eolas issue 49

Page 1

Informing Ireland’s decision-makers...

Becoming consciously hybrid HPE Ireland’s Enda Cusack Further and

Social Democrat


Higher Education

TD Holly Cairns

Jonathan Maguire


discusses Dáil

explores rapid

Simon Harris TD

experience and

public sector

talks skills provision


adoption of cloud

in Ireland


issue 49 Jan 22

Health • Technology and innovation • Education and skills


2nd Feb

Date for your diary!

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Expert speaker panel includes: Darragh O’Brien TD Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage

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Barry O’Leary CEO, Housing Finance Agency

Bob Jordan Chief Executive The Housing Agency Gulnara Roll Secretary, Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Donal McManus CEO, Irish Council for Social Housing John Coleman Chief Executive LDA Fidelma McManus Partner Beauchamps


Housing for All ambitions and implementation


Addressing the housing demand and supply imbalance


Eliminating the existing housing stock deficit


Supporting increased affordability


Creating a large-scale affordable cost-rental sector in Ireland


Eradicating homelessness


Maintenance and management of existing housing stock


Enabling a more sustainable housing system


The holistic role of AHBs


The role of the LDA in developing cost rental housing


Enhancing local authority capacity


Incentivising the refurbishment of vacant properties


Reducing the cost of construction


Changes to planning and development in Ireland

For more information: Online www.housing.eolasmagazine.ie

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DPER’s Philip McGrath outlines innovation delivery in the


public sector Cover story: HPE Ireland’s Enda Cusack discusses digital transformation in the public sector

Round table discussion: Security of supply: Powering Ireland’s infrastructure plans Mairéad Farrell TD on eurozone fiscal rules




Irish health system under pressure


Gar Mac Críosta reflects on HSE digital transformation during

service acceleration 84

Damian Griffin outlines innovation in the Defence Forces


Education and skills


Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris TD on socio-economic future-proofing


Irish education at a crossroads


NESC’s Anne-Marie McGauran discusses digital inclusion in

120 Europe 120

Thomas Byrne TD emphasises the importance of the Conference on the Future of Europe


Budget 2022 and health priorities


Technology and innovation


Minister of State Robert Troy TD on harnessing the potential

Health report sponsored by

Government CIO Barry Lowry discusses building on digital


the pandemic

of AI














126 Public affairs 126

Mol an óige: Holly Cairns TD


Seanad Clerk Martin Groves discusses his role and priorities


Back page: Youth climate activist Beth Doherty

Roundtable discussion hosted by

Technology and Innovation report sponsored by

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eolas Issue 49 Jan 2021 Digital



Editorial Ciarán Galway, Editor ciaran.galway@eolasmagazine.ie

Now is the winter… In Ireland, as elsewhere in Europe, the healthcare system is once again straining under the weight of winter capacity demands, exacerbated by the fourth wave and the Omicron variant. In one crucial contrast with last year, as of mid-December 2021, over 90 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Yet, since the summer, there have been steady increases in demand for acute and critical care capacity in Irish hospitals. Even prior to the current crisis, Health Service Capacity Review 2018 revealed that Ireland had among the highest acute bed occupancy rates in the developed world and warned that in the absence of major reform, demand on hospitals would become unsustainable. Consistent with the Sláintecare ambition of implementing the Capacity Review, National Service Plan 2021 promised that a total 1,152 additional acute beds would become operational by the end of 2021 (when compared to the beginning of 2020). However, the HSE’s belatedly published Winter Preparedness Plan for 2021/22 highlights an almost 20 per cent (214 beds) shortfall in number of acute beds ultimately delivered at the close of the year. In the context of these capacity challenges, credit is owed to all healthcare workers holding the line this winter. With the efficacy of the healthcare system under intense pressure, digitalisation has received prioritisation. Indeed, across the public sector, the pandemic has emphasised the significance of government efforts to implement strategies to facilitate digital transformation. In this issue’s cover story interview, HPE Ireland’s Head of Enterprise and Public Sector, Enda Cusack, outlines the challenges of digital transformation and advocates public sector adoption of platforms that manage data from edge to cloud. Consistent with the digital theme, issue 49 of eolas Magazine includes dedicated technology and innovation analysis, alongside comprehensive reports on health, and education and skills. Interviewees and contributors to this issue include: Philip McGrath, Head of Public Service Reform at DPER; HSE Product Manager Gar Mac Críosta; Government CIO Barry Lowry; Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris TD; Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns; and Seanad Clerk Martin Groves.

Odrán Waldron, Deputy Editor odran.waldron@eolasmagazine.ie David Whelan david.whelan@eolasmagazine.ie Fiona McCarthy fiona.mccarthy@eolasmagazine.ie Advertising Sam Tobin sam.tobin@eolasmagazine.ie Design Gareth Duffy, Head of Design gareth.duffy@eolasmagazine.ie Paul Rooney paul.rooney@eolasmagazine.ie Events Lynda Millar lynda.millar@eolasmagazine.ie Become a subscriber! Annual subscriptions: €15.00 + €5.00 P&P Contact: Sharon Morrison Email: subscriptions@eolasmagazine.ie Online: www.eolasmagazine.ie eolas Magazine Owen McQuade, Publisher owen.mcquade@eolasmagazine.ie bmf Business Services Clifton House Lower Fitzwilliam Street Dublin, D02 XT91 Tel: 01 661 3755 Web: www.eolasmagazine.ie Twitter: @eolasmagazine

We wish all our readers a happy new year – Athbhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise daoibh!

Ciarán Galway


FSC® is an acronym for the Forest Stewardship Council®, which is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that was established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC® system provides an assurance that products such as wood and paper have been harvested in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The FSC’s Chain of Custody certification provides a way in which the material can be tracked from the certified initial source through the manufacturing process to the end user.

matters arising


Number of rental homes available hits ‘all-time low’ The number of rental homes dropped to an ‘all-time low’ in quarter three of 2021, with just 1,460 homes available to rent on 1 November in the Republic, the lowest amount on record since Daft.ie began tracking availability in January 2006. The fall in supply was especially noticeable in Dublin, where a yearly drop in supply of 51 per cent meant that only 820 properties were available to rent in the capital, the first time on record that the number had fallen below 1,000. This lack of supply has led to rental prices increasing in Dublin by 2.7 per cent in the same period. Squeezed supply has led to rent increases nationally, with a 6.8 per cent year-on-year national increase meaning that Q3 2021 was the 36th

consecutive quarter where rents were higher than they had been a year before. Cities other than Dublin recorded even steeper increases, with rent prices rising by 6.9 per cent, 8.3 per cent, 8.9 per cent and 10 per cent in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford respectively. Rents outside of cities saw a yearly increase of 11.9 per cent, with increases over 20 per cent recorded in Leitrim, Mayo, and Roscommon, and 19.7 per cent and 19.2 per cent recorded in Donegal and Kerry respectively. All-time lows in supply were also recorded in each of the provincial areas, with just 236 homes available in Munster, 232 in Leinster (excluding Dublin) and 172 in Connacht/Ulster.


Mother and baby homes compensation agreed The Government has agreed to an €800 million compensation package for people affected by the Church-run mother and baby homes. The scheme, agreed at Cabinet in November 2021, will offer up to €65,000 to survivors of the institutions for mothers and their children that gained infamy for their decades-long abuse of those held within. Announcing the redress package, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman TD said: “There is no payment or measure that can ever fully compensate or atone for the harm done through the mother and baby institutions. What we have set out today is the next chapter in the State’s response to the legacy of


eolas matters

those institutions, and its commitment to rebuilding the trust it so grievously shattered.” Those who spent less than three months in a home will be eligible for compensation of €5,000, with the rate doubling to €10,000 for those who spent between three and six months in a home. The rate gradually increases dependent on time spent in a home, reaching €65,000 for those who spent over 10 years in one. Those born in the homes and forced to work in them will be eligible for compensation between €1,500 and €60,000 through a separate scheme. The Government estimates there to be roughly 34,000 survivors in Ireland and abroad who are eligible to claim compensation.

matters arising


Public consultation on All-Island Strategic Rail Review Public consultations on the All-Island Strategic Rail Review in both the Republic and the North have been launched by the relevant ministers in either jurisdiction. The review looks to expand upon commitments given in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, to “examine the feasibility of a high/higher speed rail link between Belfast, Dublin and Cork” and to query the improvement of current rail infrastructure in Ireland, including the feasibility of high/higher speeds and electrification, better connections to the north-west, and the “role of rail in the efficient movement of goods”. Speaking on the launch of the consultations in November 2021, Stormont Minister for

Infrastructure Nichola Mallon MLA said: “I have huge ambitions for our all-island rail network, and I believe it has massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island. The All-Island Strategic Rail Review will allow us to consider our network across this island to view how we can improve it for everyone.” Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD added: “We want to hear people’s views on how rail can support social and economic development across the island, enhance regional accessibility and improve connectivity between our major cities. I would encourage all interested parties to participate in shaping the outcome of this important review.”


Scheme to regularise undocumented migrants announced Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has announced government approval for a scheme that will regularise thousands of undocumented workers living in Ireland and their families. The scheme, a key initiative committed to under the Justice Plan 2021, will target long-term undocumented migrants and their dependents. Credit: Douglas O’Connor

Those eligible under the scheme will be those who have a period of four years residence in the State without an immigration permission, or three years in the case of those with children, on the date the scheme opens for applications. Once deemed eligible, they will be granted an immigration permission that allows unrestricted access to the labour market and have their years of residence deemed reckonable while pursuing citizenship through the naturalisation process.

