Friday, 25 May 2012

Annual General Meeting and Goodbye

This is my last blog following the 2012 Engineers Ireland AGM. Last night I was pleased and indeed proud to pass the President's chain of office to Michael Phillips Dublin City Engineer as our new President.

It's been a great year to be part of Engineers Ireland and to work with the great people there - John Director General and Directors Fionnuala, Margie, Aiden, John and John and their lovely staff who do us proud on a daily basis.

I wish Michael every success during the coming year supported by Vice Presidents Dr John O'Dea CEO Crospon and Regina Moran CEO Fujitsu. In his Inaugural Address last night he set the tone for a year of positive engagement with the members at home and especially abroad who may come home someday. He also exemplified the spirit of public service towards society that he and others in the local authority and public sector strive to deliver to us all on a 24/7 basis.

To all the readers and followers of this blog a heartfelt thank you for coming on this special 'journey of discovery' with me during the past 12 months.

Goodbye and may your God go with you!

To read the full blog in pdf format click here: A Year the Life by PJ Rudden (President of Engineers Ireland 2011-2012).pdf

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Exploring the Burren in North Clare

I spent a few days holidays hiking around the Burren just prior to the Engineers Ireland AGM on May 24th. I had never been there before and found it a terrific natural heritage resource with huge tourism potential.

PJ Rudden outside Aillwee Cave entrance

This resource is also managed sensitively by the public bodies and all of the stakeholders involved. This is because they understand its heritage value and the degree to which a sustainable tourism product can co-exist to suit local people and the unique heritage in their midst.

PJ Rudden at Poulnabrone Dolmen
on Burren Landscape

The Aillwee Caves are the result of water erosion of weak limestone rock and is now one of the main tourist resorts as is also the Poulnabrone Dolmen both of which were attracting busloads of foreign tourists even in the month of May. In fact Aillwee Caves was only discovered in the 1940s by a local farmer who lost his dog into a hole in the ground chasing a rabbit. The farmer went looking for his dog through the opening in the ground and some hours later managed to find not only the dog but the natural heritage feature which is now known as the Aillwee Caves. This story was told by Lorraine Shannon one of the local guides who is an archaeologist.

Lorraine Shannon local archaeologist and guide
and PJ Rudden in Aillwee Caves

Both the cave and the dolmen are beautifully illustrated on signs together with many hundreds of other interesting features. There is little doubt that the Burren in North Clare will probably become Ireland’s 3rd World Heritage Site after Skellig Michael and Brú na Bóinne.

Flora at the Burren

The limestone landscape is interspersed with a wide range of flora which are in abundance at this time of year. All in all a lovely way to spend my last few days as President.

Annual Conferring of Titles

Over the past few weeks I had a busy round of Conferrings of Titles around the Regions and finally in the Helix DCU last Friday. These Conferrings were to the Titles of Fellow, Chartered Engineer, Associate Engineer and Technician Engineer. Travelling with me in each case was Shirley McDonald our Membership Growth Manager who organised the events together with the local Region Chairmen.

PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Shirley McDonald Membership Growth Manager
and Professor Padraic O'Donoghue Chairman of the West Region

In March I had the first Conferring of Titles in the North West Region in Sligo. Then in April we had the same ceremony in the Cork Region. In May, we commenced in Limerick with the Thomond Region on May 1st followed by the West Region in Galway on May 9th and the Midland Region on May 14th. The National Conferring for the East coast and other regions were then held in the Helix DCU in Dublin on May 18th. I was delighted to see the family event that these conferrings have become where increasingly partners and children attend.

The National event included the annual award of Fellowships by Presidential Invitation. These were awarded for outstanding achievement in building national infrastructure, research leading to job creation, balanced regional development in addition to long service to Engineers Ireland. The seven recipients this year were Gerry Campbell of Shell, Andrew Cooke of EirGrid, Orla Feely of UCD, David Kirwan of Bord Gáis, Michael Loftus of CIT, Liam Madden of Xilinx and John Quinn of the North East Region.

President presents Fellowship of Engineers Ireland to Gerry Campbell
Project Director of Shell E&P Ireland Ltd

President presents Fellowship of Engineers Ireland to David Kirwan
Managing Director of Bord Gáis Energy

The event in each region also coincided with the AGM where the new Chairman and Committee for each Region were elected. I therefore witnessed the 'changing of the guard' in each region. In the Thomond Region the Chairmanship passed from Kieran Horgan (Consultant Engineer ex ESB) to Peter Tiernan (UL), in the West Region from Padraic O'Donoghue (NUIG) to Christy O'Sullivan (RPS) and in the Midlands Region from John Jordan (Wirtgen Ireland Ltd) to Damien Grennan (Offaly County Council).

President welcomes the new Thomond Region Chairman
Peter Tiernan of University of Limerick

President welcomes new West Region Chairman Christy O’Sullivan of RPS Group

At each regional event, I was also pleased to present my Presidential Address which I originally gave in Clyde Road last September. The substance of the address had not changed but I updated it to give it greater relevance to each of the regions themselves in terms of my particular visits to that region during the years.

