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.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Cycling the Mayo Greenway and viewing Jackie Clarke Library

I was recently in Castlebar at the retirement function for Joe Beirne who retired as Mayo County Engineer. Joe is the last of the County Engineers who were appointed before Better Local Government (BLG) was brought to bear on the local authority system. BLG appears to have brought local government closer to the people with local delivery offices offering a 'one stop shop' and Directors of Services providing both technical and administrative services in specialist areas across an entire county. Engineers as professionals have also got their fair share of Directors posts and many have graduated to County Manager level.

There is also though now a widespread feeling among local authorities that the demise of the County Engineer was a mistake! A number of County Managers have said this to me over the intervening period some of whom admit were strong supporters of the new BLG system at the time. The principal issue is that the County Manager does not now have the very senior expertise and experience of a Chief Technical Officer to make strategic decisions of a technical nature and the quality of local government is the poorer for it I feel. The only two local authorities to have retained the City or County Engineer post are Dublin City Council and Cork County Council and certainly nobody I know in either of these local authorities would now countenance the removal of these posts.

Joe Beirne was a very talented engineer, team leader and a thorough gentleman. I wish him the very best in his well deserved retirement and was delighted to be in Castlebar to wish him well on behalf of Engineers Ireland.

When I was in Mayo I accepted an invitation from the West Region Past Chairman Muredach Tuffy to cycle the newly opened Great Western Greenway from Newport to Mulranny - some 18km. At the Newport end we also met the Secretary of the North West Region Rowan O'Callaghan who was also cycling the Greenway with his family.

Collecting bicycles at Newport for cycle to Mulranny with North West 
 Region Secretary Rowan O’Callaghan and Past Chairman West Region Muredach Tuffy

The Greenway runs from Achill to Westport has been designated as part of the European Centre of Excellence Network (EDEN). I had only heard of this European Designation in Carlingford Co Louth a few weeks back. The Greenway runs the line generally of the Great Western Railway from Mulranny to Westport so that the vistas of Crew Bay and Croagh Patrick from the old railway are now reopened to the cycling tourists.

Map of the Great Western Greenway

The Mayo Great Western Greenway already has an annual tourist footfall of 150,000 which is quite phenomenal before this summer season even commences. There are four bike stations at Achill Mulranny Newport and Westport where you can get all the gear. They will even retrieve your bicycle from any of the four Stations.

With Muredach Tuffy on one of the many new bridges 
on the Mayo Greenway with historic arch bridge in background

Mayo County Council wants to be the Walking and Cycling County of Ireland and I can see why. For many years successive County Development Plans have set out this vision and developed routes in Bangor Belmullet Westport and Delphi. The current County Manager Peter Hynes and his predecessor Des Mahon are very supportive of the potential to realise this valuable tourist resource for the benefit of the local economy. I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours spent on the Greenway and we were lucky with the weather too. I highly commend this sporting pastime to all with a keen interest in the wide open spaces.

The Greenway also leads onto a Smarter Transport initiative which is being planned around Westport which already is one of our leading tourist towns nationally.

PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland in Ballina 
with Jackie Clarke Museum Director Sinead McCoole 
and West Region Past Chairman Muredach Tuffy

When in Mayo, I also visited the Jackie Clarke Library and Museum with Museum Director Sinead McCoole in Ballina where an impressive collection of historic papers are being catalogued. It tells of the story of County Mayo through the local newspapers spanning some 400 years but mostly the 20th century covering the 1916 Rising and the foundation of the modern state.

Overlooking the River Moy in Ballina with new Salmon Weir in the background

When in Ballina I also viewed the new pedestrian bridge over the Moy River and the newly refurbished Salmon Weir on the Moy.

County Mayo has an amazing number of natural and modern amenities to engage the visiting tourist. It also has the stunning landscapes of the Nephin Mountains, Ballycroy National Park, Lough Conn and Lough Mask and the whole Cong/Ashford area where the epic film 'The Quiet Man' was made starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Energy and Environment Division Lunch with Minister Rabbitte

The Energy and Environment Division of Engineers Ireland hosted Pat Rabbitte TD Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources to a Lunch Meeting at Clyde Road.