Those with existing deportation orders will be eligible to apply if they meet the minimum residence record. While the Government notes that “there is no reliable data on the number of undocumented persons in the State”, studies suggest that there could be up to 17,000 undocumented persons, including up to 3,000 children. McEntee said: “We know that regularisation programmes can yield import social benefits and improvements in economic living conditions and a reduction in the potential for exploitation in employment. There are also economic benefits, both for the beneficiaries who are granted access to the labour market and who can benefit from a wider range of job opportunities, and for the State in terms of increased tax yields and social security contributions.”

eolas matters


matters arising


€2.2 billion mica redress scheme agreed The Government has agreed the financing of a €2.2 billion redress scheme to rebuild and remediate roughly 7,500 homes structurally damaged by the presence of mica in their blocks. The scheme, agreed at Cabinet, caps payments to individuals at €420,000 per home. Having originally agreed a rate of €138 per square foot, the Government then increased this to €145 for the first 1,000 square feet. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD said, while outlining the scheme immediately after the Cabinet meeting where it was agreed, that the overall cost had almost tripled, from €800 million to €2.2 billion, and that the maximum amount allowed had increased from €247,000 to €420,000. He also noted that homeowners forced to leave their homes during

renovations would be entitled to maximum payments of €15,000 for alternative accommodation and €5,000 for storage. The package agreed has been criticised by campaigners who had demanded 100 per cent redress for all properties affected. Criticism has centred around the square foot rate, which falls short of the €150 per square foot that housing authorities in Donegal and Mayo were seeking in order to address the same issue in local council housing. The so-called ‘sliding scale’ mechanism, where the second 1,000 square feet would be valued at €110 per square foot, and €100 after that, has led to warnings of further mass demonstrations outside Leinster House if demands for full 100 per cent redress are not met.

Credit: Twitter/Mica Redress


Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021 published The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD has published the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021, which will see the Government raise the “reasonable profit” mechanism which limits the profits of private health insurers from 4.4 per cent to 6 per cent. VHI, Laya, and Irish Life Health have all been subject to an agreement since 2016 that allows them to make a profit of 4.4 per cent on their insurance premium sales in return for participating in a risk equalisation scheme that subsidises prices for older customers, but that profit margin will now be increased in a move that could affect up to 2.2 million people. The Bill also provides for a reduction in stamp duty levies on advanced health insurance contracts which will decrease from 2021, with a €43 decrease


eolas matters

to €406, and on non-advanced health insurance contracts which will decrease from 2021, with a €35 decrease to €122. Commenting upon publication of the Bill, Donnelly said: “Covid-19 has had a major impact on the private health insurance market in Ireland, as it has on the entire public and private health sectors. As a result of lower claims activity due to Covid-19 and restricted utilisation of hospital services, a surplus has built up in the Risk Equalisation Fund… It is hoped that this reduction can benefit customers by way of a reduced premium charged by insurers next year. This reduction ensures that all persons, young and old, sick and healthy, can avail of affordable health insurance.”

matters arising

Public transport expansion delayed under new NTA plans Hopes for an overhaul of the public transport system, which could be a key enabler of decarbonisation in Ireland, were dealt a serious blow by the publication of new National Transport Authority (NTA) plans that have delayed underground DART services to 2042 and abandoned the idea of developing metro lines south or west of Dublin. The review of the NTA’s Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy also revealed that the projected cost of implementing the now-scaled back and delayed strategy over the next 20 years has more than doubled, from €10.3 billion to €25 billion. The 20-year strategy has revealed that major rail projects, such as the expansion of Luas line to Finglas, Lucan, Poolbeg and Bray, the MetroLink and Navan rail lines, are now not expected to be delivered until after 2031, while the DART underground has been excluded altogether. The history of underground rail in Dublin is a long one full of proposals that have never born fruit. First proposed in 1972 by An Foras Forbartha, it was indefinitely delayed until a new proposal in 2001 of an interconnector project proposed by the Dublin Transport Office overtook it as the preferred underground rail option. A Railway Order granting permission for the construction of this project was granted in 2011 but expired before any construction began due to a lack of government funding. Despite 2018 reports that the plan had been entirely scrapped in favour of an above-ground expansion of rail, 2021

saw the project resurrected, but it has now been delayed once again. Planning permission for the MetroLink line from Swords and Dublin Airport to the city centre is due to be sought in 2022, but options for the future expansion of the line appear to be non-viable, with the NTA determining that the areas earmarked for expansion would be better served by new Luas lines that will not be developed until after 2042, when the strategy reaches its end. The idea of the metro running west through Terenure and Rathfarnham was ended when the review found the “benefits of the project were less than the cost of the project”. Planning and design work will also be commissioned on eight more Luas routes, to Clongriffin, Balgriffin, Tyrellstown, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Tallaght/Kimmage, Tallaght/Knocklyon and UCD/Sandyford line, along with the construction of the Finglas, Lucan, Poolbeg and Bray lines. The strategy contains no plans for the construction of these eight lines, meaning that their actual building will most likely wait until after 2042.

issues eolas

Delivering innovation in the public service Head of Public Service Reform at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Philip McGrath speaks to eolas about delivering innovation in the public service and the formulation of Making Innovation Real, the Public Service Innovation Strategy. Contextualising the culture in which the Strategy was developed, McGrath clarifies the misconception of a public service that was not innovative in the past. “It is not to say that we never did innovation before in the public services. If you think back to the global financial crisis in 2008 and the first and second public service reform plans in 2011 and 2014, there were huge amounts of innovation involving massive structural changes. To say that we did not have innovation before would be wrong, maybe we just did not phrase it that way or call it innovation,” he observes. Reflecting on what was learned from the innovation strategies of the past, the Head of Public Service Reform outlines that many of the previous initiatives were “top-down when we really need them to be bottom-up or part of everyday life”. Following work with the European Commission and Deloitte to assess the public service’s innovation maturity and ambition under the European Structural Reform and Support Service, 12 key recommendations were put in place.


eolas issues

Each of these have been implemented either fully or in part. “One of the key initiatives from that was that we put in place supports for public sector bodies, including guidance on how to innovate within an organisation, how to incorporate innovation into corporate strategies and plans,” McGrath says, adding: “We now have the Public Service Innovation Strategy in place and that has been incorporated into the next phase of Civil Service Renewal, and it will be incorporated into the next phase of public service reform. “Our vision is to harness the power of innovation to deliver world class public services in Ireland. We settled on an innovation definition — there is much debate in the literature about whether to attempt this because it can inadvertently stifle innovation — but we thought that if we were asking people to do something, it would be helpful to describe it. Our definition of innovation in public services is the creation of a new and viable offering that adds value. Adding value is particularly important for us.”

issues eolas

McGrath identifies four priorities that have informed the writing of the new policy, the first of which is citizen-centric innovation, or “the notion of involving the user in designing your services, listening and engaging with users and citizens and then designing and delivering integrated and easy to use services”.

Philip McGrath speaking at the eolas Magazine Public Services Conference 2021

The rationale underpinning this, as he explains, “is that it is simple as a public sector body to create something that is easy to deliver for yourself, but it may actually not be what the user wants or needs”. “If you put in more time at the start to deliver something that is user-centric, you will get that back in the end because you will attract less appeals, less complaints and you will have happier users that are more willing to engage with your services,” he says. The second priority is creating a culture of innovation within the public service itself. “This means empowering our staff to challenge the norms within our organisations and to create leaders with vision around innovation and continuous change within our organisations,” McGrath explains, adding: “We put in place interventions that will equip our staff and give people the mindset and the tools to innovate, like putting in place a toolkit around design thinking or putting in place an innovation fund.” Third amongst the priorities is scaling up innovation, determining where the public service will connect and collaborate across its ecosystem to scale successful innovations and applying case studies. “There is a saying in innovation: you should steal with pride,” McGrath says. “If you see something that is really good in another organisation, take it, acknowledge it, and adapt and adopt it.” Here, the Head of Public Service Reform sees further opportunity in the case studies rarely mentioned in these types of plans: case of failure. “Determining lessons learned is something that we need to get a little better at. Talking about challenges and publishing case studies focusing on

initiatives where things went wrong. Sometimes they are the ones that can provide the best lessons for people.” The fourth and final priority is transformative innovation, incorporating the utilisation of strategic insights, future trends and megatrends and the requirements that these will demand of the public service. “We also have to support and promote policy for innovation, digital transformation and new ways of working through testing, experimenting with new and emerging technologies and establishing how they can help us to deliver better outcomes for the citizen,” he says. Concluding, McGrath explains that while the guidance document that has been developed contains fixed priorities, its goals are flexible and the actions are free, allowing organisations to develop plans according to their needs. He also mentions the potential of AI in the future of user-centric public services, and “putting in place interventions for citizens who are not digital natives using common data sets such as EirCodes and PPS numbers, which will make it much easier to connect services in the back end”. “I sit on a group that is looking at the future skills needs of AI in the economy, and while it is well and good to talk about hiring Python programmers, we have an urgent need around basic digital literacy and how we store data in a structured manner and produce datainformed services,” he asserts. “While we may think that AI is all about programming and technology, the precursor to that is more important and that is that people understand that getting services capable of being use by AI and other automation solutions require a very strong foundation. Looking at some of those learnings around behavioural insights, anticipating what citizens need and putting in place responses that cater for that will be very important.”

eolas issues


Northern and Western Regional Assembly delivers on key objectives for 2021 despite global challenges

David Minton, Director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly reflects on regional development in Ireland, the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, and the implementation of the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.


