Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Launching Engineers Week with Infrastructure Update Report

Engineers Week was launched by Mr Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on Monday morning last with the publication of 'The State of Ireland 2012 - A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland' report by Engineers Ireland.

Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources launching the Engineers Ireland Infrastructure Report as part of Engineers Week together
with PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland
and John Power Director General Engineers Ireland
The report states that Ireland struggles to meet peak demand in the infrastructural areas of transport, water and waste which all require significant investment and better maintenance. Ireland's regional communications infrastructure is improving but overall country-wide deficiencies in this area still hamper producer and consumer needs.

In launching the Report Minister Rabbitte stated that 'As my portfolio across energy, exploration and communications, I have some appreciation for the important role that infrastructure plays in our everyday lives and I also appreciate that engineers make infrastructure. Ireland needs to engineer its way to the knowledge-based society that we all agree is our future. We need more engineers. We need them now and we need them in the future. We need schools to make Maths and Physics interesting and we need more people to choose engineering as a career. That's why I welcome the initiative that is Engineers Week. It's a week of activities all over the country intended to capture the imagination of our young people'.

John Power Director General summarised the report by outlining the grading system given to infrastructure in Ireland with respect to Energy, Transport, Water and Flooding, Waste and Communications in 2012 as respectively B, C, C, C and B-. 'Capital investment is vital to meet the Government's desire to stimulate the economy and meet its stated job creation objectives outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs. Crucially vital skills are being lost to the Irish economy and the Irish construction industry through the absence of major infrastructural projects' he stated.

In thanking the Minister for launching the Report I agreed with him that despite the downturn in the economy that now was not the time 'to take the foot off the pedal' as far as the provision of infrastructure was concerned. We needed to create a greater awareness in society of the role that engineers played and instanced the IDA Ireland report from last month that 47% of the new jobs created in 2011 were from the engineering sector in computing, pharma and biomedical engineering. Even as I spoke 200 pharma science jobs and engineering jobs were being announced by Eli Lilly at a total investment of €330million in Kinsale County Cork by Richard Bruton Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that morning. 

Engineers Week is packed this year with some 255 events nationally. After the launch John Power and I travelled north to Belfast for the Sir Bernard Crossland Lecture in Queens University. The title this year was 'Building Business in Belfast, Bangalore and Beijing'. The speakers this year were Philip Gilliland Partner at Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors Belfast and Pugalenthi Pandian Centre Manager for Schlumberger Europe in Belfast.

Each showed how companies from Northern Ireland can compete on a global stage and how they can develop a share in emerging markets with a particular focus on Asian economies. Philip in particular felt that the recent visit of Xi Jinping Vice President of China to Ireland would have very positive impacts on future prospects for Ireland as a gateway to Europe for our goods and services.

Tonight we have the McLaughlin Lecture on Moore's Law by Liam Madden Corporate Vice President of Xilinx inc. a graduate of UCD engineering and Cornell who is based in San Francisco. Moore's law named after the founder of Intel describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware whereby the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.

Tomorrow, volunteers from Engineers Ireland visit Second Level schools all over Ireland to highlight the importance of Maths as a basis for engineering. This will support the new Project Maths curriculum currently being rolled out in all secondary schools.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Visit to Limerick Tunnel and University of Limerick

On Friday 17th February I visited the Thomond Region of Engineers Ireland hosted by its Chairman Kieran Horgan accompanied by Dr Peter Tiernan Engineering Lecturer in UL and Seamus Barrett Assistant Chief Fire Officer in Limerick County Council. A packed agenda for the day had been organised between Kieran Horgan and Dr Con Sheahan Senior Lecturer in the UL Enterprise Research Centre.

We started early in the morning at the Limerick Tunnel Traffic Control Centre where we were briefed by Eoghan O'Sullivan of Direct Route (consortium of Lagan Roadbridge Strabag) who designed, built and operate the Tunnel.

