Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Greetings

I wish all the readers of this Blog a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. Special greetings to our diaspora abroad in near and far away lands who cannot return home for Christmas especially our members and friends in the Great Britain and Middle East Regions of Engineers Ireland. We are especially thinking of you this Christmas as I was on the night of my Inaugural Address last May and my Presidential Address in September.  The work of the Engineers Ireland’s Benevolent Fund has never been more important to assist our members struggling in the recession.  I thank Ray Sexton for his wise chairmanship of the Fund in recent years and welcome John Higgins as the new Chair and wish him well in this important role. 

Time has flown since I started this Blog 7 months ago – it’s now 5 months to go as President of Engineers Ireland when I will hand over to Michael Phillips as the new President.

It’s been a very busy time partly due to the duties expected of a President but also due to the special interest I said I would show in Enterprise and Job Creation by visiting Research Institutes and Infrastructure Projects around the country.

Over the next 4 or 5 months I will be busy also. I'm looking forward to visiting the South, South East, North West, South West and North East more than was possible this year. I'm scheduled to go to Mayo, Athlone and Carlow in January, to Kerry, Cork and London in February, to Sligo and Louth in March, to Cork and Belfast in April and the Midlands in May.

I'm enjoying immensely meeting all the engineers across the country in the various regions and sectors. I find optimism and encouragement wherever I go that Ireland will pull through the current economic crisis and emerge stronger and wiser for the future. 

As I said in my Inaugural Address last May, we will get no credit for cursing the darkness but every encouragement to shine a New Light on the opportunities that lie ahead. We have to seize those opportunities in energy, water, computing, pharma and medical device sectors. We have to channel all of our energies to developing the economy and creating jobs whether at home or through the exports of our goods and services.

I want to again thank the Council, Executive and Director General Team of Engineers Ireland for all their hard work during the year.  I want to pay a particular tribute to Director General John Power and his six directors Fionnuala Kilbane, Aidan Harney, Damien Owens, Margie McCarthy, John Butler and John Byrne.  In difficult economic times, they have guided Engineers Ireland to be a stronger organisation with a higher public profile that continues to be financially strong and supports further growth through excellence.  I also want to thank the Regional and Sector committees who keep the lamps burning for Engineers Ireland throughout the year in their respective areas.

Let the bright lights of Christmas shine for you and your families as we approach 2012.  I hope that our slow national progress to recovery will at least continue and hopefully begin to accelerate next year.

ICE Annual Dinner in Belfast

I travelled north to Belfast on December 8th to the Europa Hotel Belfast to attend the Annual Dinner of the Northern Region of the Institution of Civil Engineers (London). I was kindly invited by Ian Long the Northern Region Chairman of ICE.

I also met the ICE President Richard Coackley who is Director of Energy with URS Scott Wilson. His central message to his members was to say that Northern Ireland has a unique opportunity to develop wind and tidal energy sources due to its coastal location. We must drive down our carbon emissions while at the same time keeping the lights on and ensuring quality of life, he said.

‘As civil engineers' he said 'we have the ability to help policymakers understand how to meet society's infrastructure needs, taking into consideration the wider natural, social and environmental impacts.' I quite agree with him and look forward to his visit to Dublin in late January when he will present his Presidential Address to the Republic of Ireland branch of ICE. I will then make a reciprocal visit to Richard in London in early February when I will present my Presidential Address to the GB Region of Engineers Ireland at ICE Headquarters.

There were some 450 local ICE members at the Annual Dinner in Belfast. I was very happy to again meet our own Northern Region Chairman Peter Quinn and former Chairman Jonathan Hegan a former colleague director in RPS and now Chairman of the Titanic Trust responsible for regeneration of the old Harland & Wolff shipyards into the new Titanic Quarter. Peter is also chairman of the Organising Committee for our Annual Conference in Europa Belfast on April 26th / 27th next.

