Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spirit of Ireland seminar

We hosted a seminar by the Spirit of Ireland team this morming at Clyde Road. We had about 180 people, split over two conference rooms. We also had about 80 members following us live on our Webex-cast: playback will be available for our members at the usual Webex site. We also experimented with tweeting it live at #sptirl and displaying the tweet stream live to the audience.

Engineers Ireland neither supports nor condemns the specifics of the Spirit of Ireland proposal. Our objective this morning was to facilitate an open and honest debate amongst the professional engineering community in Ireland, and we would hope to continue and follow up this in due course.

There were numerous presenters on behalf of the Spirit of Ireland team, including in particular its two primary promoters, Graham O'Donnell and Igor Schvets. We also had presentations from the IWEA and Eirgrid on their assessments of some technical aspects of the proposal.

What I took away from the presentations are the following aspects of the proposal, but it is of course wiser to examine the Spirit of Ireland website and/or watch the presentations on webex:

⁃ The team intend to work with as many professionals as possible to derive a publicly reviewable proposal by the end of September next, which would be of sufficient depth and scope to attract potential international investors.

⁃ If the project does proceed, it would be governed by a PLC like structure, although not a publicly quoted company. It could have an investor mix of private individuals and members of the public; the State, on behalf of the citizens of Ireland; institutional investors; the European Investment Bank; and international sovereign funds. The Spirit of Ireland team do not expect to have any involvement in the governance structure, and view their work completed once the plan is accepted and being undertaken.

⁃ The project would not intend to replace or displace existing energy generation initiatives, in particular the current and planned development of wind farms across the country. Rather it is intended to be complementary.

⁃ The project proposes that new wind farms be built, with full support and endorsement and in fact leadership from local community groups. The balance sheet of the new PLC would be used to loan funds to, and/or co-invest in, communities to build these wind farms.

⁃ Like Denmark, there should be a once off national planning process, leading to a national energy atlas of wind farm sites. Once the atlas is in place, permits should be readily accessible (there be no further planning process required) to those sites in the atlas.

⁃ These new wind farms are themselves connected to a new, separate, medium scale grid. This grid would be completely separate from the current national grid. Once built, it would be operated by Eirgrid alongside the national grid.

⁃ The new grid would feed at least 2, and possibly more, large sea water reservoirs somewhere on the West coast. These would be pumped storage schemes, somewhat like Turlough Hill, but differing in important aspects: sea-water; above ground generating plant; linear rock dams (not circular structure), about 1km long each. The stored energy in each reservoir (I believe, and subject to correction) would be about 300GW hours.

⁃ The reversible hydro-electric turbines in the pumped storage schemes would then link to the current national grid (run by Eirgrid) by high voltage connections.

⁃ Some 50 alternative sites for the pumped storage schemes have been identified, and modelled in detail on a 10m by 10m by 10m grid for the west of Ireland. Several of these sites are eminently suitable.

⁃ The reservoirs may need in part, or total, sealing against sea water seepage: the costs of this are included.

⁃ Sea water based hydro electric schemes exist elsewhere. There is a pumped sea water based hydro scheme in Japan.

⁃ Depending on national strategy and national objectives, the proposal could be designed to export energy as needed (by the pumped storage scheme, not directly by the wind farms) to other jurisdictions via suitable interconnectors. It depends on what capacity of pumped storage we decide as a nation to build for our own strategic energy security, and whether or not also for the export market.

⁃ Some 10,000s of jobs would be created. Rural communities would see investment, and community profits from wind farms. Land owners over whose property the new grid was built would receive income for energy transmission. Ireland could develop its own manufacturing capability for aspects of the plant required, such as the wind turbines.

⁃ Spirit of Ireland are appealing to the professional engineering community to engage, and test and correct the proposal. Ultimately a national, apolitical, politically stable and socially endorsed effort is needed, with transparency and honesty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Innovation Awards 2009

This evening was the national finals of the Innovation Awards 2009, in association with the Irish Independent. Siemens have sponsored some of the awards for some time, and this year the Dublin Airport Authority sponsored a new category on innovative sustainability. I'm also very grateful for the judges who gave freely of their time to make very difficult choices: Malcolm Edgar, Srdjan Krco, Jack MacGowan, Gerald Nagle, Eoghan Nolan, Michael O'Connor, Damien Owens, John Power, Paul Rellis, Brendan Tuohy, Lorcan Tyrrell, and John Walshe.