At Limerick Tunnel Control Centre Seamus Barrett Limerick County Council, Kieran Horgan Chairman Thomond Region, PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Dr Peter Tiernan UL Mechanical Engineering Lecturer and Eoghan O’Sullivan Operations Manager Lagan Projects (Operations of Limerick Tunnel)
On the many CCTV screens we could see the early morning traffic in both directions through the tunnel and the on and off ramps of the local interchanges. One can only imagine what the traffic in Limerick would have been like that morning without the tunnel which is a great example of infrastructure that has transformed the lives of people not only in Limerick but in the whole Mid West Region. In addition to providing an essential new crossing point of the Shannon, the tunnel also allows north south traffic from Cork and Kerry to bypass the city to the west and onto Galway and the North West. Infrastructure like this also does enormous good for industrial and regional development including tourism which is one of the growth areas helping to fuel our national recovery.

At the Tunnel Traffic Centre Eoghan gave us interesting insights into driver behaviours which we could see on screen and which in every way challenge road safety. I thought that the recent media coverage of Garda statistics showing motorists unwittingly driving in the wrong direction on our dual carriageways was exaggerated until I saw some of the historical footage at the tunnel but it's every bit as bad as the Gardaí describe!

From the Tunnel we proceeded on to University of Limerick School of Science and Engineering where we were greeted by Professor Kieran Hodnett Dean of Science and Engineering and his Professors and Lecturers. They included Professor Tom Cosgrove of Civil Engineering, Professor Tom Coffey of Electronic and Computer Engineering and Professor Michael McCarthy of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering. At UL I was joined by the Registrar of Engineers Ireland Damien Owens.

In his introductory remarks, Kieran welcomed Engineers Ireland to UL and talked of his pride in UL and his pride in the region. In civil engineering terms he mentioned the fact that when the River Shannon which now literally flows through the college flooded extensively in recent years that all of the UL buildings on the banks of the Shannon were unscathed as they had been wisely designed and built above the flood level.

We then went on to discuss a number of separate topics all relevant to UL and to Engineers Ireland

  • the need for greater clarity on the learning outcome requirements for CEng - a number of departments (Electronics/Robotics and Aeronautical Engineering) want a Masters Level 9 requirement and nothing less because they say that the international industries they supply with graduates have that requirement also.
  • how to raise the visibility and profile of  Engineers and our role in Society - Engineers Ireland were complimented on the new TV Advertising Campaign for Chartered Engineer
  • the importance of CPD in the continued learning process of Engineers and the role that Third Level can take to assist Engineers Ireland in this regard
  • the need for greatly improved gender balance in Engineering (also raised with us in UCC School of Engineering on the previous day so it is clearly exercising the minds of Third Level)
  • the importance of the Springboard Programme initiated by the Higher Education Authority to facilitate greater skills conversion at Third Level
  • the need for Engineers Ireland to keep the pressure on the political system to ensure the success of Project Maths and to maintain current assistance levels to existing Second Level students and teachers (UL similar to NUIG have their own Entrance Exam in Honours Mathematics for the School of Engineering which they accept instead of the Leaving Certificate results)
Dr Ann Ledwith of the UL Enterprise Research Centre gave us a presentation on the strong interface with industry in the growth areas of the economy e.g. cloud computing and manufacturing through e-learning and distance learning. She instanced a request from industry to produce a new BSc in Engineering Science to service a cohort of employees the following autumn which UL were able to accommodate and thus get much closer to the particular academic needs of that growth industry. There's little doubt that the commercialisation of industrial research was pioneered in UL since its foundation under Dr Ed Walsh as its first President. Now it is very correctly a national priority for the entire Third Level sector and National Research Institutes.

We also heard about the 'student centred approach' to interactive learning in the Civil Engineering Dept from Declan Hughes Course Director - which I will return to see in detail! Also I was delighted to visit the Aeronautical Engineering laboratories with Prof Michael McCarthy and to hear that all of this years final years have jobs with Boeing, British Aerospace and other major international firms.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland with student building
scaled model in UL Aeronautical Engineering Laboratory
I also visited the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) with Dr Peter Tiernan. This is obviously a well resourced research area in UL and they have had a large number of industrial 'spin outs' leading to significant job creation for Irish graduates. A new extension to the MSSI facility has just been approved for an additional 2,400 sq metres of laboratory and research space.