The Chairman of the Division Jim Gannon together with the Director General John Power and myself welcomed the Minister who indeed had also launched our State of Ireland Infrastructure Report last February.

Pictured outside 22 Clyde Road were Director General John Power, Chairman of Energy and Environment Division, Jim Gannon, Minister Pat Rabbitte TD, President of Engineers Ireland,
PJ Rudden and Liam O’Cleirigh Energy & Environment Division Member

There was a very large attendance of energy engineers at the meeting drawn from the public and private sectors. The Minister gave a very significant speech on Irish Energy Policy set in the context of our international obligations and the current fiscal limitations.

Before his speech I welcomed the Minister and underlined how critically important Engineers Ireland considered Energy Policy and Development as key infrastructure to further grow the economy. I also referred to our recent Infrastructure Report which he helped us launch during Engineers Week in February.

The Minister then spoke about the fundamentals of Government energy policy in Ireland - 'If the growth agenda is fundamental to Europe's sustainable recovery strategy, energy policy has a pivotal role to play in creating the conditions for a return to economic recovery and job creation. The well being of our country and society depends on safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy......

Ireland can benefit from a low carbon economy based around radically increased energy efficiency, accelerated deployment of renewable energy, smart networks and a well functioning, well interconnected internal energy market.....we have a rich and abundant wind and ocean energy potential which I firmly believe can be harvested and exported as a real economic opportunity for this island.....

Expert advice suggests that Ireland has the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone with capacity to spare. This means that our offshore wind resource can be developed as an export opportunity.......

There is a real opportunity to develop offshore wind in the Irish Sea area in the short term as these are reasonably close to both coastlines and in relatively shallow waters.... with cost advantages over the North Sea area........'

The Minister was very strongly in favour of renewable energy onshore to meet our targets and offshore for export purposes. He also stated that the lack of a North South Interconnector was costing the Irish consumers and looked forward to its early construction together with completion of the East West Interconnector. He stated that 'development of the high voltage electricity grid as planned in the GRID25 strategy is critical to our long term economic recovery.’

He looked forward to the EU Presidency when the alignment of Energy, ICT and Innovation will be highlighted to unlock new potential for investment and employment. He was also anxious that Ireland seizes the competitive advantage within Europe as a prime location for energy research and innovation.

We in Engineers Ireland were left in no doubt that the Minister clearly favours our balanced view of Energy Policy as outlined in our State of Ireland Infrastructure Report and that he is not for turning on current national targets and projects as they are essential to assist our national recovery. It had been a most interesting and revealing meeting.

New Engineers Ireland Byelaws adopted

A huge number of issues and decisions were taken at our recent April Council meeting. Apart from a new corporate Strategy, election of a new Vice President, we also adopted new Byelaws to replace the last Byelaws enacted in 2003. These Byelaws updated the governance procedures for election to Council and Executive. These give the President increased powers for the co-option of new members to broaden the representation to newer sectors and to reduce the traditional dominance of civil engineers on the Council of Engineers Ireland. In this way other sectors like biomedical chemical computing aeronautical and electronic engineers will get a stronger voice and hopefully will be encouraged to join Engineers Ireland. I would expect that the ongoing TV advert for Chartered Engineer would also help.

Engineers Ireland Headquarters at Clyde Road
The additional cooption discretion will also help to address gender balance and encourage younger members onto Council. During my year as President we brought the Chairperson of the Young Engineers Society onto both Council and Executive for the first time.

We also removed the absolute necessity that future Director Generals of Engineers Ireland have to be Chartered Engineers although the preference for this has been retained. This was a contentious item only settled by secret ballot at Council earlier in the year.

I want to pay tribute to former President Anne Butler who chaired the Byelaws Task Force which also had Domhnall Blair, Mairín Ní Aonghusa, Sean Linehan and Tanya Layng. Domhnall has an encyclopedic knowledge of Engineers Ireland byelaws and procedures from his many years on Council and greatly assisted by Mairín who is former Secretary to many Councils, Executives and Director Generals.

Having passed the new Byelaws we then decided to proceed with this year's Council Election in accordance with them. In this way next year's Council were elected and procedures put in place to elect next year's Executive Board which is the new title we have given the Executive.

Embedded in the new Byelaws are the new Membership Rules, the relatively new Code of Ethics and new Guidelines for Committees and Boards for Regions, Divisions and Societies.