Eoin Greaney of Pavement Management Services being presented with Chartered Engineer title 
 in Galway by President PJ Rudden and Chairman of the West Region Padraic O'Donoghue
- Eoin is joined by his wife and 3 children
In Tullamore President and Midlands Chairman presents Chartered Engineer title
to Linda Parkinson of Laois County Council
I was able to strengthen the address also in terms where Government had heeded what I had said in September and had made policy changes in the meantime. This was obvious to me in two important policy areas.

1. I had called for the re-initiation of long term economic planning as we had in the early 1960s in time of TK Whitaker and other national greats who led us forward.

Only in recent weeks the new Secretary General in Dept of Finance John Moran  announced that a new economic unit was being set up to better plan not only our economic recovery but to look beyond that phase of national development in the future. John Moran had recently been recruited into the public service from the private sector where among other things he ran a series of juice bars in the South of France. He was thus bringing lateral thinking and a welcome business acumen to the work of Government. He also represents a shift from the past less regulated thinking that practically brought the country to its knees. Well done to Minister Noonan who appointed him and to Minister Howlin who appointed a man of similar background and calibre in Robert Watt as Secretary General in the new Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform.

2. In Education I called for a new 'joined up thinking' between primary and secondary education in all subjects but particularly in Maths teaching and learning.

The new Junior Cycle reform agenda being planned by Minister Quinn includes for reconfiguring that transition between 5th and 6th class in Primary school and 1st year in Secondary school. Previously as we pointed out in our 2010 Maths and Science Report there is no 'end of school assessment or report card' at the end of Primary to give any guidance  to the secondary teachers on their new pupils which I found to be odd in the extreme and not resource efficient in terms of teaching and learning. Happily the new Junior Cycle curriculum 'Innovation and Identity' recognises this failing and seeks to correct it. Increasingly it is becoming obvious that it is at Junior Cycle that most of the issue with Maths learning exists as the unqualified Maths teachers are usually sent into this cycle and those better qualified sent into the Leaving Cert classes. The sooner the better this whole Maths situation gets rectified as it will take at least a generation for the new learning processes to embed.

Visit to Limerick IT

Limerick Institute of Technology is in fact in Cratloe in County Clare north of the new Limerick Tunnel. I discovered this on a recent visit to the college organised by Thomond Region Committee Member Maria Kyne who is Head of School Built Environment.

Left to right – Seamus O’Sullivan (Lecturer), James Collins (Head of Department Built Environment Management), Paschal Meehan (Head of School Science, Engineering and IT), PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Maria Kyne (Head of School Built Environment), Pat Gill (Head of Department Construction and Civil Engineering), James Greenslade (Acting Head of Department Electrical and Electronic Engineering).

I met Maria and her colleague Paschal Meehan Head of School Science, Engineering and IT who kindly gave me a tour of the college where I met both staff and students. Indeed I was also glad to meet Seamus O'Sullivan and Gerry Ryan both former classmates of mine in UCD and both now lecturing at the college. Seamus was Limerick City Engineer for a period of major infrastructural development in the City prior to taking up a lecturing role at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT).

Paschal Meehan in the Electronics Laboratory with PJ Rudden

Maria Kyne, PJ Rudden and Paschal Meehan in Solar Energy Laboratory

LIT specialise in civil mechanical and electrical engineering in addition to construction management studies. Both areas that are currently growing in the college are electronics and the whole area of studio sound and acoustics for music and theatre events which I visited to view some dress rehearsals. Firstly I toured the surveying, motor engineering and electrical engineering depts meeting various staff members and students.

Gerard Meagher (Lecturer) and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
in the Music Media and Performance Technology Department

Maria Kyne and Paschal Meehan in the Motor Engineering workshop with PJ Rudden

I then visited some of the music centres where students at various stages were testing their sound and acoustic talents in advance of gaining employment in radio TV stage and screen.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Peter Diffley (technician)
in the LIT Millennium Theatre

I was brought into the LIT Millennium Theatre where I was shown the equipment used to mix the sound and music effects of a full production.

Ger Hartigan and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
in the Surveying Department

I left LIT realising that every IT has its own set of specialist areas and service specific areas of the economy. LIT graduates have project management skills for construction and logistics management in industry generally and also specialise in producing graduates who are the engineers that make stage and screen events happen in Ireland and internationally wherever they go.

Cuairt ar An Roth

Cúpla miosa ó shin, cuir me cuart ar An Roth I gCumann Innealtoirí na hÉireann. Bhí Cathaoirleach An Roth an Doctúir Fionn O Muircheartaigh ina gceannais ag an uair sin.

Ins an Céad Oráid mar Uachtaráin Mi Bealtaine seo caite, deir mé go bhfuil suim agam sa Gaeilge agus ag an abhar sin déanfadh mé mo dhicheall freastal ar cuart amháin no beidir faoi dhó i rith mo bhlian as Uachtaráin.