Student of UL Mechanical Engineering showing surface engineering samples to Dr Peter Tiernan UL, PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Kieran Horgan Chairman of Thomond Region
I then visited Professor John O'Donoghue of the UL National Centre of Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL). This is the national organisation assisting the Regional Education Centres to up skill Second Level teachers in the new Project Maths curriculum. Tom Cosgrove, Con Sheahan and I discussed the challenge of Project Maths with John O'Donoghue. John spoke of the need to characterise and conceptualise mathematics to improve learning. In Finland, he stated that the best international performance is due to strong cultural support from parents in addition to a high level of teacher education to Masters level. Giving context to Maths he said was like ‘making connections’ to the real world application – exactly where Engineers are good at!

Pictured at UL Seamus Barrett Limerick County Council and Treasurer Thomond Region, Dr Con Sheahan UL Enterprise Research Centre, PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Declan Phillips UL Civil Course Director, Professor Tom Cosgrove UL Department of Civil Engineering and Kieran Horgan Chairman of Thomond Region
Finally we had a session on Problem Based Learning with Professor Tom Cosgrove and Declan Phillips who demonstrated that ‘traditional lecture based instruction is ineffective’ and illustrated the ‘reflective methods’ used in the Civil Engineering Department. ‘Design is a basic hunger to improve the world’ Tom maintained. The Civil Engineering course is now geared towards Energy, Environment & Infrastructure – all growth areas of the economy.

I left UL with the clear impression that their courses and teaching methods are innovative towards the changing markets that will challenge the engineers of today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Visiting Tyndall Institute and Making Waves in UCC and the Naval Service

On Thursday last John Power and myself travelled to UCC for a day's engagement at the invitation of Professor Michael Murphy President of UCC and Professor Pat Fitzpatrick Head of College of Science Engineering and Food Science and fully organised by Dr Michael Creed Head of the School of Engineering.

It was a very interesting and diverse day which started in the Engineering School and ended in Ringaskiddy where the new Irish Marine Energy Research Centre is planned for construction directly beside the National Maritime College of Ireland.

We first met Michael Creed who explained the overall structure of the School to us and introduced us to the Professors and Lecturers in the various departments many of whom are relatively new. The three new Professors are Prof Tony Lewis Professor of Energy Engineering, Prof Nabeel Riza Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Prof Alistair Borthwick Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering all of whom were most helpful and enthusiastic to see their respective departments grow and prosper in terms of learning and research.

Michael Creed gave us an overall presentation that clearly showed the numbers taking Civil in first year has dramatically fallen while Electrical and Electronic remain strong and not surprisingly the numbers taking the BE Degree in Energy are rising. Process and Chemical numbers are rising slightly too roughly equating to the Civil numbers currently.

University College Cork
Courtesy of
18% of all students are female which is interesting and an obvious concern to UCC. I was glad to hear of that concern which was actually again voiced to me in UL on the following day. Both colleges think that Engineers Ireland need to do more to deal with this gender issue.  We are in fact doing a lot in this regard and will continue to strive harder - for instance our new TV advertising campaign shows 50% gender balance and half of our permanent Directors reporting to John Power Director General are female.

Of course the really big issue is Third Level funding as a 20% cut to State funding is now projected to 2015. The proposed solutions are to increase students or reduce staff numbers. The markets for increased student intake are China, India and the US. This is a huge challenge as a 300% growth in student numbers are needed to offset a 20% reduction in state funding!

We then visited the now famous Tyndall Institute which is part of UCC where we were greeted by its CEO Professor Roger Whatmore and Head of Graduate Studies Professor Jim Greer. Tyndall is Ireland’s largest Research Institute. I undertook to visit it in my Presidential Address ‘Building a Sustainable Recovery’ last September. We were shown around the extensive laboratories in nanoelectronics (a nanometer is one billionth of a metre) photonics (the generation and sensing of light) and silicon wafer fabrication for computing applications.

