-occupation. Shannon town proved more sustainable than a similar project undertaken at the same time at Ballymun in Dublin; but lacking social amenities, it had a soulless character and suffered from the sociological problems attendant on the creation of a community of uprooted and transient workers. While Quigley cannot be blamed for this, being hampered by the state's reluctance first to sanction and then to fund the town's development, he dealt with Shannon's querulous community council in a paternalistic fashion. The company was an overbearing presence within the town, reluctant to allow Shannon residents (almost all SFADCo tenants) a role in its administration; that none of the SFADCo management lived in Shannon (Quigley resided at Castletroy, Co. Limerick) was a further source of grievance. Matters came to a head when an unexpected rent increase precipitated a well-supported rent strike during 1971–2, following which the company proceeded with a lighter touch.
Training and educational initiatives Critics of Shannon industrial estate noted that it was reliant on subsidies, that only foreign companies were encouraged to settle there, that many of the jobs were menial, and that it was separate from the Irish economy, having virtually all its trade with the outside world. Quigley conceived the estate not as a profit-making venture, but as a training ground in which foreign corporations, in conjunction with state planners, inculcated Irish workers with the skills needed to participate in a technology- and export-driven economy. He worked closely with Shannon companies in recruitment and training, though he admitted that SFADCo's influence over developments within the Shannon complex was more limited than he would have liked.
Quigley served as part-time chairman (1971–8) of AnCO (latterly FÁS), the state's industrial training agency, and as such declared in 1971 that Ireland could no longer prosper as a low-wage economy and would have to develop more advanced industries. Shannon led the way as the growing sophistication of the local workforce enabled its firms to engage in more ambitious projects. Under his non-executive chairmanship AnCO grew rapidly, but its efficiency was undermined in the mid 1970s by the conjunction of its receiving generous EEC funding with heavy job losses in Ireland, which effectively transformed it into a disguised social welfare mechanism.
Quigley's interest in training drew him into – and developed his thinking on – third-level education. American managers in Shannon complained of the inability of Irish engineers and technicians to apply their technical proficiency to a practical, manufacturing context, ascribing this to the overly academic nature of Irish universities. Quigley concurred, comparing the courses he took at UCD unfavourably with the instruction principles applied in the army. Determined to inject a vocational current into the Irish university system, he played a key role in the foundation of Limerick's first third-level institution, the National Institute of Higher Education, Limerick (NIHE Limerick) (latterly the University of Limerick). As general manager of SFADCo, he facilitated the transfer of company land to provide a site for the institute at Plassey, Castletroy. He served as a member of NIHE's planning board (1970–75) and then as chairman of its governing board (1975–87).
NIHE Limerick opened in 1972 as a technological institute with a humanities content, introducing concepts such as the modular credit structure, continuous assessment and cooperative education (which combined academic learning with practical work experience). Courses were tailored according to the needs of the Shannon estate where many students worked under the university's work-placement scheme. This ethos in time permeated the Irish university system, though the military provenance of Quigley's views on education arguably bears out critics who bemoan its excessive utilitarianism.
Regional Development As the success of Shannon contrasted with the depressed state of the mid-west region, the government in 1968 gave SFADCo responsibility for encouraging industrial development in counties Limerick and Clare, and Co. Tipperary (North Riding). It began constructing factory units in locations throughout the mid-west, seeking to spread the industrial estate concept beyond Shannon. Much of the Shannon workforce resided in Ennis and, especially, Limerick city, and SFADCo controversially concentrated its resources on these two locations. Cooperation was closest and most fruitful with Limerick as evidenced by the founding of NIHE Limerick.