At this Council also we approved the audited Annual Accounts for the Annual Report and six candidates for Fellowship by Presidential Invitation.

As it was former President Martin Lowery's last Council meeting I sincerely thanked him for his hard work on Council for 4 years, his year as a very wise President and for his great assistance to me over the past year in particular. I also thanked the two Vice Presidents Michael Phillips and John O'Dea for their support at Council and at all other times.

All in all, this April Council meeting which was my last as President concluded a lot of important business which will set a roadmap for the years ahead. I am most grateful to the Council and Executive for the workmanlike and constructive fashion with which they addressed the various issues over the past year.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

New Vice President Elected

At the April Council meeting I nominated Regina Moran CEO of Fujitsu Ireland as the next Vice President of Engineers Ireland. She was unanimously endorsed.

Regina will thus become the third female President of Engineers Ireland in May 2014 in succession to Dr. John O'Dea who will take over from Michael Phillips as President in 2013.

Regina Moran CEO of Fujitsu
Courtesy of Fujitsu Ireland

In May 2009, Regina was appointed CEO of Fujitsu Ireland where she leads a 350 strong team focussed on delivering ICT services to the Irish marketplace.

Following her third level education in Engineering undertaken in Waterford and Cork, Regina’s career began as an Electronics Engineer with Amdahl, a computer mainframe manufacturer, progressing to become a co-founder of the services and consulting group there.

In 1997, Regina was co-founder of DMR Consulting Ireland where she held the role of Director of Operations responsible for Project Delivery. DMR Consulting became Fujitsu Consulting and subsequently merged with Fujitsu Services in April 2004 and Regina was appointed CEO of Fujitsu Services in August 2006.

Regina is the current Chair of ICT Ireland within IBEC, a Member of the Council of Dublin Chamber of Commerce and a member of Dublin City University governing authority. She is a Fellow of Engineers of Ireland (FIEI) and a non-Executive Director of EirGrid. Regina holds an MBA from Dublin City University, which she achieved with First Class Honours, coming first in her group. She was also awarded the ‘Sir Charles Harvey Award’ for outstanding contribution in her post-graduate studies. She is married with three children and is an enthusiastic Munster Rugby supported.

We welcome Regina as our new Vice President and look forward to her experience and expertise. She represents one of the significant areas of the growth economy where major players like Fujitsu are an excellent example of foreign direct investment in the technology sector into Ireland. In Engineers Ireland, we hope to grow our role more into the Computing / Technology sector in the years ahead and are delighted that our former President Dr Chris Horn ex Iona Technologies continues to chair our Computing Division. In addition, we elected Stephen McIntyre to our Council during the year. Stephen was a Senior Director at Google in Dublin and was recently appointed CEO of Twitter Europe Operations still based in Dublin.

New Strategy for Engineers Ireland

At our April Council meeting we adopted a new Strategy for Engineers Ireland for the period 2012 - 2015. It would be difficult and indeed unwise to try to foresee beyond the medium term currently with the uncertainty in the Irish economy.

Engineers Ireland Headquarters at Clyde Road
In the short to medium term we need to define Who exactly we are as an organisation and What we represent and How we intend to fulfil our Role over the next few years. I would maintain that this decision is critical to our future and unquestionably the most important decision that our Council took this year.

The essence of our Strategy is as follows

  • Who We Are; The Professional Body for Engineers and Engineering in Ireland.
  • Our Vision; A society enhanced by the acknowledged contribution of engineering professionals.
  • Our Mission; Our members as leaders and problem solvers commit to excellence in enhancing the quality of life for all.
  • Our Theme 2012 -2015; The recognised professional standing and role of the Chartered Engineer.

The four goals of the new strategy are:

1.   REPUTATION: Enhance the reputation of the engineering profession in Ireland, by continuing to advance Engineers Ireland as its leading expert voice

2.   SUPPORT: To support and grow our membership and work with them to enable their career progression

3.   PROFESSIONAL: Keeping members’ professional engineering competence current and world-class

4.  INTERNATIONAL: Supporting international mobility and increasing international recognition through compliance with accreditation and competence standards to safeguard the profession

This Strategy will greatly assist and inform how we spend our resources in the years ahead to accomplish the goals that we have now set out. It will also help to remove any public confusion as to who represents engineers and engineering in Ireland.