Freastal mé ar leacht Matt Hussey iar-cheannaire eolaíochta i DIT ar “An Chichipéad Eolaíochta agus Teicneolaíochta”. Bhí slua reasúnta i labhair agus roinnt daoine eile ar an líne ríomhaire ina theach no oifig fhéin. Leacht ana suimiúil a bhí ann a chuir comhtheacs ar stair an eolaíochta and teicneolaíocta and an ceangail ata idir an dá ábhair.

Cloisimid faoi na Eolaí agus na Innealtoirí cailiúil i rith na céadta mar shampla. Copernicus, Lavoisier, Laplace, Faraday, Brunel, Stephanson, Volta, Boyle, Hamilton, Boole and na céadta eile. Cloisimid freisin ar an éifeacht mór a bhí ag baint leis na fionnachtáin agus na claichlú a rinne siad ar caighdeán beatha na ndaoine ar fad an domhain. Fuair me fochlóir nua ar na céadta tearma teicneolaíocta as Gaeilge. Bhí an leacht abhartha don saol ata inniu ann agus go háirithe ar an gearroráid a bhi agamsa don Roth. Freisin bhí pictiurí ana suiliúil ag Matt mar shampla - An Bealach na Bo Finna (The Milky Way phenomenon in outerspace) nach chonaic mé riamh roimhe sin.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Robert Boyle

Seo é an oráid beag a rinne mé fhéin ar an oiche sin tas éis leacht Matt Hussey.

Anuraidh i mí Bealtaine 2011 bhí me tofa mar Uachtaráin ar Cumann Innealtorí na hEireann. Is mór an ónóir domsa bheith pairteach sna gluais mór naisiúnta seo le cathair a ghabháil do tir le fás agus forbairt a áthbheochaint and fostaíthocht a leathniú sna toinscail teicneolaíochta.

Cad is fath don Chumann san lá ata inniu ann? Bhuil is guth náisiúnta fíor nó udarach é ar son an gairm innealtóireacht uilig san Éirinn. Ta fómhór an fás eacnanaíochta atá ar bun na laethanta seo ag tarlú ins na fiortair fearma, an ríomhaireacht, bith-theicneolaíocht and ins an tionscail fuinneamh.

De réir na meáin cumasáide ta an fás agus an forbairt seo ag teacht ón Eolaíocht amháin. Ta sé sin beagnach ceart! Is as na Tionscail Innealltóireachta atá na jobanna a chruthnú!! Tá an Eolaíocht ceart go leor ach is an Eolaíocht agus an Maitimatic bunaithe ar an Innealtóireacht. Tá na hInnealtóirí ag chruthú na jobanna sin mar is an Innealtóireacht a deanann an Eolaíocht ina fiontar trachtála ar an gceád dul síos. Níl sé sin áisúil a rá áfach!

Tá Comairle an Chumann ag obair ana dícheallach an bliain seo! Tá muid ag iarradh proifil an Innealtóir Cairte no Gairmúil (CEng) a chur chun tosaigh leis an fogra ar an teilifis ar RTE, SKY agus na meáin mar sin de.

Dún Duchathaoir Arann

Taimid tar éis na Riallacha Ballraíochta a airdú conus go mbeadh Céim Mhaistir  nó comhbhrí ag gach éinne a bhuil CEng á lorg. Freisin tá na heolaí imshaolach nó na gairm nach bhuil céim innealltóireach acu ach go cinnte tá said ag obair ar scéimanna innealltoíreachta  tabhartach. Da bhár sin anois tá siad in ann an MIEI a ghnothaigh or a baint amach anois freisin.

Criunniú na mBád
Ta mé tar eis cuart a gabháil ar beagnach gach coláiste triú leibhéil agus beagnach gach fiontar taighde in Eirinn mar shampla Institiuid Tyndall I Corchaigh agus Institiuid Nasiúnta na Mara I nGaillimh agus na cúigead roinn innealtóireachta I gColaiste Ollscoil Blath Cliath. Sé an spreagadh a bhí agam ná tabhair chun súntais conas atá Oideachais ina síol don Fiontar agus ina ndhiaidh sin, ina síol an Fhostaiocht a leathrú. Se an ábhair a bhí ar mo Oráid Uachtaráin ná ‘Building a Sustainable Recovery’ (Téarnamh Eachamíocht a Athbeochaint).

