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'.

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