At the same meeting we also clarified the future role of the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) with whom we have recently signed a new Protocol. Engineers Ireland will deal with current issues affecting the profession in Ireland and the IAE will deal with long term issues affecting the country. When both roles overlap e.g. the current issue of Irish Water, we will agree and issue joint reports as appropriate. We will have regular meetings to ensure that both organisations are aware of current tasks and issues.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Presidential Address and Conferring of Titles in Cork

Recently Engineers Ireland Membership Manager Shirley McDonald and I travelled to Cork for the annual Conferring of Titles on members there in the Rochestown Park Hotel. Engineers Ireland are the only body in Ireland statutorily permitted to confer the title of Chartered Engineer.

Cork Region Engineers who were recently conferred with the title of Chartered Engineer with President PJ Rudden and Chairman of the Cork Region Dr. Jim Robinson
The event was organised in the Cork Region where the Chairman is Dr Jim Robinson. Barry Leach a former Region Chairman together with John J Murphy have been organising this annual event for more than 20 years so it's little wonder that it all happened like clockwork.

Two newly conferred Associate Engineers with 
Chairman of the Cork Region Dr. Jim Robinson and President PJ Rudden  
After the Conferring of Titles and presentation of prizes to students of UCC and CIT, I gave my Presidential Address to an appreciative audience followed by a well organised buffet.

Group of graduates and students of UCC and CIT who were awarded prizes 
at the recent Cork Region Conferring of Titles 
with President PJ Rudden and Chairman of the Cork Region Dr. Jim Robinson
It was great to see such a number getting their Chartered Engineer title in particular in these challenging times. Congratulations to all who received titles or prizes!

President PJ Rudden together with Chairman of the Cork Region Dr. Jim Robinson 
and the other members of the Cork Region committee 
including Barry Leach and John J Murphy who organised the event 
This was the first of a series of these events around the country commencing in Cork in April and next month going onto Limerick, Galway, Tullamore and finally Dublin at the Helix DCU on May 18th next which is the National Conferring of Titles. This will also be my last official function before the AGM on May 24th and handover to Michael Phillips as the new incoming President.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

OpenHydro Site Visit in Greenore and NE Region Social Event in Carlingford

Last week John Power Director General and I travelled north of Dundalk to the villages of Greenore and Carlingford Co Louth to join a North East Region site visit and Social Evening. There we visited the manufacturing unit of OpenHydro which is Ireland's most promising Tidal Energy developer. We were met by the CEO of OpenHydro James Ivers and fellow Board Member and key adviser Professor Gerry Byrne of UCD and former President of Engineers Ireland.

OpenHydro are so enterprising in fact that they were chosen by Engineers Ireland as Overall CPD Company of the Year in 2011 because of the innovative quality of their training and development programmes for professional engineers.

North East Region site visit to OpenHydro manufacturing unit at Greenore Harbour
Tidal energy is part of our ocean resources which we should harvest together with our offshore wind and wave resources. This requires a highly multi-disciplinary integrated approach in terms of resource assessment, grid infrastructure, planning/environmental consents, regulatory regime, construction and marine deployment.

This challenge has been addressed on a national basis by the recently published Irish Scottish Links Energy Study (ISLES) Report by the Irish, Northern Irish and Scottish Governments. It is shown that these offshore ocean resources represent a unique export opportunity from Ireland to England and Wales in particular to help meet energy demand when many of their existing power stations including nuclear plants require replacement. This replacement is now likely to be delayed following how the events in Fukushima Japan in early 2010 are impacting on Europe especially Germany.

OpenHydro have developed an open rotating turbine up to 16 metres in diameter and are currently testing it in French waters off Brittany in collaboration with French company EDF. This will become the world's largest tidal energy farm when fully developed. In the sea environment there are huge challenges in terms of depth and environmental conditions. These conditions test the most robust of engineering materials in terms of stresses, corrosion and overall longevity.

Greenore Harbour is ideally placed as a technical centre for OpenHydro in a sheltered coastal area reasonably adjacent to the M1 motorway equidistant between Dublin and Belfast.  OpenHydro are employing local Irish engineers in Greenore and their headquarters in Dublin who are leading projects currently in Ireland, UK, France, the US and Canada.