Ar an Cuan Nua i Cill Rónáin bhí An Ollamh Pádraic MacDonnacha NUIG,
Padraig Ó Rodáin Uachtarán Chumann Innealtóirí na nEireann
agus Cathy Ní Ghoill Bainisteoir Comharchumann Forbatha Arann
Freisin tá mé ag chur cuart ar sceimanna bonneagar mar shampla bhi me ag an Droichead Nua Mizen in iarthar Chorcaigh i mhí Lunasa, ag Tullán Luimhnigh I mí Feabhra, ag Sceim Draenála i gCeatharlach in Mí Eanair, go hArainn i Chuan na Gaillime I Mí Bealtaine. Chuaigh mé go Chill Ronáin leis an cuan nua i Cill Ronáin a fheiceáil in éineacht le Chomhairchumann Arann agus an Bainisteoir iontach sin Cathy Ní Ghoill atá ar bhall Bord Udarás na Gaeltachta freisin. Bhí me ina comhairleoir don Chomharchumann de bhliain ó sin ar scéim nua athcusála a chur ar bun. Sin an gealltanais a rinne me anuraidh and sin a rinne mé - le cathair a tharraing do na hInnealtoiri and na daoine sna ceantair eagsúla timpeall na tíre.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Opening World Congress on Water Climate and Energy in Dublin

Last week I had the pleasure of opening the World Congress on Water Climate and Energy in the Dublin Convention Centre together with Irish MEP Mairéad McGuinness and Mr Paul Reiter Executive Director of the International Water Association (IWA). The reason I was asked to do this was that Engineers Ireland is the National Governing Body for the IWA who organised the conference. It was last held in Dublin in 1992. The conference running for 4 days was attended by 1,200 delegates from all over the world with many exotic examples of traditional forms of dress and headgear on display.

I used the opportunity to update the Congress in the new Irish Government initiative on Irish Water and to set this development in the context of European Water Policy generally.

Water is the key to life we know. It is also an increasing challenge to preserve it as a crucial resource for humanity - not least because the world population continues to grow and yet we cannot make more water! To further increase the challenge, water tends to be in abundance where most people generally do not live. This is true of the world and it's equally true in Ireland. Wars have been fought over access to water which is no surprise as humans can live for a month without food but will die in less than a week without water. Indeed the Vice President of the World Bank was heard to say in 1995 that 'many of the wars in this century were about oil but those of the next century will be over water!' Whether water will start wars or not we are not sure but we ARE sure that with the world population still growing that water will become an ever scarcer resource to be managed and indeed cared for.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Ray Earle Congress Chairman

Ireland generally has good air and water quality. In addition, energy intensity or energy use per unit of GDP is also the lowest among OECD countries. However despite this positive progress the current economic climate in Ireland represents a challenge for maintaining environmental commitments. It also presents opportunities to reassess and reform those policies that are both economically costly and environmentally damaging  - like not charging households for water usage, tolerating internationally high leakage rates from our water networks and sending more waste to landfill than is necessary when cleaner alternatives like recycling and energy recovery exist.

I might even say that there's nothing more powerful to effect real change in society than a good crisis. So let's not waste a good crisis and fix what is broken in our economy. That includes the management of our Water Resources.

Therefore this year as part of our economic recovery plans we are about to oversee a transformation of the Irish water industry. The Government here have concluded that a new national public utility as part of an existing utility Bord Gais offers the best opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water service delivery, provide access to new funding sources and to improve strategic planning and accountability.

The new utility model to be called Irish Water or perhaps in Gaelic 'Uisce Eireann' will replace the historical role of 34 existing local authorities in this regard. This is seen as essential structural reform to deliver maximum efficiency in our water infrastructure and also because we had no funding model as Ireland does not meter or charge for water to domestic consumers. Currently only commercial and industrial customers are metered by the local authorities. Indeed thankfully it was made a condition of our IMF financial bailout that in future we charge all of our consumers for the public water that they use. A national metering programme will therefore soon commence which in time will fund a new investment programme to modernise and upgrade our water services based on use related charges.

Hosting a group of delegates from the World Congress on Water Climate and Energy to
Engineers Ireland HQ in Dublin. Back Row: Martin Nixon Sydney, 
Professor Michael Bruen UCD, Jerry Grant RPS Front Row: Ray Earle Congress Chairman, 
PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Roisin Bradford UCD and 
Dr Glen Daigger President of International Water Association

While there is some political opposition to this proposal I want to say here that Engineers Ireland fully support the Government's action, including the introduction of water charges on domestic dwellings. This not only makes economic sense - it also makes good environmental sense in terms of the “polluter pays” principle as an incentive to conserve the finite resource that is water. Householders currently pay for every other utility like electricity gas and communications so why not also for water on a 'pay by use' system. It should not however have taken an economic crisis in Ireland for us to come to our senses in this regard.

Ireland has also made very good progress on the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive requiring Member States to protect and restore the quality of waters on a river catchment basis. In Ireland River Basin Management Plans for each of the 7 river basin districts have been adopted. The plans set out the current status of our waters, the objectives to be achieved by 2015 and a programme of measures in order to achieve those objectives. Water pollution from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems is also being addressed through the introduction of legislation for their inspection and performance monitoring. This we support also in terms of Minister Hogan’s proposal.