In his recent budget speech, the Minister of Finance stated that ‘our economy must return to being driven by sustainable export-led growth, rather than domestic demand’. The basis for a sustainable export-led growth is a new Smart Economy, relying on innovative people applying intelligence and insight, rather than brawn, to drive growth.

Science is the discovery of what already exists. Entrepreneurship organise business. Invention yields new ideas which did not previously exist.

Innovation is however how new ideas are put into practice.

Science Foundation Ireland’s mission is to develop a world class research capability. The discovery of new things, by research, may attract foreign investment, and it may encourage the invention of new products based on insights from the natural world. We celebrate our most successful scientists via SFI, the British Telecom Young Scientists Exhibition, and indeed via others.

We also celebrate our entrepreneurs via the annual competition sponsored by Ernst and Young and Ulster Bank. Entrepreneurs manage a business, sometimes taking considerable risk. It is wonderful to see the growth of family businesses, and the implementation within Ireland of imported business models and franchises, but it is unclear whether such ventures necessarily lead to a sustainable prosperity and repair of our faltering national competitiveness.

Joseph Schumpeter, in his Theory of Economic Development, noted that innovation brings new goods, new methods of production, new markets, new sources of raw materials, and new organisational structures into practice. If we innovate and bring new products, new processes, new markets, new sources, and new business structures into practice, then we will not only change Ireland but also change the world.

In my view, innovation is the true foundation for a sustainable export-led economy. Engineers Ireland chooses to celebrate our innovators, and our innovative companies.

The 2009 winner of the Innovative Company of the Year was OpenHydro, for its successful innovation of open turbine tidal power generators. Denis O'Connor is the 2009 Innovative Engineer of the Year, providing real time monitoring of water quality for a number of local authorities. Mesut Dogan won the 2009 Sustainability award for his Intelligent Air-City Dublin initiative for Dublin airport.

In the student awards, Nicola Greene won the Sustainability category, for her Green Roofs coupled with Rainwater Harvest for Dublin Airport. Colm O'Brien won the Level 7 award for his Automated Personalised Home/Work Environment using RFID tags. John Mulvihill won the Level 8 award for his Reduction of Time Required for Haemodialysis by Optimising the Mass Transport in an Idealised Dialysis Cartridge.

Finally, Noel Joyce was highly commended for his student project on novel braking system for wheelchairs.

Our country is asking much of our innovators. It was an honour to be able to recognise some of them this evening.

Busy day at Clyde Rd

Busy day today, and was in Clyde Road from 10am-8pm.

National innovation awards for 2009, with award ceremony this evening - see next posting. Also had media interviews from the Irish Independent, Silicon Republic and the Irish Times on the awards.

We submitted some comments on the transposition of EU Directive 2006/24/EC on Data Retention, jointly to the Ministers of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. We have a number of concerns and observations, and are offering our help to assist in deriving a pragmatic solution to the revised Data Retention legislation.

We are also in discussions on behalf of the Civil Division on the CIC proposals, in which we participated, to revitalise the construction industry, and we hope to address some reputed concerns from the Department of Finance on aspects of fiscal operation of the proposals.

I followed up some earlier discussions with the BT Young Scientists organisers today with our STEPS team, seeking to work together on schools outreach in the forthcoming year.

We are in early discussions with the Cork hosts of next year's annual conference, about the format of the event, and have some interesting suggestions which would lead to even greater engagement by our sectors and divisions.

Tomorrow morning: Spirit of Ireland event. Follow us live on webex or #sptirl

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Xperience Engineering

We hosted the Xperience Engineering today at the Helix in DCU. There were 40 junior schools who reached the finals, out of 150 schools who entered nationwide.

It was a wonderful, brilliant, noisy, enthusiastic, inspiring day. The heroes of the event were of course the teachers who provide so much leadership and inspiration to our young people. And they were ably supported by parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, older brothers and sisters, and guardians. The success of the event also depends so much on volunteers and companies across the Engineering profession, who freely give their time and access for school visits to their operations, to excite and enthuse our next generation of engineers - and leaders. I also want to sincerely thank the wonderful STEPS team in Clyde Road - what an honour to work with them.

