Garvey, Tom (Thomas) (1936–2008), public servant, was born at 7 Herbert Place, Ballsbridge, Dublin, on 27 May 1936, the son of Tom Garvey, of Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin, an inspector in the Department of Agriculture, and his wife Brigit (née Lynch). He was educated at St. Mary's College, Rathmines, where he played rugby and cricket, and then at UCD, where he graduated BA in economics and French. A lover of music and an accomplished pianist, he met his future wife, Ellen Devine of Blackrock, Co. Dublin, in the UCD choir; they married in 1961, settled in Blackrock, and had two sons and two daughters.
In 1957 Garvey completed an MA in economics, while working as an economics tutor and lecturing part-time in UCD and the College of Commerce, Rathmines. One of only two members of his MA year to find employment in Ireland, he worked in market research for A. C. Neilson of Ireland Ltd (1957–8). In 1959 he joined Córas Tráchtála Teoranta (CTT), the state export board, and served in its New York and Brussels offices, returning to Dublin in 1962. By 1963 he was head of CTT's textiles section at a time when textiles was considered the most exportable sector of Irish industry, and in 1964 organised an Irish Export Fashion Fair, the first in a series, in Dublin. In 1968 he was appointed by the government to the committee of industrial progress, to monitor the readiness of Irish firms for free trade.
Within CTT, his unaffected and business-like manner expedited his successive promotions as marketing manager (1967), assistant general manger (1968) and general manager (1969). In 1975 he was appointed to CTT's board. Comprising some 230 employees and sixteen overseas offices in 1976, CTT was responsible for promoting all Irish exports except major agricultural exports, and did do by organising fairs, exhibitions and trade missions, and by providing Irish companies with technical advice and general information on promising foreign markets.
Although Irish exports to continental Europe and North America grew strongly in the 1970s, this was mainly owing to foreign firms operating in Ireland. Indigenous companies performed poorly, and Garvey found himself prodding reluctant Irish firms into looking beyond Britain. He bemoaned the unwillingness of Irish exporters to familiarise themselves with the continental market or learn European languages, and blamed high inflation on the unwillingness of companies to allow workers meaningful participation in management.
Keenly interested in improving the standards of industrial design in Ireland, in 1972 he was appointed to the board of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and made chairman of the National Council for Industrial Design. Progress was hampered by the poor relations between the board and the staff of the NCAD, forcing Garvey to act as a mediator in 1974. During this period he was also chairman of the Marketing Society of Ireland, and a member of the Irish Management Institute (IMI) and of the executive committee of the Irish Council of the European Movement.
During 1973–4 he encouraged trade with developing countries and especially with oil-producing states in the Middle East and Africa enriched by the rise in world oil prices, and led a spate of trade missions to those regions. Knowing that the governments of those countries preferred doing business with state entities, Garvey pushed for the creation of a national trading company. As a precursor, in 1975 he set up an agency that operated from the CTT offices selling Irish goods in the Middle East and south-east Asia on a commission basis. In 1976, the Irish National Trading Company was established as a consortium involving the Irish government and four leading Irish industrial firms. Garvey was appointed a director, but the initial intention for CTT to have a 20 per cent shareholding was precluded by statute.
Reflecting his interest in development aid, CTT in 1975 inaugurated a technical assistance programme that provided foreign governments with training in export techniques and promotion, trade information and market research services. In 1975 Garvey was founding vice-chairman of DEVCO (State Agencies Development Cooperation Organisation), which coordinated the activities of assorted Irish government entities engaged in international aid.
Latterly he criticised the manner in which Ireland's export policy was oriented entirely around tax and grant incentives, and objected to the civil service restrictions being imposed on semi-state companies such as CTT in terms of executive remuneration and of operational freedom, also noting that CTT's funding had failed to keep pace with inflation. Meanwhile, Ireland's entry to the EEC opened up more lucrative avenues for ambitious officials. In 1977 Garvey left CTT to become the EEC's delegate in Nigeria (the equivalent of an ambassador). As such he was responsible for supervising a programme of development cooperation agreed between the EEC and Nigeria. During this period he also worked as a consultant to the UN's development program division and to the International Trade Centre in Geneva while also acting as a trade consultant for the governments of Thailand and Venezuela.