Therefore in Ireland despite our recent economic difficulties we remain optimistic that by adopting the right economic, social and environmental responses that we as a country, are on our way back to prosperity but hopefully a more equitable and more sustainable form than we experienced before. We remain fixed on maintaining our membership in a strong Europe which has been the bedrock of our recent environmental sustainability.

We remain committed to the principles of the Europe 2020 Strategy in terms of its five ever ambitious objectives on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy. Most relevant of the 7 Flagship Initiatives is Resource Efficiency in our economies which have a special relevance to Water, Climate and Energy. We expect this resource efficiency to be a creator of major economic opportunities in each of our sectors and of improving productivity. A resource efficient Europe will deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth but these objectives must now be tempered by the new rules of economic governance applied by the EU Stability Pact Treaty.

In terms of our future approach to Water we very much look forward to the EU Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources to be published later this year. This will build on the progress made with the EU Water Framework Directive and further consolidate our water framework legislation. It will ensure a sustainable balance between water demand and supply and the natural ecosystems they depend on.

Visit to Kilronan Harbour and Innishmore on Aran Islands

In the past few weeks I completed my round of Presidents Visits nationally to Infrastructure Projects by flying to the Aran Islands to view the recently completed Kilronan Harbour on Innishmore.

Kilronan Harbour under construction with breakwaters in the foreground (2009)
Courtesy of
Flying with me was the Chairman of the West Region, Padraic O'Donoghue Professor of Civil Engineering at NUIG, Consultant Joe Murphy of Punch Consulting who designed the harbour and Regional Director Pat Nestor of BAM Contractors who built it. 

We were met by Kevin Finn Senior Marine Engineer Galway County Council and by Cathy Ní Ghoill Bainisteoir of Comharchumann Forbartha Árann (Manager of Innishmore Co-op) and Board Member on Údarás na Gaeltachta. Cathy also chaired the island's own Harbour Committee who were key stakeholders in the planning design and construction of the harbour by Galway County Council.

On the new harbour quay Padraic O'Donoghue, Pat Nestor, Joe Murphy,
Cathy Ní Ghoill and PJ Rudden

Kilronan Harbour costing some €40million is the largest project completed on an offshore island in the history of the state. It is a magnificent new facility that has and will continue to transform transport services to and from for islanders and tourists alike in addition to providing for the fishing and cargo industry also.

The harbour required construction of a 550m long breakwater to protect it from the Atlantic swell in Galway Bay. Separate berthing facilities were required for ferries, fishing vessels, cargo boats and the RNLI Aran Lifeboat in addition to car parking facilities to accommodate all harbour users.

On new breakwaters with existing pier, ferries and Aran Lifeboat in background 
Padraic O'Donoghue, PJ Rudden and Cathy Ní Ghoill
When we were on Innishmore we also viewed a number of very interesting waste, energy, childcare, assisted living and amenity projects all proposed and built by the Comharchumann with funding from the various public agencies. They are all very impressive and rival similar projects anywhere on the mainland in Ireland. Cathy as Co-op Manager together with her deputy Geraldine and staff member Breda is responsible for all of them in terms of furthering community development on the island.

The waste recycling project set up by Timpealleacht na nOileán (now known as Athcursala Árann Teoranta) is one of the few national composting projects fully licensed by the Dept of Agriculture and Food under the EU Animal Byproducts Directive. Managed by Gerry Mullin who works for the Co-op recycling company, the depot is thus capable of recycling all of the catering waste from the restaurants on Inis Mór (there are similar facilities on Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr) in addition to the household food waste from the houses there. This would put many of our cities and towns in Ireland to shame where the 'brown waste bin' for food waste does not yet have the penetration levels that it should at this stage of our national development.

In Athcursála Arann recycling depot, Engineers Ireland visiting group
with Gerry Mullin Depot Manager
Cathy also showed us the Automatic Diesel Refuelling Depot, the Retirement Home and the Island Crèche. The use and storage of petrol on the island is forbidden under safety regulations so all cars on the island use only diesel - except for the 6 electric cars recently supplied to the islanders by SEAI and Electric Ireland as a pilot scheme to test the cars in the harsh Atlantic environment!

The very colourful two storey 6-roomed architect designed crèche would certainly be the envy of most childcare communities in Ireland. Also the new playground in Kilronan is the largest and most colourful amenity I've seen anywhere in Ireland in terms of size, design and sheer range of outdoor equipment to cater for all ages from 3 to 17 year olds.

In new Kilronan Community Playground at back Padraic O'Donoghue and Pat Nestor 
at front PJ Rudden and Cathy Ní Ghoill
From all of the above one might think that the population of the Aran Islands is growing quickly.  It's not unfortunately but it’s not falling either so there is every hope that all of these new amenities might encourage young families to stay. Aran is a unique national heritage and needs all of these supports to make life closer to the relative comforts of the mainland.

In new harbour car park with Kevin Finn Senior Marine Engineer Galway County Council
Even convincing the tourists who come to the prehistoric fort Dun Aonghusa to stay overnight can be difficult and yet there can be no tourism industry on Aran unless we regrow a new young vibrant community there.

