Thursday, May 27, 2010

End of My Year

Well,  this evening was the end of my Presidential Year,  and so this is my last post to this blog.

We had our Annual General Meeting this evening,  and after presenting the annual reviews of the year,  and financial report,   I duly passed the chain of office to the incoming President,  Martin Lowery.

Its been an extraordinary year for me,  and one that I enjoyed tremendously.   I've summarised it in my annual report to the members,  which has been distributed electronically to them and which is also reproduced below.

Thanks for following me on this blog.

My annual report follows...


I believe we have had a great start to our 175th anniversary year.  I write this scarcely believing that my own 12 mnoths as President of Engineers Ireland is rapidly drawing to a conclusion.  I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet many of the members of our institution,  and to personally appreciate the wonderful work by our members in both their professional roles and as volunteer contributors.  The huge pro bono commitment by our many regional and sectoral groups is a foundation for Engineers Ireland,  and catalyses our growth in stature under the energetic leadership of our Director General,  John Power,  and the dedication of our team in Clyde Road.

I want to in particular thank those colleagues who served on the Council, the Executive,  together with all of the Region, Division and Society committees and the many other very important committees and boards which enable Engineers Ireland to do it’s business so effectively. Your enthusiasm and in particular your willingness to give up your personal and family time to serve Engineers Ireland is inspiring to witness and is greatly appreciated. You have served, and continue to serve, Engineers Ireland well.

I have had the opportunity to participate in many events throughout the island of Ireland and in London.   I have thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality offered,  and always been impressed by the attendances of so many colleagues at these occasions.  Their commitment is a testament to the strength and depth of Engineers Ireland.

During my inaugural speech on the 28th May 2009,  I identified a number of issues and objectives for my year as President.   I posted this online,  and also kept an online diary of every event which I attended throughout the year this. As I write this review,  there are 88 entries (actually,  finally at the end it was 102..) for the events which I have attended so far this year. In reviewing the year,  it seems appropriate to revisit my objectives which I listed in my inaugural speech.

The Economy

I took 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 undoubtedly 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. Our construction industry has underpinned our economic growth since 2004 but largely focused on domestic opportunity, in publicly funded infrastructure, commercial property and domestic housing.   With the credit crunch, the construction sector has changed enormously and regretfully for the worst.

We are now currently,  and unusually,  faced with the demise of employment prospects for some of our members. During my year, Engineers Ireland further encouraged Continued Professional Development.  We also took initiatives to assist unemployed members via our JobSeekers’ Network.

A sustained emphasis on innovation for the global market now has to 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.

During my year,  I was honoured to be asked to represent the engineering profession on the Taoiseach’s Innovation Taskforce.   It duly reported in March 2010 and the report emphasizes the central and critical importance of engineers and Engineering in the future of the Irish economy.

CEng and MIEI

Throughout the history of Engineers Ireland,  we have hitherto insisted that only graduates from accredited undergraduate degree courses in Engineering may become members.  Nevertheless it is now commonplace that some Engineers work throughout the Irish economy despite graduating from degrees other than Engineering,  but having undergone appropriate professional training from their employers.

During my year,  Council decided to 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, computing  and mathematics, whose careers now in practical terms position them as Engineers.

Our changes to membership (opening it up to level 7 engineers, and to level 7 and 8 cognate graduates) together with our changes to the requirements for Chartered Engineering status (level 9 from 2013,  a decision taken in May 2007) have presented Engineers Ireland to further engage with our Universities and Institutes of Technology.  During my year, a co-ordination group with all heads of engineering schools,  in all our higher education institutes,  was established.   In the light of the changes to our membership regulations,  all faculty are encouraged to join Engineers Ireland.

Ethics and Regulation of the Profession

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. Engineers must continue to ensure that these issues are raised and understood by the public and policy makers.  The media and the public at large recognise that the quality of our water is vital for the health and welfare of our society,  and indeed for our tourist industry. Coastal erosion together with rising sea levels, and changes to our flood plains, are of some media and public concern. A world class pervasive national broadband service is sorely absent, and is commented upon. The National Roads Authority 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.

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 Engineering profession in Ireland is an urgent issue.   During my year,  a working group was established by the Director General to study best practice and legislation overseas and to derive a draft working proposal.   The Minister for Environment,  Heritage and Local Government has expressed interest in championing the issue at Cabinet level.  I am sure that the incoming President,  Martin Lowery,  will progress the issue in his Presidential year.