We are dependent on financial support from our commercial partners - e.g. the ESB donated some laptops as prizes, and Hasbro have been wonderful in their support - and government agencies - in particular Discover Science and Engineering, Fas, and the Department of Education and Science.

For both the Junior (3rd/4th class) and Senior (5th/6th class) Engineering Class of the Year, we had incredibly beautiful once-off, unique, statuettes made by Ciaran Byrne of the Air Corps.

I have many duties and responsibilities as the Honorary President until next spring. Today was a wonderful, happy, exciting inspirational celebration of the creativity and innovation of our young people, all of whom shouted and shouted and shouted again the answer of what do you want to be: "engineer!".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meetings, Xperience Engineering

Met yesterday with one of our new Council members, to brief her on the workings of Council.

Met today with Martin Lowery, who takes over from me this time next year, to discuss the work of the Liaison Subcommittee of Council, working with the Sectors and Divisions. We also discussed next year's annual conference and how to improve mentoring and coaching of engineers towards Chartered status.

Also had a brief chat with John Power about the logistics for next Tuesday's Spirit of Ireland event: we are expecting approximately 160 attendees, with more registering each day..

I'll be at the Xperience Engineering Primary Schools National Final tomorrow, at DCU Helix.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spirit of Ireland

A reminder that we are hosting the Spirit of Ireland team to present their proposals at 22 Clyde Road on tuesday 23rd June next. If you are not previously aware of this proposal, it is a project to make Ireland energy independent, or even a net exporter of energy, by using large sea water reservoirs on the west coast of Ireland to generate hydro electric power, in turn pumped by wind turbines to replenish the reservoirs.

This event is only for Members of Engineers Ireland, and will be an opportunity to join the debate on the engineering involved. The event will be webex'd as usual, and hopefully also live tweeted under #spirit.

If, as a Member, you have not already registered for this event and would like to do so, please contact Barry Stokes in Clyde Rd at bstokes@engineersireland.ie.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Council meeting 13th June

We had our first national council meeting of 2009-10 session this morning.

While there were a fairly large number of topics discussed, a few in particular may be worth especially highlighting.

Our finances are under pressure, particularly due to cut backs in government subvention for our continued professional development (CPD) and schools outreach (STEPs) programmes, as well as the obvious economic challenges to our corporate customers and partners. Our finance subcommittee has, and continues to, monitor our situation in detail. We are reasonably optimistic of at least breaking even, from the operational perspective, by the year end.

We took the opportunity to co-opt 3 additional members to Council: Dave Kelleher, Christian Scholz and Justin Tuohy. We also confirmed the following members to the Executive this year: Domhnall Blair, John Carley, Gerry Cawley, Orla Lonergan, Dan O’Brien, Damien Owens, Jim Robinson, Con Sheahan and Tadhg Walshe. I look forward to working with the Executive, and the full Council, throughout the next 12 months.

We reviewed our activities in support of our unemployed members, and are seeking further suggestions and ideas for additional initiatives. We are particularly concerned about challenges in the Civil Engineering field.

Our investment in improving our business processes, IT support, and new web technology is progressing well, albeit it emerged to be a larger project than we had initially envisaged.

A recommendation from the Director General will be going to the first meeting of our new Executive to implement and publicise changes in our membership rules for MIEI, which has the potential to increase our membership. If the Executive so approve, then these changes and publicity could be immediately put in place.

Our next annual conference is confirmed in Cork, in late April next year.

I was very pleased with the collegiate atmosphere and involvement of our Council members, and trust we can continue to even further improve the service we provide to all our members

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jean Venables ICE Presidential Address

We hosted Jean Venables, the current President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, this evening in Clyde Rd where she gave her presidential address.

I have previously met Jean at the ICE Northern Ireland annual dinner dance earlier this year in Belfast.

Jean has a distinguished career in water and flood management, and served as the Chairperson for the Thames Region Flood Defence Committee, leading to the construction of the Thames barrier. She was recognised with an OBE in 2004. She also lectures to university engineering students, as well as having her own consultancy with her husband Roger.

