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Jesuit economist honoured

jbrady_01John Brady SJ was conferred with an Honorary Fellowship by the National College of Ireland on Friday 20 Nov,’09. Many former collegues, Jesuits and friends were there to celebrate his achievement. John Brady SJ spent thirty years of his life at the NCI which was formerly known as the National College of Industrial Relations, based in Ranelagh. According to Dr Tony White of the Milltown Insititute, who gave the  citation, John Brady was a moderniser. He said it was mainly during his time that the college moved from being a college of adult education to a mainline third-level institution. He also oversaw the employment of lay staff along with Jesuits.”That expansion of course increased the cost base but John’s skills extended to ensuring that the College increased its financial resources to pay for this expansion. He may have had a vow of poverty, but he understood money. After all he is an economist!” Click here to read the full text of Tony White’s speech.

Citation for Reverend John Brady SJ on the occasion of the conferring of an Honorary Fellowship by the National College of Ireland , 20 November 2009

It is very appropriate that we should today be conferring an honorary fellowship on Father John Brady. John Brady is somebody who has made an immense contribution to developing this college and bringing the National College of Ireland to its present position, and it is right that we should acknowledge this contribution in a tangible way.

John Brady is a northside Dubliner. He was educated at Kostka College in Clontarf. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1953. Following two years of novitiate at Emo he continued his studies of economics and history at University College Dublin where he graduated in 1958. Three years of the study of philosophy followed at Tullabeg, after which he spent four years teaching at Crescent College in Limerick and Belvedere College. He then went to Milltown Park to study theology and was ordained there in 1968.

He came to this college in 1970; at that time it was known as the National College of industrial Relations and was located in Ranelagh. He would remain a member of the college staff for thirty years. During his first two years he completed a master’s in economics at University College Dublin. In 1972 he was appointed Director of the College and he held that position for ten years.

John Brady was a moderniser. During his time as Director NCIR made the transition from being primarily a college of adult education to becoming a mainline third-level college. The College had opened as the Catholic Workers College in 1951, and it developed from the skills and contacts of a small and remarkable group of Jesuits in the 1950s and 1960s.

Most of them were still at the College when John joined the staff. He built on the tradition they had established. He consolidated relations with the social partners, and the National College of Industrial Relations became a meeting point for unions and management. John Brady helped to make it very much a crossroads and a good place for what we now call networking.

The College built up a unique niche for itself in industrial relations nationally. John had the diplomatic skills to enable the College to maintain good relations and respect with both sides of industry, no mean achievement in the Ireland of that time. The traditional links with the trade union movement which had been there from the beginning were built on further , and in addition the College became a nationally recognised centre of excellence for teaching what was then referred to as personnel management, and what is today called human resource management.

That was the point at which the College made the transition to becoming a third level institution. John Brady saw the need for external accreditation and recognition of the College’s awards and under him NCIR had its first experience of state recognition with the National Council for Educational Awards, the forerunner of what is now HETAC The National Diploma in Industrial Relations Studies achieved recognition in 1976. This was a major breakthrough because there were at that time many, including a number of influential public servants, who were reluctant to see private colleges like this college achieving state recognition. Under John planning also began on the next phase, which was the move upwards to degree work which took place in the 1980s. These steps constituted the largest and most important transformation in the College’s history and they happened under John’s leadership.

While John was the driver in transforming the College into a third level institution and meeting all the quality inputs, demands and targets that this required, it was also a priority for him that the College would not neglect its roots and that its newly acquired status would not choke the important role which it had always given to access, to looking after those who were often overlooked by the rest of the higher education system. For him the commitment to access, to ensuring that people could have a second chance at achieving their potential, was something of a mission. He ensured that this would remain a college where so far as possible every individual, regardless of what their previous educational history had been, would be afforded an opportunity to develop their full potential. More than anyone else he helped maintain that balance which saw this college achieve genuine third level status, while at the same time maintaining that commitment to offering a very wide level of access to higher education that has put NCI into the unique position nationally which was recognized by the OECD report in 2004.

By the same token John was good at spotting talent, and good also at letting people have their head. In his time as Director the staff grew significantly and he was the one who introduced the first cohort of lay staff. Previously the staff had been almost exclusively Jesuit. That expansion of course increased the cost base but John’s skills extended to ensuring that the College increased its financial resources to pay for this expansion. He may have had a vow of poverty, but he understood money. After all he is an economist.

John Brady has also during his career been a regular contributor to newspapers and journals on economic and social matters. His primary interest was economics, but he was one of those economists whose scope was wide and who wrote on political economy and the social impact of economic decisions and trends. He was also one of those people who reflected and wrote about how the problems of Northern Ireland might eventually be brought to resolution. He was not just a highly practical and effective administrator but by his writing and his activity in the public arena he helped to create the acceptance of this college as one where serious scholarship and intellectual reflection took place.

Asked what characterised John Brady, one of those who worked with him in the early years of the College suggested that he was somebody who offered calm leadership to very strong individuals. He is indeed a calm, gentle and courteous man, a widely – read man and someone with a great interest in music. You are liable to bump into him regularly at the National Concert Hall. Nevertheless behind that gentle exterior there was the passion, the determination, the steel and the vision that tend to be marks of successful leaders of complex institutions like this College.

It is fitting then that this serious scholar and far-seeing manager should be numbered among the honorary fellows of this College, and it is my privilege and pleasure to commend Father John Brady SJ for this distinction.