The regional assemblies have become an increasingly prominent player on the public policy landscape. The Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) has evolved as a key advocate and leader for its region. Covid was a perfect example of this. The team did an amazing job during Covid. Like many others, we took the opportunity to stand up and support our communities. Within the Assembly there is a really high level of performance, and high trust. The elected members were also quick to hold us to account. That was quite a proud moment, when they understood the value of the Assembly in a crisis and challenged us to respond. Most significantly was the work done to support the HSE invest over €100 million in PPE for health care and health

service providers across the region, through European Regional Development Funds. The PPE helped to protect frontline staff from the Covid-19 virus in hospitals, acute and primary care settings, testing centres, assessment hubs and residential care settings. For me, this is just another example of effective regional development. Since the launch of the NPF I reckon we’ve gone from being anonymous as a body from a central and local government perspective, to now one where we are recognised by the right people for doing the right things, and we’re getting a fair cut of the coin for doing so. That’s not necessarily always or readily quantifiable, but from my point of view, the key is that they are credible and

push hard. We try to influence the best outcome for our region, and our communities. Why? As a team, we live in the region and we are passionate about its future. Ireland has one of the highest levels of regional inequality amongst EU member states. Despite the country’s economic growth, a very uneven pattern of success can be identified where some areas of the country are benefiting significantly less than our capital region. This presents a less positive micro picture of economic success. I’m an optimist when it comes to our future, but the current evidence relating to economic performance is stark. The European Commission’s decision to downgrade the region’s status from a ‘More Developed Region’ to a ‘Transition Region’, while the north and west was the only region in Ireland to be classified as a ‘Moderate Innovator’. In addition, the European Parliament has also categorised the north and west as a ‘Lagging Region’, which is a region with low economic growth which is divergent from the performance of its own national economy. This points to underlying structural issues.

I believe Ireland needs all its regions performing and that’s why we launched an inventive campaign titled Let's Be More and we are backing that up with a €210 million programme of investment through the co-financed European Regional Development Funds between 2021-2027. This programme of investment is needsled through the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. Denis Kelly, our Senior Planner and Assistant Director and our Planning and Economic Development team have designed a strategy that prioritises investment and adopts a framework towards sustainable and integrated development. The team’s approach has enabled us to become more involved at national level (Housing for All, Climate Action Plan, Five Cities Demand Study, etc) but also cooperate with our constituent stakeholders in the region, namely our local authorities. The region needs additional investment. Our EU Funds team, led by Assistant Director Gerry Doyle over the next six years is going to focus on key strategic challenges. We know the world is changing, but we know Ireland is changing more than any other. That is why, more than ever we need smarter, greener, more specialised and connected communities, be that within our rural areas, villages, towns, or cities. To achieve that we need to invest in our people, through schemes stimulating our human capital.

The investment of over €210 million in the ERDF co-financed programme will

“Our region needs a radical new approach. We need a new model for regional innovation and entrepreneurial training. We need to accelerate the translation of cutting-edge research into commercial applications at a regional level.” help address our structural weaknesses, but also help us create healthier and more vibrant town’s. However, the biggest challenges lie ahead.

access and visualise data in a highly

Let’s Be More is advocating for a sustained policy focus on the border and west to ensure long-term sustainable progress and economic inclusion. We need to do something immediate and different. The northern and western region’s economy was valued at €22.1 billion in 2019, equating to €24,926 per head of population. This is in stark contrast with the state average of €66,716. The region is acutely exposed and we need to make sure that this is not exacerbated by forthcoming climate and biodiversity challenges.

are quantifiable, but we are also seeing

That’s why in 2020, we recruited an economist in John Daly. John, as part of the Planning and Development and Economic Development team has managed to bring a new perspective to both our policy work and project implementation. His capacity to both

innovative manner has allowed us to

advocate in a much stronger way with emerging public policy. Results of this

new partnerships emerge with the likes of the OECD and our new Atlantic

Technological University, advocated for strongly in the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.

Recently I spoke at a conference in

Sligo where I quoted George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. The first line of that book refers to the 13th hour

indicating a new understanding or a new way of thinking. I believe we are in that time now, and only new systems and thinking will prepare us.

E: info@nwra.ie W: www.nwra.ie


Our region needs a radical new approach. We need a new model for regional innovation and entrepreneurial training. We need to accelerate the translation of cutting-edge research into commercial applications at a regional level. Our new Technological University is at an embryonic stage and needs a wider research footprint with more scope to engage directly with local and regional business, industry and enterprise stakeholders. Most exciting is the opportunity for innovative regional partnership’s to improve our entrepreneurial ecosystems, highlighted to Minister Simon Harris in our submission to the new Research and Innovation Strategy.

Disposable income per capita

cover story

Becoming consciously hybrid Ciarán Galway speaks with Head of Enterprise and Public Sector at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Ireland, Enda Cusack about the challenges of digital transformation and why the public sector should consider platforms that enable the management of data from edge to cloud. Over the past 10 years, governments all over the world have moved to create and adopt digital strategies to accommodate digital transformation. During the Covid19 pandemic, the importance of this has become evident for the public sector as it accelerated the need for effective government and health services; with a

12 12

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drive towards connected interoperability across the sector. While bound to legacy platforms with manually intensive operating models that are fixed and inflexible, governments realised that an agile, scalable, and flexible infrastructure is the foundation for digital transformation with public

cloud as a key enabler. This paradigm shift was also visible in Ireland when the government issued its Considering Cloud Services policy document in December 2015, advising a “cloud-first approach for all new systems”. Although the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer suggests in an

cover story

advice note from October 2019 that government systems should move to a hybrid-cloud environment, we still see public sector bodies finding themselves entangled in an “unconsciously hybrid” state, Cusack explains. The problem: being unconsciously hybrid is inefficient, complex, stifles innovation, creates additional cost, and does not enable public sector organisations to capitalise on the value of the data. The solution, he asserts, is “becoming consciously hybrid”.

Consciously hybrid Becoming consciously hybrid is a recognition of the fact that not all applications and data can migrate to the public cloud, while also understanding that the benefits of a cloud operating model can be realised in a private data centre or in a colocation (colo) facility. This recognition is evident in the Government’s strategy, but there are hurdles when it comes to the actual implementation. Meanwhile, when implemented successfully, Cusack outlines, the benefits are improved efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and optimised cost. “Public sector bodies should consider adopting an edge-to-cloud platform that will allow them to secure their data and apps wherever they may reside, whether in their own data centre, in a colo facility, or somewhere at the edge. “It is a strategic imperative for both public sector and enterprise organisations, enabling them to manage their data across those three spheres and unlocking the potential of that data,” he explains.

Challenges of migration Highlighting recent International Data Corporation (IDC) reports, the HPE Head of Enterprise and Public Sector points to evidence which indicates that “despite the growth of public clouds over the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 70 per cent of applications remain outside the sphere of public cloud”. “The other reality is that moving to the public cloud does not necessarily

“Public sector bodies should consider adopting an edge-to-cloud platform that will allow them to secure their data and apps wherever they may reside.” provide a better outcome for organisations. Public sector bodies who are trying to execute on a public cloud only strategy now have the additional cost and overhead of running multiple IT environments,” Cusack contends. As a result of legacy application entanglement, data gravity, security and compliance, unpredictable cost, capacity constraints on technology skillsets, and insufficiently flexible procurement processes, many public sector bodies have struggled to implement their cloud first strategies.

Application entanglement As Cusack points out, many applications are not built to run in the public cloud. “This means that in some instances, you must separate the data from the application to make it function in the public cloud. That is unwieldy. “It ought to make sense to only move cloud native applications to the public

cloud, while maintaining the rest of those applications, workloads, and data in an on-premises data centre.”

Cost “It is easy enough to migrate applications and data which are cloud native to the public cloud,” he says, adding: “But it can be costly to move those applications and workloads out into a data centre environment or back into your on-premises infrastructure.”

Security Simultaneously, there are risks associated with handling sensitive personal data, especially in government, and some classified information demands require a higher level of security than cloud providers can offer. “You will only get that level of security compliance if you have that information on-premises or in a colo facility,” Cusack insists. In line with these concerns, the Government requires public sector

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“The other reality is that moving to the public cloud does not necessarily provide a better outcome for organisations.” organisations “to identify the sensitivity of their data (including the impact of a data breach) and categorise it accordingly” when deciding where data can be stored.

Data gravity Furthermore, some datasets are so significant in size, such as those within a hospital system where one MRI scan equates to approximately 30GB, that it is vastly time-consuming to move that much data to the public cloud and once it is there, it is hard to move it back out again.

Cloud everywhere Remarking on the private sector shift from a cloud first to a cloud everywhere model, Cusack indicates that the public sector is following this lead. “In the next decade we are going to be focused on using data everywhere across the entire organisation,” he says, observing: “Customers tell us that they want a simple and automated experience when it comes to their data, so they can focus


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on the intelligent outcomes that their data will give them. “The public sector should also consider adopting an edge-to-cloud platform that enables it to connect, protect, analyse, and act on all of its data, irrespective of whether it sits in the public cloud, a colocated facility, or out on the edge. That is where business is conducted now; on the edge.”