Her talk tonight focussed on the threat to flood levels due to global warming, and also the carbon dioxide and energy required to maintain fresh water supplies. She argues strongly for action needed today, and fresh thinking - and she was delighted to visit the wetlands water purification project at Glaslough, Castle Leslie during her visit here. She feels that Engineers must make their voices more articulately heard with the general public, and the policy makers and Engineers have to have more active engagement.

The full text of the Presidential address is here.

BT Young Scientists et al

Met with two of the BT team this morning in Clyde Road to discuss Engineers Ireland involvement in the next Young Scientists exhibition. Personally am very supportive on their ideas to add a careers theme to the exhibition, to further encourage participants to consider engineering and science as career paths.

We also examined the role of volunteering by our retired members, and others including those currently unemployed. I believe we can take further initiatives here over the next few months.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Welcome to my blog as the 2009-2010 President of Engineers Ireland.

The main purpose of this blog is to capture my activities for Engineers Ireland, what I am doing on a day to day basis. I intend that the primary audience for this blog are the members of Engineers Ireland, and others interested in the Engineering profession in Ireland.

I maintain a different blog here for my personal opinions and musings, not necessarily related to my work for Engineers Ireland. The contents of that blog are not necessarily endorsed by Engineers Ireland.

Inaugural speech

I was approached by John McGowan, former President of Engineers Ireland, back in 2007 and asked "Chris I know you're very busy right now, but what will you be doing in two years time ?". So, I signed up to be put into the pipeline of Presidents for Engineers Ireland, and last night my twelve months started. Martin Lowery (ex IDA and Coilte) will take over from me this time next year, with PJ Rudden (MC O'Sullivan, Bord Gais and now RPS) takes over from Martin in two years time.

I attach below the inaugural speech which I gave on the 28th May 2009 at the headquarters of Engineers Ireland. Apologies for the length! The main points are:

  • Thanking my colleagues.

  • Innovation now being Ireland's highest strategic priority: in my view, innovation is rather different from invention, and is also not limited to scientific and technology discovery.

  • Regret that the national transition year scheme appears to be being diminished, since it will reduce discovery, innovation and team work with our young people.

  • Engineers Ireland to take an initiative on the teaching of higher level mathematics, applied mathematics and pure sciences in our schools.

  • Increasing Engineers Ireland's recent initiatives to assist unemployed Members.

  • Opening up Engineers Ireland to a much broader membership:

    • Opening up full membership of Engineers Ireland to ordinary bachelors degree (level 7) graduates of accredited engineering courses, in addition to honours bachelor degree (level 8) as at present;

    • Opening up full membership of Engineers Ireland to level 7 and level 8 graduates from "cognate" courses in mathematics and sciences, provided that the individual is in practice working in an engineering discipline.

  • Chartered Engineering status for graduates from 2013 will require masters (level 9) education, or demonstrated experience equivalent to masters level.

  • Encouraging and frankly expecting most, if not all, faculty members of universities and institutes of technology to become Members of Engineers Ireland, and ideally Chartered Engineers.

  • Engineering is an altruistic profession, serving society. Engineers have a duty to articulate concerns about the safety, health and welfare of society

  • Engineers in Ireland today have concerns over infrastructure issues relating to water, broadband, roads maintenance, and strategic vulnerability of national electricity supplies and grid, amongst other issues.

  • Activities in Ireland in any engineering discipline - such as civil, mechanical, electrical, bio-medical, software, petrochemical... - which impact, or could impact, the safety, health and welfare of individuals or society should be regulated so that approval is required by a Chartered Engineer. Engineers Ireland will push for regulation, and may in the short term initiate a voluntary disclosure and public register of projects which have been duly approved.

  • Ireland has suffered severely from governance failures in various sectors. Engineers Ireland already has a strong code of ethics. There is currently no national embracing legislation for good faith reporting. Members who in good faith report concerns about their employer or client, or even another Member, concerning the safety, health and welfare of individuals or society, and who subsequently feel inadequate action was taken or even worse that they were sanctioned, can bring this to the attention of Engineers Ireland which will if necessary defend such a Member.

The full text follows:

“Distinguished Guests, Fellow Members of Engineers Ireland, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

I want to sincerely thank you for choosing me as your President for 2009-2010. It is an extraordinary honour. I give you my commitment to represent this great Institution to the very best of my ability.