However, bereft of the sense of mission engendered by the challenge of founding Shannon and possibly distracted by his involvement with third-level education, Quigley struggled to define a new role for SFADCo. The sociologist Fr Harry Bohan – who worked for SFADCo (1968–80) before becoming an ardent critic – later held that the company imperfectly promoted regional development, being geared towards importing multinational corporations clustered around Limerick and Shannon and not towards cultivating smaller, indigenous and more geographically dispersed enterprises; consequently it was confounded when the formerly large pool of international capital seeking investment outlets shrivelled. The 1970s was, certainly, a trying period in which a worldwide recession undermined employment in the mid-west while passenger numbers at Shannon airport were hit by changes in aviation patterns and the outbreak of the Northern Ireland political troubles.
These unimpressive results were both a consequence and a further cause of the unsympathetic attitude harboured towards SFADCo by Dublin-based civil servants. With Shannon airport's survival assured, the financial support given to SFADCo was curtailed while officials questioned the poorly demarcated frontiers between an organisation operating in a number of sectors on a regional level and various state agencies operating in one sector on a national level. Relations with Aer Rianta (airport management) and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) were particularly fraught and convoluted, embroiling Quigley in time-consuming jurisdictional disputes. Nonetheless his standing within the public sector remained high, facilitating his membership of the Public Service Advisory Council, which monitored the implementation (or as it transpired the non-implementation) of the reforms to civil service practices advocated by the Devlin Report (1969).
Re-orientation from Shannon Under Quigley's direction SFADCo retained a capacity for reinvention, despite murmurings of flabbiness and complacency. By the mid 1970s he had come to the view that SFADCo needed to put less emphasis on Shannon and more on the mid-west. The administration and further development of Shannon town were too costly and it was plain that workers in the Shannon estate were happy to commute there (partly due to the town's unattractiveness). A tenant purchase scheme introduced in 1972 enabled the Shannon community to acquire a more settled character and SFADCo to retrench; by 1980, 55 per cent of the houses in Shannon were held privately and in 1982 the town acquired town commissioner status.
Similarly SFADCo promoted the industrial estate from the mid 1970s as a financial services centre thereby eschewing any rivalry with the surrounding region for manufacturing jobs. In 1980, the EEC forced the Irish government to withdraw the exemption on taxes on exports from Shannon, but permitted a 10 per cent rate of corporation tax on companies based there engaging either in manufacturing or in non-manufacturing activities contributing to the development of Shannon airport. The latter criterion was applied loosely and, by 1984, 48 of the 93 companies on the estate were service companies, though they employed only 600 of the 4,500 workers on the estate. During the mid 1980s, SFADCo sought to market the estate as a location for offshore banking operations, but Department of Finance officials blocked this initiative before appropriating the concept for the International Financial Services Center in Dublin.
This reorientation from Shannon did not resolve the internal debate over SFADCo's direction, particularly when O'Regan renewed his engagement with SFADCo from 1974. O'Regan concluded that the IDA's hostility made SFADCo's position untenable and argued in 1977 that the company should relinquish its industrial role and become involved in reviving rural communities and Gaelic culture in Co. Donegal as part of his efforts to promote cross-border economic cooperation. Aghast, Quigley and his management team resisted this proposal.
Small business The deadlock was resolved by the intervention in 1978 of the minister for industry, commerce and energy, Desmond O'Malley, who, dissatisfied with SFADCo's performance, stripped it of responsibility for medium and large industries in the mid-west. Although this ministerial rebuke caused dismay within SFADCo, O'Malley also upheld Quigley's belief that the company should retain a primarily economic function and increased funding for SFADCo, directing Quigley to foster small indigenous industries outside the Shannon–Limerick–Ennis triangle. Suspecting that O'Malley had encouraged Quigley's opposition to his plans, O'Regan promptly resigned; his successor, Frank McCabe, was a non-executive chairman leaving Quigley to shape the company's direction.
During 1978–83, Quigley saw a re-invigorated SFADCo establish a regional network of offices and expand its employment assistance functions, thereby enabling it to offer grants, factory premises, loans, and consultancy and training services to small enterprises. SFADCo also funded companies engaged in various commercial sectors. Between 1977 and 1982, the number of small businesses within the mid-west doubled from 298 to 564 while the workers employed in these firms rose from 2,986 to 3,747. In 1980, O'Malley assured SFADCo that its future was secure and added south-west Co. Offaly to its small business remit.
