Colbert, John Patrick (1898–1975), public servant and economist, was born 12 February 1898, the son of William Colbert JP, a farmer of Templeathea, Co. Limerick, and Norah Colbert (née Danaher). Educated at Rockwell College, near Cashel, and at UCC, graduating B.Comm., he joined the staff of The Statist, a London financial weekly in 1920 and was its editor from 1923, succeeding J. J. McElligott (qv); he returned to Ireland in 1928 to become the first chairman and managing director of the Agricultural Credit Corporation (1928–33). In May 1932 Colbert proposed that the state should be involved in the provision of industrial credit, and was appointed the first chairman and managing director of the Industrial Credit Corporation (1933–52) which provided long-term capital to industry through loans, investment and underwriting. Thanks to Colbert's drive the ICC sponsored 27 new issues in its first five years; the capitalisation of the Dublin stock exchange doubled between 1934 and 1938. He lectured on banking and finance at UCD for more than a decade and was awarded a master's degree in economic science by UCC for ‘A commentary on misconceptions regarding money and bank credit’ (1942); the following year he published ‘Financial and economic survey of Éire’ in The Banker (July 1943). A member of the Brennan commission on banking, currency, and credit (1934–8), he signed the majority report despite disagreeing with the ‘unwarrantable pessimistic’ tone and the restrictive bias of the report.
A man of exceptional ability, his career was cut short by ill health. He retired as chairman and managing director of ICC in April 1953 (being replaced in both roles by J. P. Beddy (qv)) and retired in August from the ICC board. In October 1953 he unexpectedly published an article (‘Irish banks and Irish general credit facilities’) in a Statist supplement on the Irish economy; critical of both the commercial banks and the Central Bank of Ireland, he advised that the imitation of British policy on bank interest rates and credit be discontinued and recommended that policies of credit restriction and dear money be reversed.
In 1927 Colbert married Helena, daughter of Hermann von Campe, of Nachod, Czechoslovakia; they had one son and two daughters. He was a cousin of Con Colbert (qv), who was executed for his part in the 1916 rising. He was a prominent member of the Arts Club. Colbert died suddenly, 21 September 1975, at his home, Carysfort House, Grove Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Although he was a man of exceptional ability, his achievements were diminished by alcoholism.