I was also delighted to meet Dr Gordon Millington for the first time who was the only NI based President of Engineers Ireland (1997 - 1998) then Senior Partner of Kirk McClure Morton and now the Belfast office of RPS.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Presidential Address to DIT

On December 7th I was pleased to accept an invitation from the DIT Dean of Engineering Dr Mike Murphy to give my Presidential Address on 'Building a Sustainable Recovery' to the engineering school student body in Bolton St. I was accompanied by Julie Goggins Third Level Liaison Officer with Engineers Ireland who has been working actively with the DIT student body.

The President normally represents his Presidential Address to a number of the Regions throughout the year including the GB Region in London. This however was the first time where the Address was requested by a Third Level Engineering College - signs of the growing relationship between Engineers Ireland and Third Level.

It was also the first presentation of the Address since it was initially given in mid September. In reviewing it I was struck by the degree of update it required. The Address was quite current in terms of our ambitions in Engineers Ireland last September and much has been achieved in the intervening period thanks to the hard work by our Council, our Executive and the DG's team.

Two of our major ambitions in September were to finalise our Membership Rules and also to launch our new TV Advertising Campaign. Both were successfully achieved in the 3 month period to December.

There was a lively and very relevant 'question and answer' session after the Address mostly centring on the issue of Maths Education and also reform of the Planning system to fastrack critical infrastructure projects. We also spoke of DIT ambitions to integrate all of the current colleges on a new single campus at Grangegorman which is a very exciting project and as you can see below will transform a greater part of the north inner city between the Phoenix Park and the River Liffey.

Model of New DIT Grangegorman Campus
Courtesy of

I repeat below the relevant sentences from the Address that gave rise to the questions from the students

'The overall objective is to build a sustainable recovery and a solid future for our people. That's means looking beyond the immediate crisis that we face as a country and start building a long term vibrant economy that will last into the future'.

'The current maths situation in Ireland is a systemic failure in the educational system at national level. The student must always be at the centre of the educational system but the quality of an educational system can never exceed the quality of its teachers'.

'Modern building and infrastructural developments now need to be 'plan led' not 'developer led'. Planning decisions made by An Bord Pleanala need to be respected as meeting a national or strategic need regardless of any NIMBY or local considerations'.

After my Address Julie spoke to the student body of the benefits of membership of Engineers Ireland and of the support service which she has in place to answer any of the queries that the students may have.

We were very grateful for the very large number of students and indeed lecturers who turned up for the event. The largest lecture theatre in Bolton Street - named the Michael O'Donnell Room after one of my predecessors as President of Engineers Ireland - was practically full of people for the Address which was organised at relatively short notice.

Monday, 19 December 2011

November Council Meeting

The November Council Meeting was held on Saturday November 26th when we had a good attendance. A number of important decisions were taken at this meeting.

We discussed and adopted the 2012 Budget recommended by our Finance Committee and Executive earlier in the month. Thanks to excellent management by the DG and Management team in Clyde road, we were able to adopt a balanced budget of income against expenditure despite considerable expense next year on the ongoing TV Advertising Campaign which is proving so successful in public reaction terms.

We discussed and approved the Membership Task Force Report chaired by my predecessor Martin Lowery. Our Membership Director Margie McCarthy presented the report which had been unanimously accepted by the Task Force - to continue with the present Rules of Membership as approved by Council in April 2011 and not to introduce a new 'Graduate' grade as a stepping stone to 'Ordinary' Membership MIEI.

We had a presentation from Paul Sheridan Education Manager and Caitriona Geraghty STEPS Manager on all of the educational initiatives currently being undertaken by Engineers Ireland. Tremendous progress has been made in implementing the Maths and Science Task Force Report in terms of integrating the recommendations particularly on Project Maths into the STEPS programme for Primary and Secondary Schools and a whole host of other initiatives including Engineers Week (February 27th – March 2nd next year) and Maths grinds for Leaving and Junior Certificate students.

We had a Staff Survey Presentation by our HR Director John Butler which will greatly inform our staff development and training programmes and to further improve interaction with the Regions and Sectors.