Pictured at the Tyndall Institute were Professor Jim Greer Head of Graduate Studies,
PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Professor Roger Whatmore CEO Tyndall Institute,
John Power Director General Engineers Ireland and
Dr Michael Creed Head of UCC School of Engineering
The Institute was named after the Carlow born scientist who worked mainly for the Ordnance Survey in Cork before emigrating to the UK. In London he actually succeeded the scientist Michael Faraday (founder of electromagnetic induction) as Superintendent of the Royal Institution.

The laboratories and equipment are state of the art thanks to very serious and necessary Government led research funding for innovation and enterprise in recent years. I remarked to Roger on Queen Elizabeth's visit last May and he replied 'Funny as an English scientist I probably would never have met the Queen but because I was lucky enough to come to Cork I got to spend an hour with her during her visit here'.

We then visited the Irish Marine Energy Research Centre (IMERC) under UCC Professor Tony Lewis where we saw the National Wave Energy Test Tank Facility in its temporary location prior to permanent relocation to Ringaskiddy.

The permanent IMERC facility will be the planned Beaufort Laboratory under Director Valerie Cummins adjacent to and in partnership with the National Maritime College of Ireland run by the Irish Naval Service. In fact IMERC is a research campus jointly run by UCC, CIT and the Naval College. There we had the pleasure of meeting the Head of the Irish Naval Service Commodore Mark Mellett and the President of CIT Dr Brendan Murphy who was conferring a number of naval cadets that afternoon.

National Maritime College of Ireland

We also had the very memorable experience of a tour of the Irish Maritime College by naval officer Lieutenant Niamh Ni Fhatharta who is IMERC Strategy Coordinator for the Irish Naval Service. The highlight of Niamh's guided tour of the facility was the bridge of the world's largest simulation ship from where we sailed into Sydney Harbour in very challenging weather conditions! I had been in Sydney Harbour myself in 2005 and really thought I was back there or thought perhaps that I had died and gone to heaven! Thank you Niamh!

We left Cork after a wonderful set of very different educational experiences which are quite unique to Cork and to UCC Tyndall and IMERC/Irish Naval Service.

Many thanks to Dr Michael Creed and all at UCC!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Growing the Success of Kerry Engineering Business

I spent a truly remarkable night last Wednesday with An Riocht chairing a meeting in Tralee IT on the Contribution that Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can make to Economic Growth and Job Creation. It was the Keynote Lecture of the An Riocht lecture series called “The Growth and Success of Engineering Business in Kerry.”

We had a panel of four SMEs from diverse areas of the local Kerry Economy. They all had one notable feature in common though - they all operate in current growth areas of the National Economy in terms of either indigenous enterprise or export led growth.

We were all welcomed by the Chairman of the An Riocht Region Nigel Kenny who introduced the Panel and then handed over to me as Chair. There was a truly excellent attendance on the night described by one of the locals as a typical crowd for a Regional Lecture.

First up was Joe Cahill of Altobridge who outlined the company's development from small beginnings in 2002 to develop the world's first commercial GSM service on passenger aircraft and deep sea merchant maritime vessels globally. They now operate mobile phone networks in the remotest parts of Africa Asia and South America in countries like Malaysia Indonesia and Mongolia. Altobridge have won international awards from the Wall Street Journal and the World Economic Forum. Their Chairman is former Tánaiste and local TD Dick Spring.

Speakers at the An Riocht Region Keynote Lecture were left to right Thomas Fitzmaurice of TLI Group, Joe Cahill of Altobridge, Edmond Harty of Dairymaster and Peadar O’Loughlin of OES Environmental with Region Chairman Nigel Kenny and President PJ Rudden
Peadar O'Loughlin of OES Environmental has created a consultancy service for the local market specialising in the Energy Environment and Safety sectors. Set up in 1999 the company have build up strong Client partnership across a broad spectrum of organisations and businesses. Peadar also correctly emphasised the importance of communications in dealing with infrastructural projects. He and his partner Director Brona Tennyson work mostly in the energy sector in terms of wind and biomass and also do environmental impact assessments and monitoring. Their Chairman is local businessman Hugh Friel of the Kerry Group.