I would like to thank our outgoing President Jim Browne for the example which he has set for me, and for the leadership he has given throughout the past twelve months. Jim focused his Presidential year on Engineers Ireland driving the "move up the value chain" for our economy, and promoting the career opportunities for young engineers in our society. Jim provided insightful leadership at both our Executive and Council meetings, as well as having an extraordinary personal commitment to being available to our Membership, our Regions and Societies, and to representing Engineers Ireland overseas, whilst all the time carrying the heavy responsibility of leading NUI Galway. Jim, you have set me a very challenging level to try and attain.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members of the Officer Board, namely Jack Golden, Martin Lowery and John Power for the wonderful work which they have done for Engineers Ireland and the contribution they continue to make to our institution. I warmly welcome PJ Rudden as incoming Junior Vice President. I would also like to single out John Power, and his decisive commitment and sheer determination; this was John’s second full year as Director General of Engineers Ireland, and I very much look forward to working closely with him in the twelve months ahead.

Today we say goodbye to past president Jack Golden. Jack made an outstanding contribution to the work of Engineers Ireland, particularly in developing our sense of leadership as Engineers. Jack oversaw the transition of Director General from Kevin Kiernan to John Power in September 2007. Jack also saw the momentum behind Continued Professional Development build towards 100 accredited companies: in fact under Jim's leadership, we have now reached 112 organisations, with IT Carlow recently accredited and being our first third level organisation to do so. As Jack noted in his Presidential Address, the ability of individual Engineers to develop leadership skills as part of their Continuing Professional Development, combined with the ability to innovate and develop technical solutions, singles out Engineering as a major contributor to ensuring the sustainability of this planet, and to improving the well-being and prosperity of our society. Jack - thank you for your tremendous contribution. We will miss your insightful advice and calm determination - as well as your humour.

I take up this Presidency at a very interesting time for Engineering in Ireland. Our country has up until the recent past been the envy of many of our overseas colleagues as our Celtic Tiger economy surged ahead. Now however we are facing the most serious challenge to our economy, and to a sustainable prosperity, since the foundation of the State.

Since the 1960s, Ireland has chosen international trade as its key national focus, ultimately making our country one of the most openly traded economies in the world. However since 2004, we have changed some of our emphasis to domestic demand, driven by cheap debt financing in the Euro zone. Although our construction industry has underpinned our recent economic growth until just a few months ago, it has largely focused on domestic opportunity, in publicly funded infrastructure, commercial property and domestic housing. In my view our construction industry now needs to more proactively consider export growth while retaining appropriate domestic capacity, using the skills we have gained at home to bring new techniques, processes and skills to the global market.

Our pharmaceutical, medical device and information&communications technology industries have been underpinned by foreign direct investment, and are of course export oriented. However in our multinationals and indigenous firms, we need to be more proactive in supporting and nurturing innovation with the global market as our clear objective measure of success. Our private sector investment community, both institutional and high net worth individuals, have recently largely been focused on domestic construction and overseas property speculation, rather than investment in innovative projects with potential for the global market. Our innovators, whether start-ups or spin-outs, have found it challenging to raise their necessary funds.

A sustained emphasis on innovation for the global market should be our highest national priority. Innovation need not only be as a result of scientific and technology research, but also arise from insights in process improvement and service delivery, and in many different sectors of our economy. Innovation for the global market will yield sustainable employment. The alternative, of instead focussing upon job creation as our highest priority and ahead of innovation, is susceptible to employment only for short term, and at risk from the subsequent migration of those jobs to more advantageous foreign locations.

Ireland has benefited from our foresight of low corporation tax. It is now by no means certain that corporation tax advantages can continue to be a primary catalyst to jobs in Ireland, with pressure from both our European colleagues and from national employment priorities within the USA. While using corporation tax to our advantage for as long as possible, it is clear we need to move on and to emphasise a replacement to our strategy of tax competition: in my view, that should be innovation for the global market.

Our scientists discover what already exists in the world around us. Our entrepreneurs build businesses, sometimes taking personal fiscal risk, but often mitigating that risk by adopting business models which are already proven elsewhere. Inventors yield new ideas which did not previously exist. However, innovation lays the strongest foundation for export driven success. Innovators put new ideas into practice, bringing new products, new services and new business models to the global market. Innovation must be our highest national priority.