We filled a casual vacancy on the Council by secret ballot electing Stephen McIntyre of Google who will help us build our profile into the social media side of our Computing Division.

We agreed the venues for our Annual Conferences in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as Dublin, Sligo and Tralee. The Dublin Conference will dovetail with the European Young Engineers Conference to be held here in 2013.

In conclusion I thanked the members of Council for their ongoing voluntary effort in attending meetings in Dublin on a Saturday and noted that the work of Engineer Volunteers continues to inspire our staff who coordinate all of the annual activities.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sustainability Conference in Lisbon

On November 29th I was asked to represent the European Commission as Speaker at an Agenda 21 Sustainability Conference in Lisbon - 'Think Global Act Local'. This was in my role of Director of the EU Commission Secretariat for the European Green Capital City (EGCA) award (

Similar to the 'European City of Culture', the EU Commission initiative is to find a different European city each year based on  current high environmental performance, ambitious goals for the future and how the city can act as a role model for Sustainable Urban Living. Only capital cities of European states or cities with a population of 200,000 or over may enter.

The inaugural EU Green Capital of Europe was Stockholm in 2010 and Hamburg this year in 2011.  Both were chosen in the first round of the competition in 2008.

Pictured outside the conference were (left-right) Joao Seiras Professor 
of Social Science Lisbon, PJ Rudden Director of European Green Capital Secretariat,
Livia Tirone CEO Tirone Nunes Architects Lisbon, Paula Cabral Cascais City Architect (Conference Chair), Chantal Vanoeteren Urban Planner University of Brussels, Nora Brugemann Project Manager at Wuppertal Institute Germany and Mario Alves Transport Engineer at University of Lisbon
Yesterday at a ceremony in Brussels EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik handed over the title of the European Green Capital to the Spanish Basque city of Vitoria Gasteiz (pop 235,445) which is the 2012 Winner.

The competition is very dynamic as this year for the first time we add two economic criteria - eco- innovation/job creation and secondly energy efficiency in accordance with the Resource Efficiency pillar of the EU 2020 Strategy Roadmap to better integrate new enterprise with sustainable development in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty objectives. The other criteria or indicators for the EGCA are climate change, sustainable transport, water consumption, waste management, air quality, noise, wastewater treatment and overall environmental management systems.

The Lisbon Conference was in fact held in the beautiful town of Cascais about half and hours drive along the coast north of Lisbon. The conference was opened by the Portuguese Secretary of State for Environment Dr Pedro Afonso de Paulo. My speech detailed the objectives of the European Green Capital award scheme and how each detailed application from each city is assessed and analysed by a Panel of Evaluation Experts appointed by the Commission and drawn from the 27 Member States. The Speakers were a combination of engineers, architects, town planners and social scientists drawn from municipalities, business and academia.

Dublin entered the first round of the European Green Capital award in 2008 and scored 16th position out of a total of 35 cities who entered - well behind the shortlist of 8 cities from which Stockholm and Hamburg emerged. The other shortlisted cities were Amsterdam, Bristol, Copenhagen, Freiburg, Munster and Oslo. Dublin has however improved greatly in transport mobility and water conservation terms from its position in 2008 and may now re-enter the competition.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Chairman's Reception in Cavan County Council

On November 25th I travelled to my native county where Cavan County Council decided to give me a Chairman's Reception. They have the view - not apparently contested by the Archivist in Engineers Ireland - that I'm the first Cavan born President of Engineers Ireland.

Whether true or not I have worked in the past and currently in a consultancy capacity for Cavan County Council most notably on the N3 Belturbet Aghalane Road Project which reopened the N3 Dublin Enniskillen Road after the Good Friday Agreement. I had the pleasure of meeting Senator George Mitchell who opened the new Aghalane Bridge at the Border - then named the George Mitchell Bridge in his honour.