Unfortunately in Ireland, we have learnt of malpractice and ill judgment in other sectors - for example, in our health care, in our financial institutions, in the Roman Catholic Church,  and in both our local and national governments.   During my year,  we reviewed and updated our Code of Ethics. While protecting the legitimate interests of his or her employer and clients, each of our members should 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.

Engineers serve the public with very high standards for the safety, health and welfare of society. Engineers Ireland ensures that these standards are maintained and  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.

Fostering interest in Engineering as a career

We continue to nurture interest in Engineering as a career.   Engineers Ireland’s STEPS to engineering programme proceeded energetically throughout the year.  We had Xperience Engineering for primary schools at DCU Helix in last June,  well – and noisily! – supported.   We were represented,  and I spoke at, the national Graduate Careers Fair in the RDS.   We recognised the Irish world champions of the Formula One in Schools competition (in which 31 teams from 20 countries participated).   We were visible at the BT Young Scientists exhibition and I had the honour of representing Engineers Ireland at the associated dinner. Our Smart Futures seminar was also recently well attended,  with many members volunteering their services for outreach nationwide.  Finally,  Engineers Week goes from strength to strength and was extremely well supported this year,  with high media interest,   and explicit personal support from the Taoiseach, Minister Harney and Minister Ryan.

One of our most important initiatives of my year was led by our incoming Senior Vice President,  PJ Rudden.  The taskforce which he led produced a very well received report on the teaching of Mathematics and Sciences in our school system.  The report has been praised by both teachers unions and the Department of Education and Science,  and indeed the former Minister Batt O’Keefe.   An implementation group has been established to follow through on its recommendations.

Other highlights

There were many many highlights to my year.  We hosted a number of briefings / seminars / forums  on topics as diverse as  the Spirit of Ireland proposal,   nuclear energy, the construction sector, innovation and on water quality.  We successfully implemented not only a new web site, but entirely re-worked our backend computer systems,  considerably improving our members register and subscription processing.    We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Provisional Council.  We hosted a meeting with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and signed mutual recognition agreements with  Engineers Australia, Bahrain and the IEEE.  We had a highly successful and widely reported CPD Company of the Year symposium,  and separately the Chartered Engineer of the year  and papers and awards presentations.   We had a new members evening.   I represented and spoke on behalf of Engineers Ireland,  at the budget briefing by the Irish Institution of Taxation.    I had the honour of awarding Fellowship to the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam,  on his visit to Ireland.   I gave my Presidential Address,  on the engineering safety of software development,  on a number of occasions.

I also had the pleasure of attending both the Young Engineers (fancy dress!) Ball and our own Annual Ball at which I had the honour of presenting the Institution’s first ever Lifetime Achievement award to Domhnall Blair.

One of my personal highlights was the Army Corp of Engineers annual dinner, hearing of the experiences of young professional engineers in service overseas.   I was also particularly delighted that some of our members volunteered to serve for the reconstruction of Haiti.


The management of our financial position has required careful diligence throughout the year.  I am extremely grateful for the leadership of our Director General John Power,  ably supported by the professionalism of our Financial Controller John Byrne and the rigorous oversight exercised by our Finance Committee chaired by Brian Kavanagh.    This is Brian’s last year as Chair of the Finance Committee, and I wish him warmest appreciation for his wonderful commitment and steadfastness over many years.

While we have maintained a stable financial position,  we are facing a decision to buy out the ground rent for 22 Clyde Road.  Deferring this for any length of time will only ultimately cost more,   and thus it seems prudent to proceed at this time.  Negotiations with the land owner are continuing,  and I am sure that this issue will be resolved in the coming months.

Conference 2010

At the time of writing,  our 2010 conference has yet to be held.   Our Cork region will be hosting the event,  and it promises to be one of our best ever.   We are honoured to have Craig Barrett,   retired Chair of Intel Corporation,  as a keynote speaker.    We have many other interesting speakers, not least Bertrand Barre, Professor Emeritus of nuclear engineering at INSTN in Paris.


I have thoroughly and hugely enjoyed my year as President of Engineers Ireland.

I very much regret that the year has passed so quickly,  and I wish Martin Lowery as incoming President the very best for his forthcoming year.

I could not have taken the responsibility without so much support from very many people – not least,  Council and Executive.  I sincerely and genuinely thank John Power,  as Director General,  for the highly professional,  competent and wise leadership which he has provided the Institution over the last year.   Engineers Ireland could not be in better hands.

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