Public sector focus For government and public sector bodies seeking to adopt a cloud first strategy, Cusack believes that several factors must be taken into consideration. These are: competition; data sovereignty; digital skills; flexible procurement; and sustainability. Acknowledging the efforts of government to ensure that the tenders it issues are competitive, Cusack insists that the same rigour must be applied to the cloud computing market. In adopting a cloud first policy, he cautions government decision-makers to not

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narrow its focus on public cloud vendors, as seen in other countries. An increase in customer choice, therefore, would enable government to ensure greater value for money for taxpayers. Moving to data sovereignty, HPE Ireland’s Head of Enterprise and Public Sector asserts that the objective of being able to extract value from Irish sovereign data needs more prominence in government. “There is an opportunity for government to derive far greater economic benefits from the data that it generates if it has appropriate policies and processes around data sovereignty,” he says. At the same time, Cusack stresses the importance of recognising the digital skills gap in the public sector, alongside the challenges of attracting and retaining cloud computing talent. Consequently, the public sector must develop an understanding of modern infrastructure technology that bridges the gap between traditional legacy IT environments and the new cloud environments. Similarly, he emphasises the need to adopt a procurement engine that delivers an open cloud tender process for cloud solutions that are not just public cloud but deliver an on-premises option to the customer also. Perhaps most critically, HPE is observing an increased focus on sustainability in public tenders. “The public sector is very focused on sustainability now and it forms a fundamental part of the scoring of many of the tenders that we have seen. “Companies like HPE must be able to bring innovative solutions to government, like our HPE GreenLake platform, which not only focuses on what customers need but also focuses on how it can be used in a sustainable way, such as buying back legacy assets that can be refurbished and resold as pre-owned solutions, which ultimately allows us to reduce our carbon footprint in the data centre,” Cusack highlights.

HPE GreenLake As a service (XaaS) solutions, such as the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, allow customers to enjoy all the

“A hybrid cloud strategy is a ‘better together’ approach balancing both public and private cloud.” benefits of the public cloud experience in an on-premises model. This enables public sector bodies to execute on their cloud strategy and, critically, provide choice on how and where their workloads and data are managed. According to HPE, this can deliver more than 30 per cent of savings against traditional or legacy operating environments. Cusack advises that public sector bodies work with private sector companies like HPE to help them develop a cloud strategy that enables them to utilise public cloud, but also to realise the benefits of what an on-premises solution can offer.

Core services and solutions To support both public and private sector organisations who are considering a cloud first strategy or migrating to cloud, HPE has developed a transformation programme. Essentially, this facilitates an evaluation of the organisation, identifies maturity gaps, and identifies a cloud roadmap to prepare people, processes, and technology for an holistic cloud transformation. Cognisant that IT services are at the centre of most cloud transformations, HPE Ireland recently launched its Hybrid

Cloud Practice utilising advanced advisory and professional services skillsets to empower customers on the island of Ireland to deliver on their cloud strategies. It is multi-technology disciplined, delivering services around cloud advisory, AI and machine learning services, SAP services, and consumption. “Through our advisory engagement, we are able to pull together a very clear and robust cloud strategy roadmap, and we can engage with them to deliver on that strategy through our professional services teams located here locally. “We are very proud of the practice that we have built and its ability to deliver and help customers on their cloud transformation journeys,” he adds.

Conclusion Altogether, while Cusack acknowledges that public cloud plays a critical part in customers’ overall cloud journeys, he underscores the need to understand and accept that not all applications and data can move to public cloud. “Ultimately, there is a requirement for applications and workloads to sit in a local data centre or in a colo. A hybrid cloud strategy is a ‘better together’ approach balancing both public and private cloud,” he concludes.

Profile: Enda Cusack A native of Renmore, Galway, Enda Cusack has worked with Hewlett Packard Enterprise Ireland for 30 years. Having started his career in Digital Equipment Corporation in 1991 as a software engineer supporting Microsoft Technologies, Cusack progressed through Compaq and moved from the technology side into the business sphere where he has managed HPE’s Advisory and Professional Services business for close to 10 years. Most recently, he took over the role of enterprise and public sector lead for HPE in Ireland, north and south.

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C L I M AT E A C T I O N P L A N 2 0 2 1 :

Core and further measures comparison



Published in November 2021, Climate Action Plan 2021 is the Government’s detailed roadmap to achieve a 51 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as per the Programme for Government commitment. With broadly similar core and further measures to its predecessor, Climate Action Plan 2021 is distinct in that it establishes indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy.


Increase reliance on renewables from 30 per cent to 70 per cent adding 12GW of renewable energy capacity;

A coherent support scheme for micro-generation with a price for selling power to the grid;

Open up opportunity for community participation in renewable generation as well as community gain arrangements; and

Streamline the consent system, the connection arrangements, and the funding supports for the new technologies onshore and offshore.

More rapid development of renewable energy capacity, particularly in offshore wind, solar power, and microgeneration. Additional measures include increased electricity storage, zero emissions gas deployment, and hydrogen production.

By 2030, “up to 80 per cent” of electricity will be generated using renewable energy, including 5GW from offshore wind, 8GW from onshore wind, and between 1.5 and 2.5GW from solar PV.

An emissions reduction of between 62 and 82 per cent.

Scaled up delivery of retrofitting as per the National Development Plan 2021-2030, district heating roll-out in cities and enhancement of zero emissions heating in commercial buildings. Further measures include blending of zero emission gas.

Introduce stricter requirements for new buildings and substantial refurbishments;

Design policy to get circa 500,000 existing homes to upgrade to B2 Building Energy Rating (BER) and 400,000 to install heat pumps;

Retrofit of 500,000 homes to a B2 Building Energy Rating/cost optimal equivalent or carbon equivalent.

Build a supply chain and a model for aggregation where home retrofits are grouped together to allow this level of activity to be funded and delivered;

Installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes and between 250,000 and 280,00 in new homes by 2030.

Deliver two new district heating systems, and implement a roadmap for delivering District Heating potential; and

Installation of between 50,000 and 55,000 heat pumps in commercial buildings by 2030.

Increase attention to energy and carbon ratings in all aspects of managing property assets.

Achieve of 2.7 TWh of district heating energy demand by 2030.

Cut emissions from public sector buildings in half by 2030.

An emissions reduction of between 44 and 56 per cent.

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From 2023, all new vehicles purchased by the State must be battery electric vehicles (or a viable electric alternative).

Achieve the electrification of 845,000 passenger vehicles by 2030.

Make growth less transport intensive through better planning, remote and home-working and modal shift to public transport;

Achieve the electrification of 95,000 commercial vans and 3,500 HGVs by 2030.

Increase the renewable biofuel content of motor fuels; and

Set targets for the conversion of public transport fleets to zero carbon alternatives.

Achieve a bioethanol blend rate of 10 per cent (E10) and a biodiesel blend rate of 20 per cent (D20) by 2030.

Achieve 1,500 EV buses and expanded electrified rail services by 2030.

An emissions reduction of between 42 and 50 per cent.

Increased uptake of greenhouse gas efficient farming practices, reduced fertilise use, increased use of clover and multispecies sward improved animal breeding, reduced crude protein diets, earlier finishing of animals, and increased organics. A research programme to implement new technologies and feed additives.

Increased biomethane production.

An emissions reduction of between 22 and 30 per cent.

Embed energy efficiency, replacement of fossil fuels, careful management of materials and waste, and carbon abatement across all enterprises and public service bodies;

More rapid uptake of carbon neutral heating in industry, enabling the electrification of high-temperature heating, phasing out high-global warming potential (GWP) fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), and launching a Climate Toolkit 4 Business to help businesses adapt. Additional measures include blending of zero-emission gas, reducing carbon in construction materials, and utilising carbon capture and storage (CCS) in hard-to-abate sectors.

Mobilise clusters regionally and sectorally to become centres of excellence for the adoption of low carbon technologies; and

Deploy alternative fuels and waste recovery to meet 80 per cent of energy needs for cement production by 2030.

Plan for the delivery of quality employment and enterprise in the new areas of opportunity being opened up.

Achieve an 80 per cent emissions reduction of high-GWP F-gases by 2030.

Reduce emissions from non-metallic mineral products.

Reduce emissions from non-ferrous metals manufacturing.

Deploy CCS in two cement/lime plants achieve around 1.5 MtCO2 eq savings.

An emissions reduction of between 29 and 41 per cent.

Deliver substantial verifiable greenhouse gas abatement through adoption of a specified range of improvements in farming practice in line with recommendations from Teagasc;

Deliver expansion of forestry planting and soil management to ensure that carbon abatement from land-use is delivered over the period 2021 to 2030 and in the years beyond; and

Support diversification within agriculture and land use to develop sustainable and circular value chains and business models for lower carbon intensity farming, including, organic production, protection and enhancement of biodiversity and water quality, and the production of bio-based products and bioenergy through the Common Agricultural Policy and implementation of the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy.

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Accelerate the take up of EV cars and vans so that 100 per cent of all new cars and vans are EVs by 2030. This will enable achieving our target of 950,000 EVs on the road by 2030. This means approximately one-third of all vehicles sold during the decade will be Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV);

An acceleration of the electrification of road transport, the use of biofuels, and a shift to active travel and public transport. Further measures include a shift to reduce the total distance (km) of fossil fuelled car journeys by 10 per cent.