Underlying this frenetic activity was an unhealthy obsession with institutional preservation, producing an assertive attitude towards claiming credit for projects. Personally modest, Quigley (abetted by an accomplished public relations team) was brazen on SFADCo's behalf. This forcefulness carried over into the assistance it offered small enterprises, which in practice left these businesses dependent on SFADCo's consulting services. Quigley's fixation with maintaining the company's prestige and authority confused the state's industrial development policy in the mid-west, alienated business partners, alternately crowded out and enfeebled indigenous private enterprise, and arguably permitted SFADCo to become an instrument of political patronage, prodigally dispensing grants and assistance.
Enforced retirement A prolonged recession from 1980 exposed the weakness of the SFADCo-sponsored small industry boom. It also led to a contraction of employment within Shannon estate as Quigley's strategy, of creating better quality jobs in financial services, information technology and engineering, could not initially compensate for employment losses in low-paying, labour-intensive industries. Meanwhile, a number of SFADCo-funded projects accumulated heavy losses necessitating their restructuring. All of which combined with a minor scandal in the New York office (which promoted flights to Shannon) to create the impression of a management incapable of controlling a diffuse, ill-assorted organisation.
From 1983 the parlous state of public finances led the conservative wing of Fine Gael (the majority party in the 1982–7 coalition government) to question the efficiency of the semi-state sector in general and of SFADCo in particular. The longstanding issue of duplication of work with other state agencies was raised, as were instances of waste and the appropriateness of SFADCo's involvement in the commercial sector. In February 1985 (and again the following December), Quigley dealt unconvincingly with hostile questioning from the oireachtas committee on public expenditure.
From spring 1985, SFADCo mounted a well-organised media counter-offensive. At a meeting in April 1985 between the taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald (qv), and thirty semi-state chief executives, an unrepentant Quigley conducted a presentation condemning the oireachtas committee for undermining public confidence in the semi-state sector. However the publication in December of the preliminary findings of an investigation by outside consultants revealed that SFADCo had grossly inflated its job creation figures during 1978–84. Within days Quigley announced his impending early retirement, allowing subsequently that he might have continued for too long in his position. He resigned in May 1986 by which time the appointment (February 1986) as minister for industry and commerce of Michael Noonan, TD for Limerick East, had safeguarded SFADCo's future.
Straddling the public and private spheres, SFADCo's relative freedom, from political and bureaucratic interference and from commercial constraints, enabled it to undertake strikingly ambitious industrial, commercial, vocational and technological initiatives (some of which later formed the basis of national policy) in a depressed region. The converse of this was its unaccountability and its tendency to promote these initiatives for their own sake without relating them to the attainment of value for money, which, in the context of the recessionary 1980s (but not the booming 1960s), incurred unacceptable costs and, together with the financially unquantifiable nature and lengthy genesis of much of its achievements, forced Quigley's departure. He was substantially vindicated by the rapid expansion of the economy from the mid 1990s, driven by the high technology and financial services sectors first nurtured under his auspices.
In retirement he attended to his hobbies of fishing, painting and woodwork, spending summer holidays restoring a family cottage on Achillbeg, Co. Mayo. He received an honorary doctorate in economics from the University of Limerick in 2002. He died 1 February 2003. In 1951, he married Clare Bourke of Westport, Co. Mayo; they had a son Jim.
Assessment Quigley spent his career immersed in the Herculean task of moulding a labour force in accordance with the needs of foreign corporations. Its accomplishment produced the skilled workers and the trained business managers needed for Ireland's economic progress. He was less effective at fostering native entrepreneurs, mainly due to the paternalism that characterised his (and the state's) attitude towards economic development, whereby economic and technological progress was not to be engendered by Irish society but imposed upon it by a combination of state enterprise and foreign capital. This deficiency qualifies without negating his achievements.
