Tom Garvey was born in Dublin in 1936. Having gained an MA in economics in 1957 he joined the Irish Export Board and was appointed chief executive in 1969. In 1977, he became the first delegate of the Commission of the European Communities to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On his return to Ireland in 1980, he become involved in the reorganisation of An Post (the Irish Post Office) and its launch as a commercial state company, of which he became chief executive. He moved to Brussels in 1983 to take up a post as director in the European Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for the Internal Market and Industrial Affairs. He was involved in the preparation of the Commission’s White Paper that led to the achievement of the Single European Market, and his responsibilities covered the implementation of the White Paper targets for the free circulation of goods.
In January 1990, he was appointed head of the EU’s Phare Operational Service in the DG for External Relations, which is responsible for the design and implementation of Community aid to Eastern European countries to help in their economic restructuring.
He became deputy director general of DG Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection in June 1992.
Mr. Garvey’s involvement in environmental projects in Eastern Europe continued after his retirement in 2000. In that same year he chaired the international Baia Mare Task Force, established to investigate the cyanide spill at the gold-processing plant in Romania.
He was a fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce; chairman of the Helsinki Commission for the Protection of the Baltic Sea Environment; and vice-chairman of the Irish Institute of European Affairs in Louvain. He was a visiting distinguished practitioner at the University of Pittsburgh European Union Center, where he taught three courses and was involved in outreach activities to the academic, business and regional communities.
Between 1995 and 2003, he served on the Board of Directors of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe. He became a member of its General Assembly in 2003, a position he held until his death in 2007.