Centenarian TK Whitaker built State’s economic foundations

TK Whitaker's famous 1958 plan ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT and the FIRST PROGRAMME FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT derived from it

are on the Leaving Certificate History course for 2016/17 

For background to both and incorporating new information see chapters 5 and 7 of TK WHITAKER: PORTRAIT OF A PATRIOT

Radical civil servant played pivotal role in economic, social and political life of State

Published by the Irish Times by Author Anne Chambers Thu, Dec 8, 2016, 05:00 Updated: Thu, Dec 8, 2016, 08:29 

Every country has its heroes. Some are generals, some are conquerors, some even tinsel celebrities. Few countries would nominate a long-retired civil servant.

However, in 2002, Irish people, when polled to name the Irishman of the century”, chose TK Whitaker, the man regarded as the the architect of modern Ireland. Today Ken Whitaker celebrates his 100th birthday.

Born months after the Easter Rising, his long life parallels the history of the modern Irish state, in whose economic, financial, social, educational, political and cultural evolution he played a pivotal role.

He was just six when his family moved south from Rostrevor in Co Down to Drogheda, where his potential was nurtured in the local Christian Brothers school.

In 1934, he joined the Civil Service as a clerical officer and by 1956, aged just 39, he had become secretary of the Department of Finance.

By then, the fledging Irish State was in crisis, marred by economic stagnation and rampant emigration. Agriculture was in a “prehistoric state”, the country’s mood was despondent.

“Economic and social development had failed to live up to expectations engendered by the struggle for, and achievement of, political independence,” he remembered.

Protectionism, a policy introduced by Seán Lemass, had outlived its usefulness, but “it was difficult to dismantle”, he recalled. “It had become a sort of patriotic ideal and any change could be viewed as undermining nationalism.”



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