His father, James Quigley (1869–1941), engineer and civil servant, was born 30 January 1869 at Newbliss, Co. Monaghan, the son of Richard Quigley, a farmer of Killacrona, near Clones, Co. Monaghan, and his wife Alice (née Ward). Educated locally at St Macartan's seminary, James then worked as a clerk in an oil company in Liverpool. Tiring of clerical duties, he joined the French Foreign Legion in 1892. After some years service in Oran, he deserted and worked his way back to Liverpool by ship from Port Said.
There he became a teacher for a time but his restlessness persisted and he quit to study as an engineer at Ushaw College, Durham, and at Queen's College, Galway. He took the BE course in 1902–6, receiving a diploma rather than a degree because he had not matriculated. From 1904, he was assistant county surveyor in Monaghan, based at Clones. In 1907 he became county surveyor of Meath despite achieving fewer marks than any of his rivals in the qualifying examination, perhaps owing his appointment to personal or political influence. He oversaw improvements in the county roads and his policy (initiated in 1908) of employing labour directly instead of using contractors proved successful.
Politically he supported the IPP. On the formation of the Irish Volunteers in late 1913, he became branch secretary of the corps in Navan, where he lived. After the volunteer movement split in 1914, he – along with the rest of the Navan corps – continued as a member of the Redmondite National Volunteers. That year, he purchased rifles and ammunition for the use of the Navan corps. Concerned that his employers disapproved of this activism, he curtailed his involvement in the movement thereafter.
He had no foreknowledge of the Easter 1916 rising, becoming inadvertently caught up in fighting between the 5th (Fingal) battalion under Thomas Ashe (qv), heading west from Dublin, and the local police at Ashbourne, Co. Meath, on 28 April. His behaviour was considered sufficiently suspicious to lead soon after to his arrest and internment at Richmond barracks; a search of his house yielded rifles and ammunition (presumably bought for the National Volunteers and not for the 1916 rebels). At his court martial in June police witnesses contended that he had assisted the rebels in instigating an ambush. He denied this charge and, while admitting that he had conferred with Ashe, asserted that this was to secure permission to cross rebel lines and fetch a doctor to attend to wounded civilians and policemen. Witnesses testified that he was associated with the IPP and had often been critical of militant nationalism. After a two-day hearing, he was acquitted on 10 June.
Continuing as county surveyor, he found that the impact of wartime conditions hindered the execution of his duties: in 1920, he complained that the Meath roads were rapidly deteriorating. That year, he was appointed to a British government committee entrusted with investigating claims for war damage to Irish roads, suggesting that the authorities regarded him as politically reliable. However, he was arrested and interned in December 1920, spending 1921 incarcerated in various jails, workhouses and internment camps; his property was seized and auctioned by the government. It is uncertain whether his re-arrest was due to lingering doubts over his role during Easter 1916 or to his suspected subsequent involvement in nationalist activities. In 1927, he claimed that he had risked his life and livelihood repeatedly for the cause of Irish independence.
On his release in 1922, he returned to his position in Meath before moving to Dublin in 1923 on becoming chief road engineer in the Department of Local Government of the Irish Free State. Later he also served as chief engineer of the department (1928–30 and 1932–4). From 1924, he oversaw a national road-rebuilding programme, which pioneered modern techniques. His insistence on high standards led to the enforced resignations of a number of county surveyors. He also served as chairman of a government committee charged with updating road traffic laws in line with the growth in motor traffic; its 1928 report led to the introduction of compulsory motor insurance and to the passing of the 1933 Road Traffic Act, which formed the basis of road traffic law until the 1960s. He retired in September 1934.
On 2 November 1911, he married Linda Hynes, daughter of Edward Hynes, a doctor of Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. They had four sons; of the three eldest, Richard was a priest while Edward became a doctor and James an engineer. He died on 23 October 1941 and was buried at Killevan, Co. Monaghan. His will disposed of £2,178.