View of Dun Aonghusa
Courtesy of
Great credit is due to former Minister Eamon O'Cuiv over the past 10 years who pushed and funded most of the infrastructure we saw, to Galway County Council and to Comharchumann Arann for their collective foresight to keep the Aran Islands alive.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Visit to Corrib Project in Mayo

The largest project currently under construction in Ireland is the Corrib Project in Mayo led by Shell E & P Ireland Ltd  (SEPIL) partnered also by Statoil and Vermillion - collectively called the Corrib Gas Partners.

This project at peak production will supply 60% of the nation's natural gas and overall will contribute €6billion to Ireland's GDP over its lifespan according to Goodbody Economic Consultants commissioned by Shell. Over the next three years the project will invest €400million in Mayo sustaining the equivalent of 382 full time jobs and 450 indirect jobs.

Overall Corrib Development Project
I was therefore very pleased to lead an Engineers Ireland visit to the site supported also by The Energy Institute, IBEC and Mayo County Council. The visit was kindly organised by our West Region chairman Professor Padraic O'Donoghue of NUIG and attended also by Engineers Ireland Director General John Power and Dept of Communications Energy and Natural Resources Chief Technical Adviser Bob Hanna.

Seated from left to right: Neil O'Carroll (MD of Conoco Philips), Chair of IBEC Energy Policy Committee; Prof Pádraic O'Donoghue (NUIG), Chairman of Western Regional Branch of EI; Brendan Butler, Corrib Deputy Project Director, Shell E&P Ireland Limited; PJ Rudden, President of Engineers Ireland; John Power, Director General, Engineers Ireland; Gerry Campbell, Corrib Project Director, Shell E&P Ireland Limited; Erik O'Donovan, IBEC; David Taylor, Chairman of the Energy Institute. Standing, from left: Brendan Mulligan (Údarás na Gaeltachta), Western Regional Branch of EI; Neil Walker, IBEC, Energy Policy Committee; Padraic Fogarty (Tobin Engineering), Western Branch of EI; Wolfgang Probst, Operations Manager, Shell E& P Ireland Limited; Pat McHale, Mayo County Council; Simon Stanton, Commercial Manager, Shell E&P Ireland Limited; Pat Downes, Director of Bord na Móna; Bob Hanna, Chief Technical Advisor, DCENR; Muredach Tuffy (Mayo County Council), Western Regional Branch of Engineers Ireland
The visit was hosted by Gerry Campbell SEPIL Project Director responsible for planning construction and commissioning of the project. Gerry was assisted by his colleagues Brendan Butler, Simon Stanton and Wolfgang Probst. We firstly visited Bellanaboy Gas Terminal and then the Aughoose Tunnelling Compound where construction is well advanced. The Terminal, Offshore Pipeline and subsea wells are complete; only the 8.3km long Onshore Pipeline now remains to be constructed. Approximately 4.9km of the Onshore Pipeline will be installed within a 4.2m diameter tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay.  Tunnelling will start at Aughoose in late 2012 and it is expected that the tunnel will be completed in approximately 15 months. Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are often named – the Corrib TBM is named Fionnuala after one of the Children of Lír - Sruwaddacon Bay features in this famous Irish legend. It is anticipated that the Corrib Onshore Pipeline will be completed by late 2014 when ‘First Gas’ will arrive onshore.

Broadhaven Bay leading into Sruwaddacon Bay on the right
It's been a long and difficult and indeed contentious project over the past 12 years. It is however very obvious to all visitors that there is a genuine commitment to complete the project to the highest safety standards and in partnership with the local community.

It will also be built fully in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), An Bord Pleanála and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

On both sites we visited, the high standard of safety was clear at every turn as the complexity of construction and operational features were explained to us by Shell personnel. The site has a fantastic safety record when one considers the level of activity in a relatively confined area.

We wish the project well to completion.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Visit to Donegal Region and Letterkenny IT

A week before the Annual Conference I visited the Donegal Region. There I met Region Chairman Rodney McDermott, Eleanor Diver Secretary and Michael Carr Treasurer together with Past Chairman William Diver. Eleanor kindly organised a very full day for me at Letterkenny IT starting with meeting President Paul Hannigan and Head of Development John Andy Bonar to discuss development potential in the region. I also met Denis McFadden Head of the School of Engineering, Dr Jim Morrison Head of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Anne Bonar Head of Department of Civil Engineering and Construction.
LYIT Campus, Letterkenny
With President Paul Hannigan we discussed how LYIT could grow as a catalyst for future development of the region. The two main strengths which Donegal has is its tourism and its ocean resources - yes fishing as always but also its wind, wave and tidal power resources around the coast. LYIT already has a School of Tourism in Killybegs where the potential for further enterprise is being explored.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland with Paul Hannigan
President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology
I also met the Donegal County Manager Seamus Neely who too is ambitious for further development of the county in terms of the diversity of its resources and the talent of its people. Donegal County Council has also been central in implementation of the new EU Water Framework Directive in terms of national leadership and cross border development in river basin district (RBD) management and therefore has an important role to play with the new Irish Water utility. It seems to me that the better management of our water resources both on and offshore will be a key lever in our national recovery in terms of resource efficiency, new enterprise and jobs. I also met Donal Casey who is responsible for RBD plan development and implementation for the Council.