King John's Castle in Carlingford at Night
The North East Region Social Evening was organised by the Region Chairperson Maura Daly of Meath County Council in the Carlingford Arms in the village of Carlingford not far from Greenore. I hadn’t been in Carlingford before. As you approach the coastal village from the south a stunning vista of mountains, seascape, harbour walls, boats, windsurfers and medieval castles appear above the small village itself. The village nestles between Slieve Foy, Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains and is a medieval heritage village due to the Norman Castles and buildings that straddle its narrow streets. Carlingford also lies on the historic Cooley Peninsula of Táin Bó Cúailnge fame. The village is dotted with boutiques, pubs and restaurants which were all full on the night of our visit on a cold March night! What must this place be like on a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Maura Daly Chairperson North East Region, PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
John Quinn and John Power Director General of Engineers Ireland
The Social Evening was a great success thanks to the efforts of Maura Daly, Vicki Chadwick and Fiona Beers. Highlight of the event was the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the North East Region to its longstanding Chairman and Vice Chairman John Quinn. John was presented with an Award Certificate and a Cavan Crystal lamp by myself, Maura Daly and John Power. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Along the Liffey on a Dublinbike

The Dublinbike scheme has worked well since it was set up by Dublin City Council in September 2009 pioneered by the current Lord Mayor Andrew Montague.

Due to public demand it has recently been extended so my son Mark and myself decided to visit a few of the city sights and galleries using public transport and Dublinbikes. We took the DART to Pearse St where we visited the TCD Science Gallery where a food exhibition - Edible - was running. Full of natural organic foods from herbs to seaweed pesto! Recommended!

Then we took out Dublinbikes and travelled up to O'Connell St and onto Abbey St where we followed the LUAS Red Line up to Smithfield. The Dublinbike is quite heavy and sturdy as it needs to be and this probably explains the lack of vandalism together with the genuine pride that I think Dubliners feel in having so great a convenience on their doorstep. The  'trick' on the bicycle when following the LUAS line is not to allow the bike wheel slip into the tramline 'groove' but to pedal over the LUAS line at all times roughly perpendicular to the lines. Also to negotiate corners you need to take up position in the centre of the traffic lane near the junction to keep you safe getting round the corner!

On a Dublinbike along the City Quays across the river from Dublin Civic Offices
The first 30 minutes is free and you pay fairly modest sums after that on your Dublinbike Card. The locking system is simple but sturdy reminding one of the ease with which you can acquire a supermarket trolley and redock it afterwards. When we reached Smithfield there wasn't a single other bike left at the docking station as all were in use on a busy Saturday morning.

This trip also allowed us see the ongoing regeneration works that Dublin City Council continue to do on the city streets. The replacement of cobble setts in one of the Smithfield streets shows the fairly large depth of these stone setts. I was later informed by the Dublin City Engineer (soon to be my successor as President) that these depths are required to withstand the turning stresses of heavy traffic at busy junctions in the city and that the specification was informed by engineering experience.

Dublin City Council’s new ‘sett paving’ in Smithfield area close to the LUAS Red Line
Might I say in passing that the resurfacing of the entire City Centre at night this past winter was a very impressive achievement by Dublin City Council. They very wisely used money reserved for the now shelved Metro North to give the City Streets a new lease of life after all the damage caused to the streets during the two very harsh winters just gone by.

We reached the new National Museum at the former Collins Barracks close to Heuston Station. Few Dubliners myself included realise the historical gems of our history which are stored there and it's free to all and sundry! We saw the original Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Cross of Cong. The Derrynaflan Chalice remains in Kildare Street.

The highlight of my trip to the Barracks though was the collection of life size Celtic Crosses made to the precise dimensions of the real crosses distributed throughout the country. I especially recognised St Muiredach's Cross of Monasterboice County Louth from my time in road construction on Dunleer Bypass in the early 1990s now a part of the Dublin Belfast Motorway. The cross and monastery at Monasterboice had to be avoided by the new motorway for obvious archaeological reasons.