Senator George Mitchell and PJ Rudden (1999)
Beside the Bridge stands the artistic feature of the warrior returning home and embracing his loved one with a broken sword and shield on the ground between them. The caption on the feature says 'Welcome Home - the War is Over'. On that day when the bridge was opened by Senator Mitchell in 1999 nobody knew for sure if the war was in fact over or not. It took ten more years to fully secure that Peace which was a monumental achievement of the NI political parties chaired by Senator Mitchell.

That was my first job with Cavan County Council. This new road project was progressed in record time due to its national and international significance and I was glad to be part of it. Its speed of execution was also a tribute to then County Manager the late Brian Johnson then County Engineer John Tiernan and Senior Roads Engineer Ger Finn. I have since worked with the Council mainly on the development and implementation of the North East Waste Management Plan together with Meath Louth and Monaghan.

I am very grateful to the Chairman of Cavan County Council Cllr Sean McKiernan and to County Manager Jack Keyes for the honour accorded me. I was presented with a painting by P J Lynch from the Johnson Library of 'A Voyage to Lilliput' which now hangs in Engineers Ireland at 22 Clyde Road for the rest of my term as President. I'm not sure what the significance is of the giant Gulliver arriving in Lilliput with shadows of civic and church buildings of Cavan in the background but it’s a beautiful painting which I will treasure forever. I was also thankful for the presence of Local Councillors Dessie Boylan, Charlie Boylan and Paddy Conaty.

Pictured in the Cavan County Council Chamber front Catheoirleach Cllr Sean McKiernan, P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Celia Rudden ; back Jack Keyes Cavan County Manager, Maura Daly Chairman North East Region Engineers Ireland and John Power Director General Engineers Ireland
 Cavan County Council this year won the Local Authority of the Year award and the Engineers Ireland Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Public Service award for best public body on staff development and training. This is a great tribute to County Manager Jack Keyes who also led the Organising Committee for Fleadh Cheoil na h√Čireann for a second successive year and again planned in 2012. This 3 year event will have brought a total new investment of €120million and a footfall of 250,000 each year to a small town of 10,000 people. You can then imagine how delighted I was that such a leading and enterprising Local Authority might have chosen me for their inaugural Chairman's Reception.

I was delighted that Engineers Ireland Director General John Power was there in Cavan together with Maura Daly Chairman of North East Region of Engineers Ireland together with John Brannigan Cavan County Council and last year's Chairman, also John Quinn, Dave McGowan and Paddy O'Rourke from County Meath. Also present were many current engineers of Cavan County Council including the Cavan Town Manager Ger Finn another very active engineer of the NE Region and who acted as Master of Ceremonies on the night.

I was honoured also by the presence of Dr Liam McNiffe Principal of St Patricks College and Donal Donahue Principal of Laragh National School. Also the Chairperson of the Board of Management in Laragh NS Bernie Power was there together with many family, friends and former classmates from both Laragh and St Pats.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Offshore Wind Conference in Dundalk

On November 24th I was invited as President of Engineers Ireland to chair an Offshore Wind Conference in Dundalk which had a wide national and international attendance.

I was also asked to brief the conference on the Irish Scottish Energy Links Study - ISLES Study - which had been published on the previous day in Glasgow by the Energy Ministers of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Pictured Left to Right: Scottish Acting First Minister John Swinney,
ISLES Project Director PJ Rudden, NI Energy Minister Arlene Foster,
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing and Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte.
The conference was kindly opened by the Mayor of Dundalk Cllr Marianne Butler. Cllr Butler spoke of the value of our offshore resources and the economic environmental and employment opportunities that proper exploitation of these can create. She rightly saw the job creation possibilities in the development of offshore wind in addition to the creation of a lower carbon economy.

The conclusion which I summed up at the end was that there were no technological barriers to the realisation of a significant offshore renewables industry. Also there was a greater cost benefit to connected offshore resources to a single subsea network than trying to connect individual wind farm projects to land. There were also increased interconnection possibilities with the UK. True! - the deep waters off our West Coast represents a considerable challenge in terms of ocean movement and depth and would require floating foundations which are still under development. Therefore by far the most viable offshore resources to initially connect are in the Northern and Southern Irish Sea where the waters are relatively shallow.

