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14 July 1935 - 6 February 2013
Kieran Kennedy was born on 14 July 1935 in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. He was educated at UCD from 1954-60 and was awarded a Diploma in Public Administration (1956), a B. Comm (1958) and a M. Econ. Sc (1960). Based on his master’s thesis he won a travelling scholarship, leading to post-graduate degrees in economics in Oxford [B. Phil. (1963)] and Harvard [Ph. D (1968)]. He studied under Professor John Hicks in Oxford, and under Professor Wassily Leontief and Professor Simon Kuznets in Harvard. The latter supervised his doctoral dissertation on industrial productivity in Ireland, Productivity and Industrial Growth: the Irish Experience which was subsequently published as a book by the Oxford University Press (1971).
Dr Kennedy began his professional career in the civil service. From 1954 to 1958 he was an executive officer employed in the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and in the Department of Industry and Commerce. From 1958-68 he worked at the Department of Finance. In 1961-65 he was given leave of absence to study at Oxford and Harvard. He then returned to the Dept of Finance where he worked until he joined the ESRI research staff in 1968. Following a brief secondment to the Central Bank of Ireland in 1970/71, he was appointed Director of the Institute in 1971, a position he held until his formal retirement in 1996. After his retirement he continued to contribute to the ESRI, leading the ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary in December 1999 and March 2000.
His main research interests were economic growth, the development of the Irish economy, employment, unemployment and industrial development. He published extensively in these areas and acted as an independent expert on the 1982 economic plan 'The Way Forward'.
Dr Kennedy guided the ESRI through a very difficult period in the late 1980s when other research bodies, such as An Foras Forbartha, were closed. The Institute survived both because he established and protected its independence and because he sought to raise research income from other sources when the government reduced significantly its grant-in-aid. He also successfully raised philanthropic funds to support the Institute’s research in key areas.
Professor Kennedy was an early and persistent advocate of restoring order in the public finances when deficits rose in the late 1970s. He also tried to focus attention on the problem of unemployment, and particularly the long-term unemployed. His commitment to tackling unemployment and its very serious social consequences reflected both his personal beliefs and his experience in voluntary social work. His commitment to interventions to address unemployment was also reflected in the ESRI’s research agenda, which has continued to contribute to policy analysis in this area over the past two decades.
Kieran Kennedy maintained strongly that independent, high-quality research was a fundamental required for good policymaking. Throughout his period as Director, he continued the tradition of his predecessors of seeking to ensure that the ESRI could be funded by government and yet remain independent of it when it came to analysis and commentary. Among many academic honours, he was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 1973 and awarded an honorary doctorate by Trinity College Dublin in 1993.
Professor Kennedy participated on a number of advisory bodies and committees including; the Swiss Irish Business Association (1988-91), the Committee on Local Government Reorganisation and Reform (1990) and the Government Advisory Group on Operational Policy for any Future Currency Crisis (1993). He was affiliated with the American Economic Association, the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland and the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth. He also participated on editorial boards of The Economic and Social Review, the ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary and the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland.
Dr Kennedy was married to the economist Dr Finola Kennedy and they had a family of six children. He was very active in voluntary bodies in the social sphere and was a keen sports enthusiast and a very competitive table tennis player.