Thomas Fitzmaurice of TLI Group operate in another growth area - providing consultancy for the ESB since 2000 in overhauling and upgrading overhead power lines across the country. His contracts involve securing planning permission, design, construction, refurbishment and maintenance of renewable generators and windfarm network connections to the national grid. Thomas described his principal project offering which has given them a competitive advantage in winning work - 'attract business by perfecting a safe working environment'. In this way he has diversified into 6 sectoral areas to service a current demand in the Irish economy - TLI Power, TLI Wind, TLI Civils, TLI Water Metering, TLI Home Energy and TLI Technologies. TLI Group are now truly a multi utility infrastructural consultancy and construction company nationally.

Engineers Ireland President PJ Rudden with An Riocht Region Chairman Nigel Kenny and the Region Committee at the Keynote Lecture “The Growth and Success of Engineering Business in Kerry"
 Edmond Harty of Dairymaster is the longest established and is one of the world's leading dairy farm equipment manufacturers. In existence for some four decades, its core product is the 'computerised dairy parlour' which facilitates accurate data recording, collection and analysis. Dairymaster produces almost 95 per cent of its products internally - from rubber mouldings to computerised keypads! With Food Harvest 2020 Strategy requiring a 50 per cent increase in milk production to feed growing Asian markets I can see that Dairymaster is well prepared for indigenous as well as export growth. We saw photographs of circular milking parlours installed all over the world where the manure collection and storage/treatment is well isolated from the hygienic milk production area and is automatically controlled and recorded. The Diarymaster ClusterCleanse rinses each cluster after each cow is milked. This results in a more hygienic cluster for the next cow cutting down on the risk of infections and giving you a healthier herd and better milk. Ed called it 'turning your dry cows into cash cows'. I heard terms like 'Swiftflo Swing', 'Supershed' and even the use of a 'MooMonitor' which was depicted as 'a revolution in animal heat detection' ........ I will leave the rest to your imagination!

As I listened to the 4 Kerry based SMEs I felt that they needed a national stage on which to showcase their various expertises. So watch this space for a reappearance of the Kerry SMEs at a Dublin venue in the near future!

Every congratulations to Chairman Nigel Kenny, Committee Members Trevor Barrett and Michael Sheehy for all their hard work to stage the event and continued success to An Riocht Region in the years ahead.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cork Region Annual Dinner

Last Friday night it was my pleasure to attend the Cork Region Annual Dinner together with John Power our Director General. Hosted by Cork Region Chairman Dr Jim Robinson we had Minister for Agriculture and Marine Simon Coveney as Special Guest and former University of Limerick President Ed Walsh as Guest Speaker.

We were also honoured by the presence of the Mayor of County Cork Cllr Tim Lombard and Cork City Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr John Kelleher. Among the guests also was the Cork County Engineer Noel O'Keeffe.

Pictured at Cork Region Dinner were 
P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Simon Coveney Minister for Agriculture and the Marine and Dr Jim Robinson Chairman of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland

There was an excellent attendance from the Region greatly helped I would say by the excellent venue - Maryborough House Hotel in Douglas, where the staff were attentive to a very noticeable degree - this venue will survive the recession no matter what!

The speeches were short and generally to the point. The Minister rightly decried the public and political 'who - ha' over household charges for domestic septic tanks, as if we have any choice but to protect the quality of our current and future water environment! He gave encouraging figures on our improving financial reputation on the European bond markets resulting from the necessary austerity measures taken in Ireland.

Ed Walsh was controversial in his remarks as usual, most of which I agreed with but I take issue with him on the value of the Public Service, the value of which cannot be underestimated. There is a constancy to the public service which is owned by the People and which I greatly admire. It is driven by long term public advantage and not driven by short term agendas which really don't serve the public interest.