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North/south trade grows as east/west trade shrinks The latest goods, exports and imports figures released by the Central Statistics Office show significant growth in north/south trade in Ireland during the first eight months of 2021, with trade between the Republic and Britain decreasing in the same period. Imports from the North into the Republic totalled €2.5 billion during the first eight months of 2021, a figure that represents a 61 per cent increase on the same timeframe in 2020. In overall terms, this represents an import trading increase of €947 million when compared with the first eight months of 2020. This significant increase in imports from the North is complemented by an also significant increase in exports to the North, where a 47 per cent increase was recorded. An increase totalling €707 million means that the total of goods imported from the North to the Republic from January to August 2021 was valued at €2.2 billion. The most significant sector in terms of both exports to and imports from the North was food and live animals, with the export side enjoying a €210 million annual increase and imports increasing by €213 million. The most significant increases in terms of growth rate, again in both imports and exports, were recorded in the chemical and related products sector. Exports to the North in this sector grew by €178 million, or 66 per cent, while imports from the North totalled €536 million, an increase of €377 million, or 237 per cent.


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These increases have, of course, happened in the shadow of the UK-EU Brexit agreement and the Protocol, which has also seen exports from the Republic to Britain decrease by €77 million when compared to 2020. This decrease brought the level of exports beneath €1 billion to €978 million, a fall of 7 per cent. Goods exports to Britain did, however, grow in the first eight months of 2021, a 21 per cent increase of €1.6 billion meaning that this statistic totalled €9.2 billion. Imports from Britain decreased by 21 per cent, falling by €257 million to again come under the €1 billion mark to €945 million. The largest decreases were in the imports of food and live animals, chemicals and related products and machinery and equipment. Imports from Great Britain were 13 per cent of the value of total imports in August 2021. The value of goods imports from Britain was €7.3 billion, a decrease of €3.2 billion (30 per cent). The EU accounted for the majority of total good exports (37 per cent) and total goods imports (28 per cent), although both total exports to and good imports from the EU suffered decreases.

COP26: The Glasgow Climate Pact Alok Sharma MP, President of the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

While many will celebrate the inclusion of tackling coal and fossil fuels for the first time in a COP final decision, others have pointed to the stark reality that COP26 did little to change the trajectory of expected global warming of 2.4ºC by 2030.


Current national plans to cut emissions, if implemented, fall short of ambitions to limit global warming to “well below 2ºC, ideally 1.5ºC, since pre-industrial times”. Despite a heightened awareness of the need to address climate change globally, only one of the world’s major emitters, India, produced new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) at the conference, with the emphasis for enhanced national ambitions seemingly pushed out for several years.

with a 2.4ºC rise predicted by 2030 on

Under the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, nations are only required to set new NDCs every five years. An original roadmap set out a vision that this would occur in 2025, with the focus at that time being on actions beyond 2030. However, estimations are that current NDCs will be inadequate to limit global warming to the required level,

had argued that an aim of 1.5ºC would

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the current trajectory. While calls for fresh NDCs to be produced in Glasgow were largely ignored, some progress was achieved in ensuring that NDCs have been put on the agenda for COP27 in Egypt and COP28 in 2023. Importantly, there now appears to be a greater unison between leading nations on what the global temperature rise limiting target should be. Some nations be a rewrite of the Paris Agreement’s actual commitment. At COP26, however, nations such as the US and the UK emphasised that the “well below 2ºC” target must be sought”, an ambition largely agreed by participating nations.

Credit: UK Government.

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Coal Coal took centre stage as both the biggest achievement and potentially biggest disappointment of COP26. The Glasgow Climate Pact looked set to include a historic pledge by all nations to phase out coal-fired generation but opposition from some of the world’s largest users forced a retreat in ambition, with the final text including a pledge to ‘phase down’ use. The International Energy Agency estimates that some 40 per cent of the world’s existing coal-fired power plants will need to be closed by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to 1.5ºC but to date, fossil fuel-producing companies and heavy consumers of oil and coal have been successful in keeping the phasing out of fossil fuels off the COP agenda. While not as ambitious as most would have hoped, the inclusion of a phase down commitment still represents significant progress.

Climate reparation Much like the issue of revised national targets, also pushed on to COP27 was a mechanism to help fund nations to deal with loss or damage associated with climate change. It has long been argued that unpreventable or unmanageable climate events, such as hurricanes and flooding have a direct effect on the resources of developing countries, forcing them to spend budgets on repairing damage rather than proactively mitigating climate change. Richer nations have, for a long time, sought to oppose a financing mechanism which could be viewed as a compensation or reparation scheme, recognising the potential costs associated with legal liability for climate damage. COP25 produced some progress on the issue, including the establishment the Santiago Network, a reporting and database system, however no funding mechanism was discussed at COP26.

“While not as ambitious as most would have hoped, the inclusion of a phase down commitment still represents significant progress.” available, only $80 billion had been allocated. Richer countries reacted to anger from developing countries at COP26 by pledging to increase finance to ensure $500 billion will be available for the next five years.

countries who face extreme weather and struggle to obtain investment. The success of the Glasgow Climate Pact will rest on whether nations are prepared to transmit their pledges at COP26 into legally binding ambitions

Crucially, the Glasgow Climate Pact has introduced a shift to where that finance will be directed. The text agreed to double the proportion of climate finance going to adapation. The agreement falls short of the UN recommendation for an even split, recognising current topheavy investment in emissions-cutting projects because of their viability to return a profit. However, the move is seen as progress for those poorer

nationally. The Glasgow Pact is not legally binding, meaning that domestic responsibility will play a huge role in limiting global warming to acceptable levels. Outside of the inclusion of fossilfuels as an issue which needs addressed at COP27, it appears that next year’s pledges expected by nations, could be a defining moment in the climate crises.

Key pledges Coal and fossil fuel: To “accelerate efforts towards” phasing down “unabated coal power” and to bring about an end to “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies.

Loss and damage: Beginning of a “dialogue” on funding a new organisation to support countries affected by climate change.

Climate finance: Increase in climate finance for poorer nations to at least meet the previously set out $100 billion target per year, through to 2025. Rich nations will double their support for adaptation measures to help developing countries.

Carbon markets: The rules will create a market for units representing emissions reductions that countries can trade, under so-called Article 6.

Climate finance Pre-COP26, a lot had been made of a failure by richer countries to honour a pledge to aid poorer countries to cut emissions through public and private financing. In 2009, it was agreed that $100 billion would be raised annually, however in 2019, the most recent data

Trees: Over 100 nations pledged to end deforestation by 2030. Methane: Large methane emitters including Russia, China and India did not join in pledging to a scheme to cut 30 per cent of methane emissions by 2030.

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roundtable discussion

Security of supply: Powering Ireland’s infrastructure plans EY Ireland hosted a virtual round table discussion with experts from across several commercial and non-commercial state bodies, and major national infrastructure providers, to explore security of supply in supporting and facilitating Ireland’s infrastructure ambitions. What role will your organisation play in meeting Ireland’s national infrastructural needs? Ferga Kane EY is here to support the delivery of Ireland’s infrastructure plans as well as the Climate Action Plan 2021. Each part of our business is involved in supporting infrastructure delivery, including work in both the public and private sector on infrastructure development. For example, we are currently supporting the

Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications by providing oversight on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and we are supporting ESB in its smart metering programme. We are also supporting the NTA and TII on several transport projects including BusConnects and MetroLink. More broadly, there is our work supporting Irish businesses who are crucial to the successful delivery of infrastructure projects. We combine our local expertise and knowledge with insights from specialists across our global network, ensuring we consistently deliver best practice and the greatest success for the projects we are involved in.

Round table discussion hosted by


Eamon Gallen Irish Water is an enabler of growth and development, particularly in housing. Last year, Irish Water approved 34,579 units. From our own perspective, without Irish Water, there is no housing, there is no industry, and there is no FDI because you cannot operate without utilities. One of the things that we have undertaken is publishing capacity registers. These are published on our website, water.ie, and issued to all local authorities to illustrate where we have capacity and where we do not. David Kelly Gas Networks Ireland is a key player in Ireland’s infrastructure. The €2.7 billion national gas network is publicly owned, provides 50 per cent of Ireland’s electricity and 40 per cent of our heating. Project Ireland 2040 envisages an additional one million people living in the State and the idea that there would be insufficient electricity or energy to support that growth is anathema. Mirroring the Government’s agenda, we

Roundtable participants Seán Casey Seán Casey leads the Energy and Infrastructure practice of EY in Ireland, facilitating transformational projects and programmes across the sector. With over 25 years of experience in energy and utilities, Seán advises clients on the future of utilities, how they can sharpen their purpose and strategy to deliver long-term value, and what operating models and systems of the future will look like.

want to increase renewable electricity by increasing renewable gas to generate it, without any significant cost to the taxpayer or disruption to energy supply. If Ireland can get to 80 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, that would be fantastic. However, the gas network will be vital to not only reliably meet the remaining 20 per cent but also to provide flexible back up for renewables at times when the wind is not blowing, and the sun is not shining. We also need to remember that electricity only meets around one-third of Ireland’s total energy. In the longer term, gas, particularly the adoption of biomethane and hydrogen, is key. Our role is to provide that enabling infrastructure, to ensure that it is maintained and future ready.

Ferga Kane Ferga Kane is a Partner in EY's Strategy and Transactions team focusing on Government and Infrastructure. She has extensive experience in advising public and private sector clients on the development and financing of large infrastructure projects across a wide range of sectors. Ferga also advises on complex financial modelling development and review assignments for public, private, and banking sector clients.

