Friday, 8 July 2011

'The Building of the State' in Merrion St

Last evening I was invited by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the President of UCD Dr Hugh Brady to celebrate 100 years of the Engineering Building in Merrion St which is now the Taoiseach's Office. It was a wonderful celebration of a historic building that started life as the Royal College of Science in 1911 then the UCD Engineering School and finally became the Taoiseach's office in 1989 (http://www.taoiseach.ie/eng/).

Pictured at Government Buildings Taoiseach Enda Kenny P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Dr Hugh Brady President of UCD

As the emerging State asserted its independence, the engineers of UCD in Merrion St were at the forefront in the practical expression of that independence. As the country's industrial ambitions grew, so too did the scale and scope of the research in Merrion St. The engineers educated there played a vital role in creating a technologically advanced Irish economy.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his opening remarks joked that the reason why Queen Elizabeth felt so much at home in his office recently was that the building shared the same architect - Sir Aston Webb - with Buckingham Palace.  Still though I thought the most iconic image of the evening shown here in the wonderful atrium of light was the stained glass window by Evie Hone depicting 'My Four Green Fields'!

"The Four Green Fields" by Evie Hone

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Dermot McCarthy current Secretary General of the Dept of the Taoiseach and Secretary to the Government. Also present were former Taoisigh and Secretary Generals of Government Depts including T K Whitaker, Dermot Gallagher, Paddy Teahon and Padraig O'hUiginn. Ministers Ruairi Quinn and Brendan Howlin accompanied the Taoiseach. President Hugh Brady of UCD had his Vice President for Development Aine Gibbons.

The current Dean of Engineering Dr David Timoney represented the UCD College of Engineering Mathematical and Physical Scientists. Former Presidents of Engineers Ireland present were Brian Sweeney, Liam Connellan, Brian Kearney and Jack Golden - all former or current Captains of Irish Industry with Siemens, Dalkia, Project Management and CRH respectively. It was a pity that Professor James Dooge another former President of Engineers Ireland and - in my days in UCD - Professor of Civil Engineering did not live to see yesterday's centenary event as he was the principal bridge between Engineering and Government over the past century. I was pleased though to see there his successor Professor Tom Casey who remains very active in consulting circles. Also present were Gabriel D'Arcy CEO of Bord na Mona and Dermot Byrne CEO of Eirgrid.

The event booklet 'The Building of the State' by Professor Orla Feely was aptly named. The event was truly a dual celebration of the State and Engineering working together to build the new formative nation. In the 1920s and 1930s hydroelectric plants were built to fuel the emerging state. Semi states like Bord na Mona ESB and Aer Lingus were set up. Roads, bridges, rural electrification, factories, airports, radio, TV, and telecommunications were all designed and built by Engineers and were the foundations for our modern Infrastructure of today.

Within the Merrion Street complex, generations of scholars studied, created, invented and adapted while generations of political leaders and officials determined the policies that have shaped modern Ireland.

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