In my response on behalf of Engineers Ireland I recognised the value of local industry in the Cork Region in the Pharma and Food sectors and the push on continued infrastructure development in the City Environs and County including the newly approved Lower Harbour Sewerage Scheme and new sewerage and flood relief schemes in Bandon and Skibbereen in particular.

I spoke about the need to fully develop the value of our ocean resources around the Irish coast and mentioned the recently published ISLES Report by the Irish NI and Scottish Governments as the seminal report on development of Ireland's ocean resources.  I looked forward to my visit to UCC the following week in this regard. 

I concluded by referring to my visit two nights previously to London where I met the Great Britain Region of Engineers Ireland led in part by Cork graduates and how proud I was of them developing new engineering enterprise in UK plc environments (e.g. Carillion plc) and academia (e.g. Imperial College London). Finally I referred to the fact that 5 out of 7 Excellence Awards went this year to the Cork Region.

The Cork Region is our strongest in Engineers Ireland (Dublin has no  'region' as such) and we continue to support the great work they are doing in the Region on their own initiative in Education, Continuing Professional Education and building our profile locally and nationally.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Visit to Great Britain Region

Last week both John Power and I went to London to visit the Great Britain Region of Engineers Ireland. As in previous years the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) very kindly gave the use of one of their rooms in Westminster for my Presidential Address to the GB Region.

There to greet us was the Engineers Ireland local Chairman Don Keigher and Vice Chair and Secretary Dr. Katherine Cashell and many of our members in the GB Region. This Region is in fact currently growing with many more Irish members which is not surprising in the current economic climate in Ireland.

I am a Fellow of ICE so was delighted to see their elegant period offices again. I was also honoured that the ICE President Richard Coackley and two of his Vice Presidents Alan Stilwell and Tim Broyd and Director of Membership David Lloyd-Roach all attended the Address and hosted us to dinner afterwards. Also present was Jon Pritchard CEO of the Engineering Council which regulates all chartered engineering Institutions in the UK. Richard also had with him two of his President’s Apprentices – Angela Crowther and Yan Zhou. He has 6 Apprentices who are chosen young graduates who compete for the role and who shadow the President at his events for the year and obviously learn a great deal.

Pictured at Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) London at the Presidential Address 
to the Great Britain (GB) Region of Engineers Ireland were Don Keigher Chairman of the GB Region, P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Richard Coackley President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
My address 'Building a Sustainable Recovery' concentrated on the ambition of Engineers Ireland to help regrow the Irish economy. We are doing this in a number of ways including helping with the teaching of Leaving and Junior Certificate Mathematics, supporting the engineering research efforts of our Third Level colleges and highlighting the critical role that Chartered Engineers are playing and can in the future play in the growth of the Irish economy.

I noted that our education in Ireland system has always been the key driver of our competitive advantage. That system is currently challenged to produce the learning outcomes and careers which the modern world now needs in terms of collaborative team building, communications and problem solving skills - these skills abound in the engineering profession and therefore we engineers have a unique opportunity to help rebuild our ailing economy through innovation and enterprise in our chosen field.

Apart from education I also dealt with the delays to infrastructure projects in the planning system in Ireland and the ever increasing need to communicate 'project need' with stakeholders and the general public.

Finally I showed the Engineers Ireland TV advert on 'Chartered Engineers - Bringing Dreams to Life for Me and You' launched last autumn and due to run on Irish TV and Sky networks for the next 3 years. The ICE President was most taken with the advert as he had heard about it from one of his members when in Hong Kong recently. After the Address, I met many of the Irish engineers who have come to London in recent years, mostly from Cork, Kerry, Galway and Sligo. I was reminded of what I said about our engineering graduates abroad in my Inaugural Address last May – ‘that they will in time return to a more prosperous Ireland in a couple of years time – that is the challenge we now face’.