Peter O’Shea ESB is investing approximately €1 billion in capital expenditure every year. We are one of the most significant providers of infrastructure in Ireland. Our business is closely aligned with delivery of the Climate Action Plan and, ultimately, the decarbonisation of society between 2040 and 2050. Electricity is the vector for decarbonisation. We are investing in renewables, both onshore and offshore, and transmission and distribution capability to ensure that we can take those new sources of electricity, which are more dispersed, and deliver them to a very different type of customer in years to come. On the supply side, we want to ensure customers have the toolkits to engage fully with the transition and the market. There is a need for a bottom-up approach where we are engaging with customers and building them into the transition as well as a top-down approach.

David Kelly David Kelly is Director of Customer and Business Development at Gas Networks Ireland, the semi-state organisation responsible for operating, building, and maintaining the national gas network in Ireland, connecting all customers to the network, and ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of gas to those customers. David has over 20 years of executive-level experience having worked extensively in both the private and public sectors throughout his career. Prior to being appointed to his current role, David was the Group Head of Customer Operations and Public Affairs for Ervia. Cathal Masterson Cathal Masterson has a strong track record in delivery and management of transport operations. He is a chartered civil engineer with an MSc in project management. Prior to joining TII he worked as a consultant on a variety of transport projects for public and private sector clients. As part of his current role Cathal is investigating options to power TII’s transport operations and infrastructure with renewable energy. Peter O’Shea Peter O’Shea is Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at ESB. He joined ESB in 1999 having previously spent 12 years in the UK power industry working in a range of technical, commercial, and regulatory positions with the CEGB and the National Grid Company. Peter joined ESB as Competition and Regulation Manager and was later appointed to the position of CIO and General Manager Services. Prior to taking up his current role Peter served as ESB’s Head of Strategy and Regulation. He is a past President and current Board Member at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and is Chair of the Electricity Association of Ireland.

Cathal Masterson For TII, there are three main areas of focus over the next decade. Firstly, maintaining and investing in the national road network, particularly the highcapacity interurban routes which connect the regions and industry to both national and international markets, via our ports and airports. The second is public transport infrastructure both in terms of upgrading the road network to facilitate

roundtable discussion

Eamon Gallen Eamon Gallen is Irish Water’s Chief Operating Officer Designate, overseeing all day-to-day activities and the management of relationships with a wide range of external stakeholders. Eamon is the ultimate point of escalation for around 800 internal staff and has oversight of approximately 3,175 FTE local authority staff operating under SLA Agreements. Having joined Ervia in 2004, prior to his current role, he was the Acting Managing Director of Irish Water, General Manager, and, before that, Head of Customer Operations. He was previously Ervia CIO and held several senior programme management roles.

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“We need to carefully manage the transition and not create security of supply issues which are a real risk to our economy.”

increased bus usage, alongside the operation and expansion of light rail networks in Dublin and Cork, and delivery of MetroLink. The third area is delivery of new national cycling infrastructure and greenways, which TII is keen to develop as a multiannual programme over the next decade.

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How will investment in regulated network infrastructure contribute to a safe, secure, sustainable, and competitive long-term energy future for Ireland? Seán Casey Currently, Ireland is investing heavily in energy infrastructure firstly, to enable and facilitate a net zero system and secondly, to cater for a large increase in economic development and demand. The regulated industries responsible for delivering the wide range of infrastructure have a good track record of delivery this infrastructure but there are notable risks for many of these programmes. Alongside delivery risks, there are two core challenges. Firstly, building infrastructure and connecting energy resources for a new energy world takes time. We need to carefully manage the transition and not

Seán Casey

create security of supply issues which are a real risk to our economy and secondly, we must ensure that we are getting value from this investment. Peter O’Shea Looking beyond 2030, hydrogen will be a crucial tool to meet our ‘last mile’ challenge of decarbonising electricity, as well as hard to abate sectors. Hydrogen’s versatility presents major opportunities. However, it is not naturally forming, and there are challenges relating to the various storage options and establishing the best use case for efficiency, all in a way that meets the requirements of the energy trilemma. David Kelly The role of the regulator is critical. A prime example is the recent call by the CRU for 2GW of investment in gas-fired generation to meet security of supply

“In Ireland, over recent years, many good plans have been developed. Now, we need to move from the planning phase into delivery.” Peter O’Shea

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issues, which has also led to new government policy. Regulation will be critical in the advent of the biomethane and hydrogen sectors to ensure that the right standards and the right regimes are in place to enable a safe and smart environment to work in. We encourage and are actively working with the regulator and other stakeholders to establish these indigenous renewable gas sectors as quickly as possible, and it is an area we would like to see more focus on. Cathal Masterson In terms of energy consumption, the transport sector has become much more aware of the energy it consumes to power our infrastructure and services. This has been encouraged by the International Transport Forum’s recommendation for the transport sector to collaborate more closely with the energy sector. For instance, we have been exploring options to procure green energy to power light rail and MetroLink services. Similarly, there is a need to examine national fuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels, particularly for the freight sector. It is an area that will need stronger collaboration from multiple actors. Eamon Gallen Regulated entities are often perceived as slow to innovate and slow to deliver but it is important to remember the vital strategic role they play in planning and access to funding. One of our investment categories for next year is in growth;

building infrastructure to cater for demand. In the absence of a ‘customer’, regulated entities, funded from the public purse, recognise the country’s longerterm requirements. Additionally, as one of the largest consumers of electricity, we recognise that we have a significant carbon footprint. Therefore, advances in hydrogen technology are critical for Irish Water’s ambitious decarbonisation goals.

Cathal Masterson The first thing that springs to mind is funding, resourcing, and skillsets. You obviously cannot invest in something new without the right mix of resources. However, there are other legal, institutional, and sectoral constraints on the supply side which we must deal with as public agencies and there is also a need to be better organised by having a regular project pipeline to counter the inefficiencies of stop-start nature infrastructure investments.

Peter O’Shea When I look at supply side, I consider four areas. Firstly, funding, I do not see that as the constraint when you see the commitments that emerged from COP26. Secondly, construction materials, they may well be tight in some areas, including housing for example. Of the two remaining challenges, the first is skills capacity, particularly craft skills, in the context of the national retrofit targets. The second, is policy frameworks. While the policies are good, the frameworks that make them happen need some attention, particularly on the planning side. Eamon Gallen We are finding it difficult to compete for the same pool of resources with regards to the supply chain. We must grow a water-specific supply chain, which has its own challenges. To develop resources to buy or lease plant, companies must have consistency of work coming towards them. That is difficult in an open and competitive procurement process. We have trawled Europe and the UK to

attract talent in on smaller schemes to build up water expertise, which is also challenging. Seán Casey In terms of supply, there are undoubtedly challenges, not only shortages but also pricing challenges. The price of copper has increased by around 8 per cent over the last 12 months, while lumber has gone up 60 per cent since 2019. Clients are talking about these issues in sectors where we have not heard them before. As countries undertake countercyclical green capital recoveries, we cannot be complacent. We must address skill shortages and supply chain constraints.

roundtable discussion

To what extent will delivery of the new National Development Plan (NDP) be hampered by supply side capacity constraints?

completion times. If we are collaborating on the ground, we should also collaborate on the planning policy agenda.

How can government and industry collaborate to best support the delivery of the new NDP objectives? David Kelly The new NDP is very welcome. Gas Networks Ireland works very closely with IDA Ireland and there is no doubt that there have been concerns expressed by IDA clients around challenges such as


David Kelly The supply side constraints are real. The housing crisis is one of Ireland’s foremost public concerns and that places demands on the construction sector. Representative bodies for construction have highlighted challenges relating to labour, materials, transport, and Brexit. We must get smarter about how we do things and how we collaborate with other entities. Our targets should be ambitious, but they must be realistic. We need to factor in what is achievable and affordable when we are mapping out our policy goals. It is also important that we address the planning process. While not necessarily a supply side constraint, it is a very real challenge when you factor in cost and the elongated project

“Regulated entities are often perceived as slow to innovate and slow to deliver but it is important to remember the vital strategic role they play in planning and access to funding.” Eamon Gallen

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energy security. We welcome the policy statement relating to the additional gas infrastructure to provide back up in the event of intermittency and IDA clients welcome that certainty. Those clients also want to see a roadmap to a decarbonised energy future. We have certainly observed significant interest in renewable gas, particularly biomethane from the agri-food sector. We will be actively working with government around policy support for biomethane and hydrogen and to ensure an enhanced dialogue over the coming months and years.

“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, priorities and preferences are changing, including where people want to live and how they want to work. Climate action and sustainability is central to that.” Ferga Kane

Ferga Kane

roundtable discussion

The most important pillar of collaboration between government and industry is communication. Providing the market with transparency on the pipeline of projects, their timescale, size, expected structure and contract type etcetera, enables the private sector to better position itself in terms of capacity. Transparency also helps attract talent from other markets. Market participants want certainty and are more willing to make an investment in capacity if they have clear line of sight on timing of a committed pipeline. While the new NDP is a fantastic framework that provides an overview of the areas of investment, clarity on the details of the pipeline of projects is required. Providing this information in relation to the Climate Action Plan 2021 is crucial also.

