Maher, Denis John (1916–84), civil servant, was born 16 June 1916 in Milltown, Tuam, Co. Galway, youngest of three children of William Maher, RIC man and native of Co. Clare, and Catherine Maher (née Kelly) from Co. Galway. His father was subsequently transferred to Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, where Denis was brought up and attended the local Christian Brothers' high school. A good hurler, he was on the Co. Tipperary minor team. He won a scholarship to UCD, but was also successful in a competition for entry to the civil service and decided to take up an executive post in the Department of Lands. He joined the Department of Finance as an administrative officer in 1944 and spent the rest of his career there, dealing with economic and trade policy matters, apart from a brief mid-term spell in the Department of Agriculture. In 1965–6 he chaired an interdepartmental committee on north–south relations, which reported to the secretaries of the main government departments. Deputy assistant secretary (1966–9) and assistant secretary from 1969, he made his most significant contribution as a civil servant as principal author of various white papers connected with Ireland's entry to the European Economic Community. As Department of Finance representative he carried much of the burden of the entry negotiations led by the minister for foreign affairs, Dr Patrick Hillery. An outstandingly diligent and efficient civil servant, he retired as a second secretary in 1976. On retirement he accepted the task of writing an account of the developments leading to EEC membership. The resulting book, meticulously researched and objective in the highest degree, was published posthumously by the Institute of Public Administration under the title The tortuous path: the course of Ireland's entry into the E.E.C. 1948–73 (1986).
Denis displayed great musical gifts, vocal and instrumental. He was a founder member of Cór Radio Éireann, building up a wide repertory of songs, both traditional and classical. He was also for many years a council member of the Alliance Française de Dublin. A deep interest in Franco–Irish relations extended to French translations of J. M. Synge (qv) and Seán O'Casey (qv). Tense interludes in trade negotiations could be eased and morale sustained by his ‘Yez are all rightly Shangai'd now’ or ‘Amn't I rightly handicapped with the whole of yous’ (me voila bien monté par une troupe pareille). It amused him to see Joxer's ‘I'll thry the ball of malt’ mistranslated as ‘Je vais essayer votre extrait de malt’ and Maisie Madigan's singing like ‘a nightingale at matin' time’ rendered as ‘un rossignol à l'heure des matines’!
Denis married (1943) Elizabeth (Betty) Fletcher; their two sons were Francis (b. 1954) and Joseph (b. 1956). He died 25 December 1984 in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross, Dublin.