Very sad news – Brendan Walsh

We just heard this morning that Professor Brendan Walsh, formerly of UCD School of Economics and the ESRI, passed away suddenly.

Brendan was a hugely important and influential figure in the Irish economics community and a terrific colleague to boot.

People better qualified than me will no doubt write an appreciation, but in the meantime, deepest sympathies are extended to his family.

Update: appreciations from the Irish Times, Irish Independent.

13 replies on “Very sad news – Brendan Walsh”

Very saddened by the news. Ni fheicimid a leitheid aris.
Condolences to Patricia, Colm, Nessa and Ben.

Shocked to hear about his sudden death, I was just looking him up a few weeks ago when I taking a trip down memory lane. An excellent lecturer, my condolences to the family.

Shocked by this news yesterday. Brendan was a great educator and communicator, as well as simply being wonderful company and a good friend. We will miss him.

As Econ students in UCD all those years ago, I and my contemporaries sensed the winds of change when Brendan arrived as a part-time lecturer to teach second year macroeconomics. He had returned to Ireland in 1969 with his American PhD and was working on Irish demography at the ESRI. A page had been turned, and the following years were marked by a renaissance of Irish economics, as Brendan was joined by several other young economists returning from PhD programmes in Britain and the US who combined the ambition to publish in international journals with an active involvement in contemporary policy problems in Ireland.

On his retirement, the Economic and Social Review published the proceedings of a Conference honouring Brendan. It is the Summer/Autumn 2006 issue and can be read at This includes an interview with Brendan by Peter Neary and a full list of Brendan’s publications (up to then — there have been more since and several posts to this blog, most recently on Tom Kettle).

As someone who benefitted a lot from his wisdom — and from his support: he wrote quite a few letters of recommendation for job applications in the early years — I am among many who will miss Brendan a lot.

This is desperately sad news. He was a terrific economist and more importantly a real gentleman.

I can only echo the comments made so far about Brendan as a brillant applied economist. I first made his acquaintance when I joined the ESRI as a Research Assistant in 1970. Brendan was a great colleague and role model for us. Over the years I got to know him better and appreciate his wide-ranging skills. I would say he was the father of serious labour economics in Ireland, and we and the general public owe him a great debt. Beyond that, he was a perfect gentleman and wonderful company. My deepest condolences to Pat and his choldren.

That’s awful!

He was incredibly generous with his time taking me through issues. Just last week on the show we were relying heavily on a paper he did about employment, alcohol and suicide rates. He did serious work and as has been said, was a gentlemen. Kindness is the most important quality and he was kind.

Brendan presented at a workshop organised by Kevin Denny and I at the Geary Institute last Autumn. It was a tremendous presentation outlining and updating a range of work he had conducted on well-being, health and demography in the context of the last 10 years of the Irish economy. As well as being able to work at the interface of macroeconomics and demography, he had also made and was continuing to make serious connections to health and mental health.

His most cited paper from a wide range of work is the Honohan/Walsh paper below outlining the “catch-up” theory of 1990s Irish economic growth. It is a paper that anyone with an interest in history and the economy could happily spend a few hours reading and discussing with others.

There are many articles one could pick out and only because I found myself going back it recently, this on the Irish labour market in the 1970s and 1980s is top of the pile. Still relevant both in its own right and for labour market studies throughout southern and eastern Europe and the Middle East.

RIP Professor Walsh, I and my friends who studied economics in UCD are very saddened to hear of your untimely passing.

You brought our macro economics lectures to life with your intellect, wit and easy to understand teaching style.

I am in a rather unique position because I was both taught by and co-authored a research paper with Brendan.

In 2004/5 I was taught by Brendan on a module about Irish macroeconomic performance. This was his last class before retirement. For some reason or another, a huge gang of Ag Science culchies were enrolled in the module. I remember them roundly booing Brendan in the lecture as he dared to mention that EU agricultural policies were very generous to the Irish farming industry! Once the booing subsided, Brendan just started laughing and everybody else followed.

It was in the first semester of second year so it was the first time I attended a module without a textbook. The basis for the lectures was the Honohan-Walsh Irish hare paper and it provided a great introduction to what economic analysis actually entailed. Brendan was an excellent teacher and had the invaluable ability to make complicated economic concepts seem simple and easy to understand for novices like myself.

To echo some of the points raised by Patrick Honohan in the above, Brendan’s contribution to the broad field of Irish economics cannot be understated. It might seem like the norm for Irish economists now to be trained at a high level outside Ireland and then return, but this path was not so well worn when Brendan followed it. He raised the bar for economic analysis in Ireland and all those who followed benefitted from this (like firms in a decreasing cost industry!).

In 2008 Brendan did an interview with Eamon Dunphy. I’ve posted a url link to this below. It was a great listen at the time, but would be a lot more fitting now:

It is through an interest in Irish demography that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Brendan. Between 2013 and 2014 we worked on historic mixed marriages in Ireland. As a junior academic it was an absolute privilege to work with him. I thought we worked very well together (joined by Cormac Ó Gráda) and I learned a lot from this experience.

I was devastated when I heard the news last Friday. I hope Brendan’s family draw some solace from the fact that Brendan was universally loved and respected in the Irish economics community. A massive loss for economics in Ireland.

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