As John and I left London, we felt terribly proud of our young graduates in London and indeed our entire GB Region led so ably by Don and Katherine. They deserve and will get from Engineers Ireland our maximum support in the years ahead.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Max Abrahamson lecture on Construction Law

We were greatly honoured that Max Abrahamson eminent Construction Lawyer across the English speaking world kindly agreed to give us a lecture on 'Getting the Best from the Public Works Contract and Conditions of Engagement'. The lecture was chaired by Ciarán Fahy Chairman of the Engineers Ireland Disputes Resolution Board and podcast also.

Max commenced the practice of advising on construction contracts in the 1950s and is the author of the standard English textbook on Construction Law which we all studied at college in the 70s 80s and 90s. He is an active consultant in McCann Fitzgerald one of the largest and most successful firms of solicitors in Dublin. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Ireland.

Pictured before the lecture in the President's Room were Ciarán Fahy Chairman of Engineers Ireland Disputes Resolution Board, Max Abrahamson Lawyer and Honorary Fellow Engineers Ireland and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
There was a record attendance well beyond the capacity of the Lecture Theatre and many dozens also joined from another room and by podcast. Many professions attended in person or remotely including engineers, architects, surveyors and lawyers.

Max reflected on his career and on the many challenges faced in balancing the construction contract risks fairly between Employers, Engineers and Contractors. He commented on the pros and cons of the 'lump sum fixed price' contracts embedded in the new Government Form of Contracts in recent years.

After thanking Max for his unique contribution to Engineers Ireland over many decades I asked him 'When is a lump sum contract not a lump sum? Does the lump sum still hold if the project scope alters?' His reply was classic 'A lump sum is of course a lump sum unless you happen to have a very good lawyer!'

Thank you Max for an interesting and inspiring lecture appreciated by a record attendance in Engineers Ireland.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Civic Welcome to Carlow

On a visit to Carlow last week I was honoured with a Civic Welcome in Carlow Town Hall by the Council Chairman Tom O’Neill MCC on behalf of the Carlow Local Authorities. I was visiting Carlow on a very busy round of engagements organised by Carlow County Council Director John Carley on behalf of the South East Region of Engineers Ireland. I also unveiled a monument in the town to former Trinity Professor of Biomedicine Samuel Houghton a native of Carlow town. I also did interviews with Carlow local radio in both English and Irish. My primary objective in coming to Carlow was to support Carlow County Council, Carlow IT and local industry all of whom are working in partnership to create local jobs.

Carlow Town Council Chairman Cllr Tom O’Neill MCC making presentation to PJ Rudden on behalf on the Carlow Local Authorities in Carlow Town Hall. Also in attendance from left to right Tom Barry Carlow County Manager, Damien Owens Registrar Engineers Ireland, Cllr Jennifer Murnane O’Connor MCC, Brian O’Leary Associate RPS, John Carley Director of Environment Carlow County Council, Dan McInerney Director of Transportation, Cllr Eileen Brophy, Aisling Buckley Resident Engineer RPS, Dr Norman McMillan Secretary National Science and Engineering Commemorative Plaques Committee, Mrs McMillan, Deputy Pat Deering TD, Joe Towey Wills Bros Contractors, Charles Wills of Wills Bros Contractors, Sean Laffey Senior Engineer Carlow County Council, Gavin O’Donovan Associate RPS and Kevin Power Director RPS.
The morning started with a visit to the new Merck Sharp & Dohme plant. I was accompanied by Damien Owens Registrar of Engineers Ireland and John Carley Director of Environment and Water Services in Carlow County Council. We were greeted by the General Manager Bryan Murray and brought on a tour of the plant by Kevin Dempsey Environment Health and Safety Manager. It is a very impressive state of the art manufacturing facility for vaccines against a range of human medical conditions.