Eamon Gallen

Peter O’Shea

Planning legislation must be urgently examined. It is a huge burden for Irish Water. The process must be fast-tracked, it must be reasonable, and it requires expert examination, particularly for larger strategic projects. If we keep going in this direction, the taxpayer will continue to lose out. Similarly, governance needs to speed up. The Public Spending Code is a great tool but if it adds another layer of complexity and an additional six months onto projects, that will cost us all more time and money. On a positive note, we can and already do collaborate on key elements of infrastructure delivery, including health and safety.

When I think of collaboration, I think of trust. Haggling over the last piece of revenue does not build trust. I also think of an orchestra; one of the most collaborative art forms is orchestral music. What makes an orchestra collaborate well? Firstly, it has a very clear plan in the music sheet. Secondly, it has a proficient conductor who understands that the total output is dependent on each section of the orchestra playing to the best of its ability. In Ireland, over recent years, many good plans have been developed. Now, we need to move from the planning phase into delivery. This year, ESB announced Green Atlantic at Moneypoint, a major renewables programme which includes green hydrogen production. However, Ireland does not currently have a hydrogen strategy. As such, we must take the overarching plans and break them into their constituent parts so that each section of the orchestra can play to its strengths, building trust across the system that governance will be undertaken in a manner which ultimately gets the best outcome for the people we are here to serve: our customers.

“Project Ireland 2040 envisages an additional one million people living in the State and the idea that there would be insufficient electricity or energy to support that growth is anathema.” David Kelly

26 26

Cathal Masterson I think we should be mindful that this is not a normal National Development Plan in that it was published in tandem with

the Climate Action Plan 2021, and we all must play our part in transitioning to a more sustainable economy and society. If we are going to grasp the nettle on decarbonising the economy or embedding circular economy principles in our construction programmes, we are going to need to collaborate more. Arguably we should develop an holistic national infrastructure portfolio, rather than continue to invest on a project-byproject perspective. Where there are real delivery obstacles imposing costs and delays to infrastructure investment, we should have a proper discussion on solutions at a national level.

Peter O’Shea Our focus is on how we play our part in delivering the Climate Action Plan. That comes down to generation investment in renewables in offshore and onshore; such as Green Atlantic at Moneypoint, investment in Networks to connect new sources of electricity generation and delivery to customers. These customers are becoming more efficient in their use by retrofitting their homes and using electricity differently with heat pumps and electric vehicles. As I said earlier, we need to get change from the bottom up, if we do not inspire and motivate people to make the change themselves, we will not get the full distance. David Kelly Sustainability is a strategic pillar at Gas Networks Ireland and any investment decision we make has sustainability at its core. Our vision is to transition into a network that carries renewable gases. It is going to take time but, it is important to articulate this vision now. Ireland’s first wind farm was built in 1992 and it has taken 20 years to get as far as we have with renewable electricity. New

Cathal Masterson

technologies take time to roll out. In 2020, we invested €112 million into Ireland’s gas network and as we transition to a cleaner energy future, we will continue to invest in bringing renewable gases on to the network. These carbon neutral gases will come initially through our interconnectors to the UK. The UK is a few years ahead of us and will have hydrogen on its gas network in the next four or five years and we need to be ready for that.

last of Brexit yet. Covid has camouflaged some of that, but we still need establish its full implications, from movement of the workforce to economic impacts. If there is increasing economic activity, then we will need more utilities and vice versa. From an Irish Water perspective, our initial focus was on maintaining assets. We are now pivoting to facilitating growth and long-term planning.

Cathal Masterson

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, priorities and preferences are changing, including where people want to live and how they want to work. Climate action and sustainability is central to that, and everyone has a role to play to help achieve our national targets. This continuing shift towards more sustainable living will drive changes in behaviours. While we have clear and overarching infrastructure plans, we must continuously assess and consider how that infrastructure is going to be used and where it must be located. That takes real ongoing commitment, and it is critical that all future governments commit and continue with plans for infrastructure delivery. Without that commitment and consistency, it is extremely difficult to deliver these longterm infrastructure projects.

The framework for evaluating and making investment decisions for national infrastructure is changing and will be completely overhauled by the end of this decade. The fundamental drivers for transport infrastructure are also changing and for instance aside from a handful of schemes that have been in the planning pipeline for a long time, we will be focused on maintaining the network as opposed to providing additional road capacity. TII will be focused on investing in public transport and active travel infrastructure to support policies around compact growth and sustainable land use. We will also invest in technologies to support sustainable mobility solutions. Eamon Gallen On a macro level, we have not seen the

roundtable discussion

Overall, what is your organisation’s perspective on public infrastructure requirements and investment decisions over the next decade?

“If we are going to grasp the nettle on decarbonising the economy or embedding circular economy principles in our construction programmes, we are going to need to collaborate more.”

Ferga Kane

27 27

Reforming the Fiscal Rules: A radical shift or short shrift? The EU Commission has relaunched its review of the eurozone’s fiscal rules. Announced with something of a whisper, expect a lot of raised voices in the coming months. Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mairéad Farrell TD, writes. Thankfully, the fiscal rules of the European Monetary Union were suspended at Covid’s onset and will not return until 2023. For the uninitiated, the rules place limitations on members’ debt/deficit levels. As such they have a significant impact on economic performance. Two of the principal requirements are firstly, budget deficits below 3 per cent of GDP and secondly, debt to GDP ratios below 60 per cent. Their suspension allowed states to undertake the necessary countercyclical spending needed to address the pandemic. Nearly 30 years old, as long as the rules have been with us, so too have been calls for reform. It is speculated the Commission will propose their simplification, greater incentives for productive investment, and changes to debt-to-GDP ratios. Submissions from members states are being sought


eolas issues

and it is essential we have our say. As the IMF pointed out, we are facing a future of considerable uncertainty. Uncertainty for our low corporate tax model, corporate tax revenues, and environmental performance. Going forward, when it comes to economic growth, if we are to achieve growth that is sustainable, inclusive, and leads to shared prosperity, we will increasingly have to ‘grow our own’. This requires an entrepreneurial state with visionary/strategic public investments distributed across the innovation chain, which create synergy between the state and private sector, and positive spill overs raising the animal spirits of entrepreneurs. However, the rules as currently constituted will act as a barrier to that, straitjacketing not only our national efforts to achieve a Just Transition/Green New Deal, but wider European efforts.

Credit: Sinn Féin

issues eolas

issues eolas

Below, I make case for reform, outline what kind of reformation is required and why our government needs to become actively involved in the reform process.

The fiscal rules First, let us understand the concept of fiscal rules. They are self-imposed constraints governments place on fiscal policy, by establishing numerical limits/references for public finance aggregates (think budget balance, expenditures, public debt). The purpose being to marry short-term stabilisation of economic policy with the longer-term sustainability of public finances. First gaining popularity in the 1980s, countries shifted macroeconomic policy from the post-war Keynesianism toward the monetarism of Milton Friedman, which found disciples in Thatcher/Reagan.

help to prevent debt externalities, a situation where one nation’s debt troubles (default risk) could have spillover effects for its neighbours. But they came into existence at a time of historically high interest rates, which have been in secular decline ever since. This new world of low and negative rates lowers default risk. However, it presents a new problem. With monetary policy having lost its stimulatory ability, we are left with a new externality – a demand externality. This can only be addressed fiscally.

Rules made to be broken Rules built around debt/deficit ceilings will not necessarily be a good proxy for debt sustainability. Sustainability does not just depend on present debt/deficits, but on future things like interest rates, primary balances, and growth. The future is radically

“If we are to achieve growth that is sustainable, inclusive and leads to shared prosperity, we will increasingly have to ‘grow our own’.” According to economist Bill Mitchell, “the rationale of controlling government debt and budget deficits were consistent with the rising neo-liberal orthodoxy”. Under this framework independent monetary policy was responsible for delivering price stability, with fiscal policy to be more limited. New Zealand was a first mover passing its Public Finance Act (1989), the same year that Jacques Delors published the Report on Economic and Monetary Union in the European Community. Interestingly New Zealand was again a first mover, recently reforming its rules on the basis that “arbitrary debt and spending targets are not appropriate and have limited the Government's scope for change”. Between 1990 and 2015, countries with national/supranational rules jumped from five to 96. It is worth pointing out that two of the main eurozone requirements; budget deficits below 3 per cent and a debt ratio below 60 per cent, were selected arbitrarily, were not grounded by any serious empirical research, and lacked any solid theoretical foundation. What I mean here is there was nothing to demonstrate that 3 per cent deficits were more sustainable than 4 per cent. It depends on the circumstances which they arise and how the spending is deployed. The 3 per cent rule implies deficits above this size are problematic, but sometimes deficits in excess of 3 per cent are part of the solution, like when the economy is in the midst of a pandemic. They were also justified on the basis that they would

uncertain, and whilst we expect interest rates to remain low, debt serviceable and favourable towards investment, the fact is we don’t know what the future holds. Regarding the primary balance a country can achieve, multiple factors are at play: its tax base, the composition of its government, the business cycle, demographics. This does not mean we should try to add more provisions, because the sheer amount of different possible contingencies renders this too difficult. The Commission has made various attempts to tweak the rules since their establishment, but it is merely served to add increasing layers of complexity and opacity. One former IMF chief economist compared their evolution to the Cathedral of Seville, a byzantine like structure integrating successively complicated layers. Moreover, compliance has been poor. One study found that “the share of countries with a debt ratio greater than 60 percent increased from 35 percent in 1999 to 75 per cent in 2015”. Given the large level of additional pandemic spending, they will need to be modified otherwise there will be an automatic return to austerity. Thankfully, the Commission gets this and comments by certain top Eurocrats indicate an upward revision of debt levels is on the cards. For example, Klaus Regling the head of the European Stability Mechanism, said that countries can “comfortably live with” higher debt. But is this enough?