Due to become the EEC's delegate in Jamaica, he instead returned to Ireland in 1980 as chief executive of An Bord Poist, an interim board responsible for creating a state postal company from the break up of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. He injected a greater degree of marketing flair but his initiatives were largely frustrated by political inertia as three changes of government during 1981–2 obliged him to refight old arguments with each new minister and delayed An Bord Poist's receipt of statutory powers until summer 1983. Meanwhile, the postal service was starved of investment and suffered from falling volumes owing to high stamp prices. As an advocate of state activism in economic matters, Garvey would have become uncomfortably aware of the Irish political class's loss of faith in public enterprise.
Shortly before the new semi-state company was formally established at the start of 1984, he caused consternation by departing for a lavishly paid and lightly taxed position as a director in the Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Industrial Affairs in the European Commission in Brussels. Responsible for harmonising various national regulations in order to remove barriers to trade, he was heavily involved in the drafting of the European Commission's white paper of June 1985 on the single European market. In response to complaints from manufacturers, his department's regulation became less prescriptive and instead specified minimum standards of safety and environmental protection.
In January 1990 he took up a new position in the Directorate-General for External Relations as director in charge of the commission's PHARE program of aid for the economic restructuring of eastern and central Europe. While executing these duties, he was shocked at the consequences of fifty years of environmental neglect within the former communist bloc. Having previously regarded environmental regulations primarily as an impediment to trade, he became a convert to environmentalism.
Accordingly, in 1992 he applied for and obtained the post of deputy director-general of the Directorate-General for the Environment and Nuclear Safety. There he revised a series of environmental directives dealing with water, waste and air pollution with a view to making them simpler and more cost-effective, and was prominent in devising and implementing a new system for proposing limits on noxious emissions from motor vehicles. He noted that Ireland had a good record in implementing environmental directives with the exception of those pertaining to water quality and biodiversity, ascribing this deficiency to the influence of farming interests. From 1994, he assisted central and eastern European countries in performing the onerous and costly implementation of environmental regulations required for membership of the European Union.
He and his colleagues realised that environmental measures taken in isolation would achieve little, particularly given the inherently polluting nature of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the failure to encourage the use of public transport, and of rail for freight deliveries. Therefore, they emphasised the integration of environmental considerations into all policies and the introduction of fiscal incentives and disincentives at an EU level. The former concept was embedded in the 1997 Amsterdam treaty, but attempts to introduce European-wide taxes on pollution were prevented by national governments. Supporting the introduction of qualified majority voting on such issues, Garvey contended that taxes were preferable to regulation for requiring less bureaucracy and being more likely to inspire technological innovation and alter consumer behaviour.
He retired in 1998, but continued to engage in environmental and EU accession work in central and eastern Europe where he had established a network of friends and contacts, serving as chairman of the Helsinki Commission for the protection of the Baltic Sea environment, and as a board member (1995–2003) and member of the general assembly (2003–08) of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe. In 2000 he was made chairman of the international task force established to investigate a cyanide spill from the Baia Mare gold mine in Romania that polluted several major waterways in the Danube region. Its report led to substantial changes in EU mining regulations.
Having taken up golf while in Nigeria, in 1999 he was a founding chairman of Golf Environment Europe, and promoted European green flag awards for new golf courses that were developed and maintained in an environmentally friendly way. He was also a visiting lecturer in the European Union Center at the University of Pittsburgh (USA) and at the University of Cape Town, a vice-chairman of the Institute for Ireland in Europe at Louvain (Louven), Belgium, and a life fellow of the IMI and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Conscious of the rising disillusionment with the EU across Ireland and Europe, in 2005 he urged proponents of the EU project to communicate their intentions clearly, instead of skirting national differences through ambiguity and impenetrable jargon, while also asserting that Ireland was not economically viable outside the EU and that the Irish people, though culturally Americanised, identified more with the European social model.
He died suddenly in Saint-Luc University Hospital, Brussels, on 11 April 2008 and was buried in Ballymore, Co. Wexford.