In Engineers Ireland, we already celebrate the most Innovative Company of the Year, the most Innovative Engineer and the most Innovative Student of the year.

Innovation is now absolutely critical to our future prosperity. It is important that we nurture an innovative culture in young adults. I am therefore disappointed to learn that our Department of Education and Science is reputedly reducing support for the transition year. The transition year has evolved to become one key opportunity for young adults to experiment and innovate in group, rather than in just individual, settings. I believe that Ireland will be poorer for this decision.

Last week, I had the honour of awarding the Engineers Ireland annual award for Science, Engineering and Technology Awareness to Jim Cooke. Jim is a teacher at Synge St CBS, and has had a remarkable record of wins, both overall and by category, by his students in the BT Young Scientists exhibition, especially those from the transition year. Indeed, Jim has just returned from Nevada where Andrei Triffo, this year's individual winner for his project "Infinite Sums of Zeta Functions and other Dirichlet Series" has just been placed third worldwide. However, in his acceptance speech, Jim noted the diminishing availability of honours leaving certificate mathematics, applied mathematics and physics at many of our inner city schools and indeed nationwide. Honours teaching in these subjects must continue to be prerequisites for professional engineering, and during my Presidential Year I expect Engineers Ireland to take an initiative in this regard.

As well as encouraging more young people to chose Engineering as a career, I believe it vital that we provide every reasonable assistance to any of our Members who face professional challenges. In addition to our Benevolent Fund, and to our encouragement for Continued Professional Development, we are currently unusually faced with the demise of employment prospects for some of our Members especially in the construction sector. During my Presidential Year, I expect that Engineers Ireland will continue to take initiatives to assist unemployed Members, up to and including the possibility of mid-career retraining as Engineers for those sectors which in fact have shortages of engineering professionals, such as for example Mechanical, Electrical and Software Engineers.

In Engineers Ireland, in my view, we have had a rather inflexible and rigorous position in insisting that only graduates from accredited undergraduate degree courses in Engineering may become Members. During my Presidential Year and in fact imminently, I fully expect that Engineers Ireland will offer the full benefits of membership not only to level 7 as well as level 8 university graduates from accredited Engineering courses, but also to level 7 and 8 graduates from cognate undergraduate courses in the physical sciences and mathematics, whose careers now in practical terms position them as Engineers.

Concurrently, Engineers Ireland took a decision in May 2007 that those aspiring to Chartered Engineering status in Ireland from 2013 will not only require professional experience and an interview, as is currently our practice, but also to achieve level 9 (that is Masters level) from an accredited course, or to show competence equivalent to a level 9 standard. This in turn will bring us into alignment with concurrent changes in our peer professional engineering organisations overseas.

Our changes to membership - opening it up to level 7 engineers, and to level 7 and 8 cognate graduates - and our changes to the requirements for Chartered Engineering status - level 9 from 2013 - all present Engineers Ireland with an obligation to further engage with our Universities and Institutes of Technology. During my Presidential Year, I expect a concerted encouragement to ensure that our student Engineers are instructed by faculty staff who are themselves Members of Engineers Ireland, and ideally Chartered Engineers.

Those of us who have chosen Engineering as a profession, whatever our primary degrees, are devoting our careers to service to the public. Our Continued Professional Development programme assists us to maintain current with changes in our vocation. The Engineering profession is altruistic and conscious of its responsibility to society at large. It is important therefore that Engineers articulately voice any concerns to the public.

At this time, Ireland is facing a number of strategic challenges not just to our economy, but also to our infrastructure. The media and the public at large recognise that the quality of our water supplies, and indeed our sea bathing water, is not only impacting our tourist industry, but also the health and welfare of our society. Coastal erosion together with rising sea levels, and changes to our flood plains, are of some media and public concern. A world class national pervasive broadband service is sorely absent, and is commented upon. The National Roads Authority this week have raised concerns about the maintenance of our road infrastructure, including our expensively developed new motorway and dual carriageway network. In addition to these challenges, there are others which perhaps have not yet widely reached public attention. For example, a national strategy for energy security, in the face of our increasing dependency on natural gas and wind together with the retirement of elderly plants, should be a national concern, particularly when investment capital for wind farms is increasingly difficult to obtain, and the controversy at the Corrib gas field project continues. The Commission for Energy Regulation routinely publishes on its web site our national electricity generating capacity versus our consumption, yet few members of the public or media seem to observe the risk of "brown-outs" from these figures. If "brown-outs" were ever to occur then, as an example of one consequence, our Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland may overnight became dangerously wounded by international perceptions.