Visiting Merck Sharp & Dohme Left to Right Sean Laffey Senior Engineer Carlow County Council, PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, John Carley Director of Services, Carlow County Council, Damien Owens Registrar Engineers Ireland and Kevin Dempsey Manager Merck Sharp & Dohme
We then proceeded to Carlow IT to be greeted by the Head of Engineering David Denieffe who conducted a tour of the school assisted by Edwin Landzaad Head of Built Environment Department and Eugene Carbery Head of Electronic, Mechanical and Aerospace Department which included a visit to the Aeronautical Research Centre. The Student Centre also houses an extremely impressive range of sporting and leisure facilities for students. Carlow IT is hoping to join with Waterford IT to form a South East Technological University. It was the first IT in Ireland to get accreditation of its Engineering course from Engineers Ireland.

In the Aerospace Department of Carlow IT David Denieffe Head of Engineering Carlow IT,
Roddy McNamee Lecturer in Aviation, John Carley Director of Carlow County Council,
PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Damien Owens Registrar Engineers Ireland.
Then we proceeded to the Town Centre to unveil the relocated Houghton monument in the presence of the Town Council Chairman Councillor Tom O’Neill MCC. Reverend Samuel Houghton (1821-1897) was born in Burrin Street Carlow and distinguished himself firstly as a student of mathematics and science. He was a Fellow of Trinity College at the age of 23 and Professor of Geology at the age of 30. He then worked in the biomedical field and became “the father of modern biomechanics” according to the current Provost of Trinity Professor Patrick Prendergast.

After unveiling the Houghton Monument left to right
PJ Rudden, John Carley, Council Chairman Tom O’Neill and Dr Norman McMillan
Then onto the Town Hall for a Civic Welcome from the Carlow Local Authorities by Town Council Chairman Tom O’Neill MCC and County Manager Tom Barry. Local Carlow TD Pat Deering was also present together with Councillors Eileen Brophy and Jennifer Murnane O’Connor. Also attending were staff from Carlow Town Council, Carlow County Council, Wills Bros Contractors and RPS Consulting Engineers. I was presented with a beautiful ceramic depiction of the roman arch and gate entrance to Oak Park Agricultural Research Centre in Carlow.

In my response to the Council Chairman, I congratulated the Carlow Local Authorities for their forward planning vision which continues to facilitate new large scale high tech industrial development like Merck Sharp and Dohme together with new infrastructure like Carlow Main Drainage both of which are a huge investment to assist future economic growth and jobs for Carlow Town and County.

After lunch, we visited Carlow Main Drainage and Flood Relief Project which is nearing completion. It was designed by RPS to prevent a severe flood in 2008 from recurring in the town. The August 2008 flood caused the River Barrow to burst its banks and to flood parts of Carlow Town Centre to a depth of 2 metres. Some 100 people had to be evacuated from their homes.  This €20million Flood Relief project was built by Wills Bros Contractors, Foxford, Co. Mayo involving reconstruction of the river channel with new training walls and the creation of new parks and amenities over many of the storm interceptor sewers.

Viewing the new flood protection measures along the River Barrow as part of Carlow Main Drainage – PJ Rudden, Charles Wills, Kevin Power and John Carley

Finally John Carley and I were invited by Sean Laffey Senior Engineer to visit the very impressive VISUAL Arts Centre built by Carlow Town Council under Sean’s supervision. It is a hugely impressive building surfaced entirely in glass in the grounds of St. Patrick's College with modern theatre and display facilities. There I had the pleasure of meeting sculptor artist Eileen McDonagh whose stone works were on display. Eileen’s exhibition ‘Lithosphere – New and Retrospective Works’ is to be opened next Sunday 5th February at 3.30pm by Sinead Dowling Carlow Arts Officer. (Art lovers of Carlow and surrounding counties please take note!)

I had spent a very busy day from daybreak to dusk in Carlow Town – by far my busiest day of my year as President to date. It was a very enjoyable and memorable visit among the industrious resilient people of Carlow who continue to develop and grow their town in the face of recessionary pressures. I wish Carlow Local Authorities well in the years ahead. My sincere thanks to John Carley and the Carlow Local Authorities.

Sculptor Eileen McDonagh amongst her granite stone pieces
at VISUAL Arts Centre in Carlow