At Muiredach’s Cross in The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks
Also notable in the newly refurbished Collins Barracks is the 1916 Rising Exhibition together with the history of General Michael Collins who took the Barracks over from the British Forces in 1922 and who was tragically killed in the subsequent Civil War in his native County Cork.

Dublinbikes is helping to create a cleaner greener Dublin and should be used by engineers in particular as a more sustainable form of transport to support modern city living. The reduction in car usage within the city cordon is very noticeable since the introduction of Dublinbikes but we must do better to minimise car dependency.

The Dublin Port Tunnel has also greatly contributed to removing heavy traffic from the city quays as has the new 30 mph speed level within the city cordon. Helping too are the increased bus and cycling corridors and the 'bus gate' at College Green - preventing cars in favour of public transport through this ‘pinchpoint’ at peak hour. This has contributed though the initiative was wrongly criticised by city traders when first mooted by City Traffic Engineers some years ago.

It's another example of how engineers need to hold our nerve when infrastructurally necessary but politically unpopular projects or plans are proposed in the public interest. If our analysis is correct and we manage to communicate what is intended and why - then the general public will in time grow to accept our view as the preferred technical environmental and economic solution to the problems of our time. It of course also needs national and local political leadership behind such projects to ensure that they are implemented in the national interest.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

All aboard at Titanic Belfast for Annual Conference

Few of us can forget the epic 1997 film 'Titanic' by director James Cameron with its haunting music and poignant story of young lovers Rose and Jack played by Hollywood stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCapico respectively. (

The film brought the 1912 human tragedy very much alive - of the then 'state of the art unsinkable ship' built in Belfast which hit a giant iceberg during its maiden voyage across the Atlantic and sunk with a tragic loss of life of some 1500 human souls. There were some 725 survivors saved in lifeboats and indeed all of the lifeboats were not full of people when the ship went down.

High-definition photo of Titanic wreckage, taken by Dr Robert Ballard (1985)
and can now be viewed as part of the "Titanic Beneath" exhibition at the Titanic Experience
Courtesy of
One might ask why such a human tragedy should now be 'celebrated' 100 years later and celebrated by Engineers Ireland in particular? Well the story of the Titanic is the story of a resurgent Belfast and indeed of a new now peaceful and greatly invigorated Northern Ireland! So that's what we are meeting to celebrate at our Annual Conference in Belfast starting on the evening on April 25th with the main presentations on April 26th and 27th!

Finished model of  the Titanic Quarter
The two main themes of the conference will be manufacturing and marine energy - both very relevant to the traditions of Belfast in linen manufacturing, ship building and seafaring.

The Titanic story is one of epic drama of romance and tragedy. There is enormous global interest in the story which made the film the highest sold film of all time for 12 years until the same director James Cameron produced Avatar which surpassed its revenue! It won a number of Hollywood Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. It was the first film in the world to exceed the billion dollar mark and the most expensive film made at the time by 20th Century Fox.

The rebirth of Titanic is replicated by the rebirth of the Harland & Wolff Shipyard - as the now new Titanic Quarter of commercial and residential development rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of a once troubled Belfast. Central to the new Titanic Quarter vision is the Titanic Signature Building - an iconic 6 storey Visitor Centre that celebrates 100 years of the site since the launching of the Titanic and which opened to the public last weekend.
The Iconic Titanic Building courtesy of
Apart from a guaranteed visit to the new Titanic Signature Building we have an exciting line up of speakers at our Annual Conference ( The conference theme is 'Engineering Enterprise in Times of Change' and will address the role that engineers will play in the drive to create new jobs and indigenous enterprise as well as our importance in continuing to attract foreign direct investment onto the island of Ireland.

The Engineers Ireland Annual Conference 2012 Logo

The conference will feature speakers like Dr Stephen Myers Director of Technology at CERN Physics Laboratory in Switzerland, Bob Hanna Chief Energy Adviser to the Irish Government, Liam Nellis CEO of InterTradeIreland, Eddie O'Connor Chief Executive of Mainstream Renewables, John Barry MD of Bord Gáis Networks, James Cox Principal Consultant with Poyry Management Consulting and Tanya Wishart Northern Ireland Energy Regulator.

Most of all - come to Belfast not only to relive the Titanic Story but to see the new energetic and beautiful Northern Ireland which is now at peace.