Group of students in LY IT with Anne Bonar Head of School
 of Civil Engineering
and Construction, Eleanor Diver Lecturer in LYIT
and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
When in Letterkenny I visited the local RPS office under Director Donal Doyle. Donal together with senior staff Angela McGinley and Debbie Nesbitt joined a social evening in Letterkenny organised by the Donegal Region. There I was happy to meet former UCD classmate Peadar MacRory who is Senior Engineer with Donegal County Council on the construction of the new Letterkenny Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Dr Jim Morrison Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering LYIT, 
Eleanor Diver Secretary of Donegal Region Engineers Ireland 
and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
As I left Donegal through the relatively new national primary roads to the south past Donegal town and Ballyshannon I was struck by how the new infrastructure has transformed access to and from Donegal. I was again struck too by the stunning beauty of Barnesmore Gap with its stormy streams of water shedding down the valley like torrents on both sides of the road.

Engineers Ireland President PJ Rudden with Rodney McDermott 
Chairman of Donegal Region and the Region Committee
Passing through County Fermanagh I could not miss the huge tourism offering that is now Lough Erne and the neatly maintained road side and farm hedges all the way to Aghalane Bridge in County Cavan. I stopped at the new bridge named after Senator George Mitchell which I had helped to build working as consultant to Cavan County Council in 1998. It was built on the back of the Good Friday Agreement signed earlier that year which the Senator had brokered in Belfast. I also met the Senator at the Bridge ceremony later that year where he spoke frankly on 'how the peace was made' that Good Friday night.

I walked south of the Border to the artistic feature that always summed up the new peace that came 'dropping slowly' as the arms were laid down on both sides and people returned to their families. The sculpture at the bridge sums it all up 'Peace for All - welcome home the war is over'. The sculpture shows the warrior with the broken sword being welcomed home by his loved one.

Peace sculpture at George Mitchell Bridge at Aghalane on Border
I was born and grew up a short distance from the border in County Cavan and will never forget the symbolism of that new bridge across the Border nor the sculpture that depicts the real story of Northern Ireland. It had a special resonance with me also as days later I headed to the Europa Hotel and City Hall in Belfast as President to open the Engineers Ireland Annual Conference on 'Engineering Enterprise in Times of Change'.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Remarkable Annual Conference ends in Belfast

A remarkable Annual Conference ended in Belfast on Friday last. To me it showed Engineers Ireland to be truly an all island organisation. In the Centenary Year of the Titanic Story in Belfast, the Cork, Thomond, Midlands, West, North West and Donegal Regions joined forces with the East Coast members and Clyde Road staff to support the tremendous efforts of our Northern Ireland colleagues in the Northern Region.

The Northern Region is very ably led this year by Peter Quinn who together with Fionnuala Kilbane our Marketing and Communications Director in Clyde Road organised the conference. The conference theme 'Engineering Enterprise in Times of Change' was apt in terms of our rebuilding a sustainable economic recovery.

Key Speakers were Alex Attwood NI Minister of the Environment, Bob Hanna Chief Adviser in Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eddie O'Connor CEO Mainstream Renewables, Dermot Byrne CEO EirGrid, John Barry MD Bord Gáis Network and Tanya Hedley NI Electricity Regulator.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and 
Alex Attwood MLA Minister of the Environment Northern Ireland
The Guest Speaker from abroad was Belfast native Dr Stephen Myers Director of CERN Laboratory in Geneva Switzerland. CERN is the European Research Body for Particle Physics. It was here that the World Wide Web (www) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989! CERN also had 5 Nobel Prizes in Physics between 1952 and 1992.

Day 1 of the Conference was a plenary session on Outlook on Policy - Developing and Harnessing Creativity and Enabling Ingenuity in the Public and Private Sectors. I gave the Keynote Address and chaired Day 1. Day 2 saw breakout sessions between Offshore Energy 2050 and Manufacturing chaired by Peter Quinn Northern Region Chairman and Declan Lyons Mechanical Division Chairman respectively.

Graphic from Titanic Signature Building showing the old Harland and Wolff Shipyard 
which is now the Titanic Quarter development
At the close of day we also got a tour of the Titanic Signature Building which is the iconic new Visitor Centre opened on March 30th and already drawing 80,000 visitors in the first month! It's really a day event for the family so I could not describe it adequately here as I did not see it adequately in the hour and a half I spent there! You gotta go and see it yourself as it’s the most professional and interesting audio visual extravaganza I've ever seen. It depicts not only the Titanic Story but the social political and economic circumstances in Belfast in the early decades of the 20th century.