Speakers at the Conference were Dr Brian Motherway Chief Operating Officer SEAI, Cllr Marianne Butler Mayor of Dundalk, P J Rudden Conference Chairman and Andy Kinsella CEO Offshore at Mainstream Renewables

There is also a considerable export opportunity in addition to significant supply chain opportunities especially in our ports, harbours and marine support all of which can help our national recovery in investment and employment possibilities. The capital cost of exporting 16GW of offshore energy to the UK will be some €6billion for the subsea grid purely in the Irish Sea and North Atlantic between Ireland and Scotland.

The UK will need that additional energy by 2020 so there is a unique window of opportunity for Ireland if we can reconfigure our planning consent and regulatory regimes in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland as recommended by the ISLES Report. This report has now adopted as policy by the three Governments and sent to the EU Energy Commissioner for assessment. Hopefully it will be EU grant aided under the new 'Connecting Europe' initiative to drive towards a common energy market in Europe as a whole.

We have a challenge and an opportunity to drive this initiative forward. This is similar to what faced Thomas McLoughlin a young engineer who proposed to the then Government in 1926 that we should harness the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha for a new hydroelectric scheme which was the start of rural electrification. The project cost £5.2M in 1926 when the total state budget was £25M.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Midlands Region Annual Dinner Dance in Birr

On November 18th I was a guest together with John Power our Director General with our partners at the Annual Midlands Region Dinner Dance which was extremely well attended at the County Arms Hotel in Birr. This Offaly town has a lot of Scientific and indeed Engineering history to recall.

The lands of Ely O'Connell centred in Offaly were planted by the Normans in 1619 and as part of this Birr Castle and 1,277 acres were granted to Sir Laurence Parsons, 1st Earl of Rosse. In Birr Castle the 2nd Earl of Rosse built the then world's largest telescope in the 1840s which has been wonderfully restored as a tourist attraction. Of equal interest to engineers, the Earl's son Charles Parsons invented the steam engine which helped drive the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

Birr Castle Courtesy

Birr is a fine town - a mix of early Irish heritage coupled with later Norman settlements. The Town Trail recounts from the time of St Brendan's early monastery where Brehon Laws were passed in 697AD to protect women and children. Much of the present town centre was planned and laid out in the 18th and 19th century by the Earls of Rosse with fine Georgian houses and attractive streetscape incorporating many churches of every denomination in Ireland.

The Midlands Dinner was hosted by the Region Chairman John Jordan Director of Wirtgen Ireland in the agricultural engineering business. Bord na Mona, Offaly County Council Athlone IT and Irish Tar and Bitumen were also well represented at the event. Indeed I was reminded of the important role that Peatland Development continues to play in the economic life of the Midlands by a beautiful presentation of Bog Oak from Ballinahown on the Offaly/Westmeath border which I least expected.

Pictured at the Midlands Dinner Dance were John Power Director General, Kieran Horgan Chairman Thomond Region, P J Rudden President, John Jordan Chairman Midlands Region and Prof Padraic O'Donoghue Chairman West Region
The event was a tribute to John and his very active Committee in the Region. I wish them continued success in the years ahead.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Creative Design in UCD Engineering

On November 16th, I was invited by Dr Amanda Gibney of UCD Engineering to view exhibits in Creative Design by First Years in Engineering. I was also invited as President of Engineers Ireland to present the awards to the winning First Years students. These awards were sponsored by three firms - Arup, Deloitte and Innovation Delivery.

Left to Right: Conan Sherlock, Lisa Sherin, Sean Sheridan, Daragh Shirazi, PJ Rudden and Amanda Gibney
The assignments involved some 20 teams of 5 First Year members each looking at how information technology (IT) could help people in and around the city of Dublin to access information and services.