In some other jurisdictions, any works which may impact the safety, health and welfare of individuals or the society at large must by law be duly vetted by professional engineers - whether such works be civil, mechanical, electrical, electronic, pharmaceutical, software or indeed of any engineering discipline. In Ireland at this time, no such legislation exists and yet it surely must be in the interest of Irish society that all technology works are professionally evaluated and approved. Regulation of the the Engineering profession in Ireland is, in my view, an urgent issue but I admit one that may not be fully achievable in the limited term of a single year as your President. During my Presidential year, I do nevertheless expect that we will make progress in this regard, including a voluntary disclosure and register of those works, in any engineering discipline, which have been vetted by a Chartered Engineer.

Engineers Ireland has a strong Code of Ethics, which is published on our web site. Unfortunately in Ireland, we have learnt of malpractice and ill judgement in other sectors - for example, in our health care, in our financial institutions, and in both our local and national administrations. The 2006 Lourdes Hospital Report identified a reluctance for professional staff to report malpractice from a colleague in the medical profession. The CEO of one of our major banks has recently publicly apologised to one of his internal auditors who had reputedly been threatened by his employer. We have read of woeful corporate governance at some of our most important commercial organisations, and of regular waste of public funds investigated by the Dail Public Accounts Committee.

Our Government in recent years has introduced some legislation protecting good faith reporting, but on a case by case basis limited at this time to governing child abuse, consumer protection, some competitive issues, ethics in public office and for the Garda Siochana. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reportedly considering an overall national safeguard framework but has yet to present its deliberations to the Dail and Seanad.

In Engineers Ireland, while protecting the legitimate interests of his or her employer and clients, each of our Members will not, above all else, engage in any activity which he or she knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, is likely to result in a serious detriment to person or persons. If one of our Members has such concerns and in good faith has brought them to the attention of his employer or client without appropriate response, then he or she can bring it to the attention of Engineers Ireland. Furthermore if an Engineer becomes aware, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another Member of Engineers Ireland is engaging in conduct or has engaged in conduct which is in breach of our Code of Ethics, and is likely to result in a serious detriment to any person or persons, then he or she is likewise expected to bring this other Member to the attention of the Institution.

Engineers serve the public with very high standards for the safety, health and welfare of society. Engineers Ireland ensures that these standards are maintained. I fully expect that during my Presidential Year, the high ethics of our altruistic profession of Engineering will be maintained. Engineers Ireland will where necessary defend any of its Members who, in good faith, report concerns relating from any engineering works in any sector of engineering for the safety, health and welfare of society, and then are subsequently threatened with sanction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I sincerely am awed by the trust which Engineers Ireland have put on me as your President for the next twelve months. So much has already been achieved by Jim Browne and our other Past Presidents. I have extraordinary high standards to try to sustain. There is still much to be done, and I sincerely look forward to serving the Profession with humility and dedication."

Global Energy Scenarios

Attended a very interesting breakfast briefing at the Conrad in Dublin, by Jeremy Bentham, from Shell International's global headquarters in Den Haag.

Jeremy discussed Shell's modelling analyses of global energy mix portfolios, based on 80 different countries, and 8 different sectors (industry, domestic, transportation etc..) until 2050.

There are various scenarios, from "scramble" where there is an uncoordinated grab for energy supplies, and all that that implies, between nations; to "blueprint", where there are internationally co-ordinated agreements, from example using the United Nations.

A summary is available online from Shell here.

In my humble opinion, the message for Ireland is clear: as a matter of national security, Ireland should not assume that we will be able to continue to import energy supplies (e.g. oil, gas, or even coal...) from foreign suppliers.

Finance Committe Meeting

Had a scheduled Finance Committee meeting at Clyde Rd this evening (5pm-7pm), and before nest Saturday's Council.

The recession is biting, and our cost control, whilst not only maintaining services for our members, but also investing for our growth, is critical.