The signing of the Ulster Government against Home Rule by Edward Carson in 1912
The main preoccupation in Belfast in 1912 was not the launching of the Titanic on its maiden voyage but the threat of Home Rule and the sense of betrayal of Ulster by the London Government under Asquith. You are brought on a whirlwind of carted tours through the six floors of the building to see the manufacture of ships and the lives of the people who made them even down to the red hot rivets installed by mallet sometimes under candlelight. The external cladding on the building is more than an architectural masterpiece - the zigzag aluminium cladding is dramatic to view on the outside!

Engineers Ireland delegates entering the Titanic Signature Building
The speech of Environment Minister Attwood was most sincere and interesting where he played to the strengths of Northern Ireland and the need to maximise our onshore and offshore renewable resources. Conscious of the planning difficulties which he has seen on onshore wind projects he sees huge prospects in connecting up our offshore wind wave and tidal resources which are the best in Europe.

Belfast City Hall is a beautiful building outside and even more so inside where we were entertained by the Belfast Community Gospel Choir in a truly iconic setting.

Delegates at City Hall appreciating the Belfast Community Gospel Choir
The Offshore Energy and Manufacturing break out sessions on Day 2 were very interesting. I went to the Energy session where Dr Eddie O'Connor outlined the urgency of moving to a low carbon energy infrastructure for cost as well as environmental reasons. He foresaw all cars on the road in 2050 will be electric cars as he said 'we will have no choice by then'. Dermot Byrne of EirGrid Bob Hanna of Dept of Energy and Tanya Hedley the NI Electricity Regulator all described the energy challenges confronting us in a forthright way and the policies and measures now being put in place to meet these challenges for future generations.

Rita Pollard Engineers Ireland Communications Executive adjusting the President’s chain 
watched by Shirley McDonald Membership Growth Manager
I brought the conference proceedings to a close by reminding our audience that the challenges that confront us require us to make a distinct 'step change' in our thinking. 'The significant problems that we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them' said Einstein. Certainly that is very true of the energy challenge where we have to engineer a new technical regulatory and economic world to give us a more secure future.

Finished model of the Titanic Quarter 
I will never forget my few days in Belfast in April 2012 when we sampled history but we also gazed into the future and what new world we engineers have to create to ensure the safe survival and well being of those who come after us.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Annual Conference opens in Titanic Belfast

Last night the Engineers Ireland Annual Conference opened in Belfast at a reception hosted by the Northern Region of Engineers Ireland and was attended by the High Sheriff of Belfast.

The Northern Region Chairman Peter Quinn welcomed the delegates to the Europa Conference Centre and introduced the Chairman of the Titanic Trust, Jonathan Hegan, and CEO of Titanic Quarter, Mike Smith. Mike Smith gave a fascinating outline of the planning financing construction and fitting out of the new Titanic Belfast visitor centre that delegates will visit this evening before the conference dinner at Belfast City Hall.

Peter Quinn Chairman Northern Region Engineers Ireland, PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, May Campbell High Sheriff of Belfast, Don McQuillan Director RPS Structural Designer of Titanic Belfast and Jonathan Hegan Chairman of the Titanic Trust
It was a mammoth task to get Titanic Belfast built on time for the centenary of the Titanic story in April 2012. Getting work started on time in 2009 was challenging, as the world financial crisis impacted adversely on financing of the new centre. The developers at Titanic Quarter overcame their difficulties with the help of the architects firm Todd Associates, RPS Consulting Engineers and EC Harris Project Managers, resulting in the centre opening on time last month.

Jonathan described the combination of pride and humility with which they have celebrated the opening of Titanic Belfast which has attracted over 80,000 visitors already since its opening three weeks ago.

In thanking the Northern Region and the Titanic Trust for the reception and talks on Titanic Belfast, I welcomed all the delegates and hoped that the conference would be stimulating technically and exciting to see the iconic new Signature Building which is in the shape of a white star, each corner of which is a replica of the hull of the ship itself.

The conference will focus on the Manufacturing tradition of Belfast, now transformed from shipbuilding into the manufacture of turbines and other engineering components for the Offshore Energy industry, which are now taking place in part of the regenerated Harland & Wolff Shipyard in the middle of the new Titanic Quarter.

This morning I will open the conference on Harnessing and Developing Creativity followed by Dr Stephen Myers of CERN Accelerator Laboratory in Switzerland and Alex Attwood MLA Minister for the Environment in Northern Ireland.

Then we will hear leading speakers from the Irish Energy industry including John Barry MD of Bord Gáis Networks and Bob Hanna Chief Technical Adviser in the Dept of Communications Energy and Natural Resources in Dublin.

It's great to be in Belfast on such a wonderful occasion and see the attraction it has become on the strength of the new democratic institutions here.

I'm especially delighted with the number of our members who have come from Cork, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Sligo and all along the west coast of Ireland to share in this national occasion in Belfast.