Each team performed research and field investigation to identify the parameters of different areas of study eg Eating Out in Dublin, Recycling Points in Dublin or Bus Shelter Interactive Technology. Each project was supervised by Innovation Consultant Keith Finglas and mentored by Masters students in Structural Engineering and Architecture (SEA). 

Keith Finglas (Innovation Consultant), Kelly-Ann Farrell (SEA Student),
PJ Rudden (President of Engineers Ireland), Amanda Gibney (UCD Lecturer), Louise Campion (SEA Student)

All of the projects tested the 'problem solving' skills of the student engineers as they commence their formative engineering education at the age of 17 to 18.

Innovative leadership is a module for 5th year students of Structural Engineering with Architecture. The aim of the module is to develop and improve leadership skills, problem solving abilities and lateral thinking skills by performing a number of practical assignments as well as tutoring 1st year students in design and innovation skills for team based projects.

'Bus Shelter Interactive Technology'.  Left to right: Amanda Gibney, Shauna-Anne Carney and Louise Carroll
UCD Engineering School is to be congratulated on this initiative to develop creative and problem solving minds in our First Year Engineering Students. Credit to Amanda, Keith and the students of the 5 Year Masters in Structural Engineering with Architecture.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Engineering and Technology Teachers in Carrick on Shannon

On November 12th last I was invited to the Engineering and Technology Teachers Association (ETTA) in Carrick on Shannon to speak at their Annual Conference and present their Awards to over 100 students based mostly on their 2011 Leaving and Junior Cert results.

It was a very impressive event in terms of the number of school principals, teachers, parents and students attending from Second Level schools from all over the country especially for the Awards.

Before going there, I browsed the 2011 Leaving and Junior Cert Engineering and Technology papers to see how relevant these two subjects now are to modern day engineering. I found that they lean mostly towards physics, chemistry and computer technology all of which form a solid basis for up to date careers in mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.

Pictured left to right P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Annalee O'Donovan from County Clare Best Overall Technical Graphics Junior Cert Higher Level and William Brett President of the Engineering and Technology Teachers Association (ETTA)
This year's conference was organised and hosted by members of Area 4 drawn from counties Sligo Leitrim Longford and Roscommon led by teachers John Joe McGuinness and Damien O'Rourke.

There are very close links between the ETTA in this Region and Sligo IT who gave a talk on Lasers. In fact the word 'laser' I discovered is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (LASER).

In my short speech I emphasised the importance of these two Second Level subjects to the engineering profession as a whole and complimented the ETTA on their extensive award schemes which create obvious motivation for so many engineering students nationwide to compete for the awards.

L-R: Mr. Niall Cassidy Engineering Teacher Fingal Community School, 
Student John Donohoe “Young Engineer 2011” ,
PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Ms. Sharon McGrath Principal of Fingal Community School
I was particularly taken by the mechanical and electrical/electronic engineering standards of the national competition to make the Best Modern Snow Plough. Also very impressive was the design manufacture and testing of a Formula 1 Car by a team of students from Dundalk who went on to represent Ireland internationally. Either of these assignments would have tested the creative skills of any BE graduate in Mechanical Engineering from any of our universities or institutes of technology.

Awards went to students from all over Ireland from Cork to Donegal and from Clare to Fingal who were photographed with their proud parents and teachers.

Curlew Mountains Sculpture Courtesy of
The next morning I explored the wonderful tourism product of Carrick on Shannon where Leitrim County Council have constructed a beautiful but very functional boardwalk over the River Shannon. I went on to view its many marinas with cruisers tied up in the riverside adjacent to the modest but modern Leitrim County Buildings. In recreational terms, there are even 'musical wires' supported from the river bed adjacent to the boardwalk which give off a different musical harmony depending on the unique strength and direction of the prevailing wind over the Shannon. Not far away on the N4 Curlews Road stands the metal sculpture of a Celtic chieftain on horseback which indeed graced the front cover of the ETTA 2011 conference brochure.