eolas issues

4 29

Credit: Sinn Féin

issues eolas

Towards a reformation Since introduced there have been calls for them to be rejigged or outright rejected. Precluding abolitionist calls, reformist proposals included exempting public investment, cyclically adjusting the 3 per cent ceiling, shifting from a deficit ceiling to a public debt ceiling, etc. For now, let us recognise their procyclicality. In other words, they do the opposite of what is intended. Prior to 2008, this meant member states did not push to reduce debt, but after the onset of the financial crisis, they rushed to cut debt/spending when they should have done the opposite. Fiscal rules should be countercyclical, and yet despite the various amendments made over the years, the outcomes have been mainly procyclical. That is why the Commission acted so swiftly to have them suspended. Any reforms must account for the environmental crisis. We should aim to introduce some form of ‘golden rule’ which revised the current investment clause. This revision could create the kind of flexibility that would exempt ‘green’ public investment from debt/deficit considerations. Currently there’s an investment clause which provides scope for exempting investment that has “positive, direct and verifiable long-term effects on growth and on the sustainability of public finances”, but restrictive conditionality means only two EU countries (Italy and Finland) ever qualified.


eolas issues

Naturally, some would argue this would be abused, but checks and balances could be used. The maximum amount of green investment states could exempt could be limited to the size of their ‘green investment gap’. This could be funded through ‘green bonds’ the size of which is determined by this gap and reviewed annually.

Conclusion Once negotiations begin, dividing lines between northern (surplus) and southern (deficit) countries will emerge. The former favouring a stricter fiscal stance, the latter a more growth orientated approach. Irish governments often sought to associate themselves with the former. However, the coming international tax changes will see our GDP fall in the future, meaning our interests will lie with southern countries. Our overinflated GDP previously made this debt/GDP ratio manageable. But if GDP falls our debt rises as a proportion of it, hampering our ability to spend at a time when we need it to expand. More importantly, minor reforms will not help us combat an existential climate crisis. We have a narrow window of opportunity to implement a paradigm shift, but in order to influence the debate the Irish Government needs to get on the pitch. Unfortunately, they are not even at the grounds yet, they have not togged out and they are seemingly unaware that the match just kicked off. Come on lads, it’s all to play for.

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Health report

Sponsored by

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

health report

Removing barriers of digital transformation in healthcare Providers are challenged to keep their staff safe, provide non-urgent clinical services and prepare for resurgent needs, all whilst supporting a remote and sometimes disparate workforce, not to mention the continuing impact of the pandemic. Given the focus on short-term operational challenges over recent times, many healthcare organisations have yet to address the new ways of working required to satisfy the ever-evolving needs and demands of patients into the future. When I was asked to lead the healthcare business for Dell Technologies a year and a half ago, I was both apprehensive and excited about the opportunity that digital change could bring to our health system.


The pandemic has changed the face of every organisation for good, and none more so than those within healthcare. As healthcare organisations focus on the road ahead, they face changing patient expectations for virtual care, along with new clinical and business realities, writes Ryan Heynes, Healthcare Lead, Dell Technologies. 32

However, I was reassured to join a wellestablished, dedicated healthcare team in Dell Technologies, brimming with experience from around the world in various healthcare disciplines and very much aware of the great responsibility that comes with our role. I recall one of my now colleagues explaining to me that “technology in health is similar to other industries but having the right solutions can actually be a matter of life or death”. Needless to say, this was a little daunting. Dell Technologies has a long history of supporting healthcare organisations in Ireland and beyond to realise the potential of technology in delivering patient care, as well as helping clinical providers to optimise their applications for use in healthcare environments. We currently support over 10,000 hospitals worldwide with digital transformation programs and with our team of over 200 healthcare specialists we are well positioned to understand the unique and demanding requirements that healthcare providers have.

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

health report Advances in technology are helping healthcare organisations to treat these diseases more effectively, but they are also helping patients to self-manage their own care more effectively, or to “stay left” by taking responsibility for administering treatment on time and recording changes in their condition. This in turn has led to a richer set of data being captured by health care providers, who are utilising advanced analytical programs to determine optimised treatment pathways and new drug combinations to improve a patient’s outcome.

However, as we live longer and see an increasing number living with chronic conditions, Ireland’s population will require additional healthcare supports. Globally, on average one-in-three of all adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions (MCCs). In Ireland, the situation is even more pronounced with over 50 per cent of adults suffering from at least one chronic condition, and 40 per cent suffering from two or more. The most common conditions include coronary heart disease, arthritis, cancer, stroke, dementia, hyper-tension and high cholesterol, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In addition to “staying left” and managing your treatment from home, technology is supporting the “shift left” movement focused on moving patients out of the acute hospital settings which are invasive and expensive, into a community or home setting to be treated. These initiatives underpin the Sláintecare strategy for modern healthcare, but also align with a proactive health model or what’s known as the “wellness model” of keeping people healthy and preventing illness, which is the opposite approach to our current “sickness model”, whereby you become ill and look for treatment.


As we look ahead, it’s clear that healthcare providers will have to contend with an ageing population. More than 700 million people on the earth today are aged 65 or over, approximately 9 per cent of the entire global population. The United Nations (UN) predicts that one out of every six people will be over the age of 65 by 2050. In Ireland, it's expected to be more than one-in-four with the number of people aged 75-84 set to jump by 76 per cent by 2031. With advances in medicine and technology helping people live longer, this trend is only set to continue.



Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

health report

“We currently support over 10,000 hospitals worldwide with digital transformation programs and with our team of over 200 healthcare specialists we are well positioned to understand the unique and demanding requirements that healthcare providers have.” Speaking of treatments, the speed at which new treatments and drugs are being developed and released into the market seems to be a major cause for concern amongst some individuals. The Covid-19 vaccine is an example in point, whereby there is still a level of mistrust and fear amongst communities about the vaccine due to misinformation that has spread about the speed at which the vaccine was developed and released, fuelling concerns about safety and potential side effects. But what isn’t so well understood is how the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have helped to dramatically speed up the analysis of the research data that previously would have taken months and potentially years to understand, enabling it to be analysed in a matter of minutes or hours. Similarly, the use of technology to automate the manufacture and distribution of these drugs reduced the time it took to mass produce and deliver the vaccine to healthcare organisations around the world.


This is another area with which Dell Technologies have been supporting industry leaders within the pharmaceuticals sector: utilising these complex technologies to bring drugs to market quicker, enable patients to benefit from them earlier and receive improved treatments that will lead to a better quality of life.


Technology can sometimes be perceived as complex and a little scary to some. This is often a major barrier to digital transformation across any industry. One of our goals in the Dell Technologies healthcare group is to help more people who work in healthcare roles better understand the basics of technology in health and de-mystify some of the more emerging technology trends. One of the initiatives we started to discuss after a short time in the role was an open briefing programme, which in partnership with the HSE quickly evolved into a six-month, recognised diploma programme. We wanted to make the initiative free, flexible, and engaging for anyone working in healthcare. The diploma, now entitled Digital Futures in Healthcare, helps to highlight several key healthcare technologies and inform healthcare staff of their benefits, how the technologies have developed and continue to develop and the potential use cases in improving care for patients. We marry industry expertise from our global healthcare team to local expertise from leaders across our health system to highlight key digital health technologies in a short two hour fully produced webinar format. The course is set across six separate modules, each focusing on a different type of technology used in the treatment of patients.

The Digital Futures programme has been designed to be accessed by staff at any level working across any discipline in healthcare. So, whether you’re a Chief Executive or in a clinical role or IT role, it doesn’t matter. Everyone working in healthcare has a role to play in driving digital transformation which, in turn, will deliver better patient and clinician experiences and, ultimately, better outcomes. The numbers registering for the programme has been simply incredible, with over 1,500 people taking part in the program. Numbers are still rising as we continue to accept registrations, with content available on demand after each broadcast. We are now in the fourth month of the course and feedback has been really positive from across the board, with lots of suggestions and requests for additional topics to be covered in follow-up initiatives. Why should people sign up? Quite often new technologies can be implemented in complete isolation from the other teams across a hospital or healthcare organisation, with very few understanding the reason for its implementation or the benefits it can bring. We have seen new innovations in the use of these technologies come from staff who are not involved in its primary use, but who understand the capability of these technologies and apply it to their own work environment. Through sharing and helping people to understand the benefits of these technologies, we hope to empower staff to come up with their own innovations and identify new capabilities for using technology to improve patient care, along with improving adoption rates. This will result in better outcomes for all and help remove the barriers to digital change.

E: Ryan_Heynes@dell.com W: www.dell.com

If you would like to register for the Digital Futures in Healthcare program and access the On-Demand content from previous sessions, you can find all the information on this website: www.delltechnologies.com/enie/industry/healthcare-it/ digital-futures-in-healthcare.htm

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Budget 2022: Key health figures

€250 million €10.5 million to provide 19 additional critical care beds in 2022

€31 million

(€200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchased Fund) in additional funding to reduce acute hospital and community waiting lists

€36.5 million

€45 million to advance the Sláintecare objective of accessible and affordable care for the most vulnerable

€62 million

in new funding for specific women’s health measures to underpin Action Plan in Women’s Health for 2022

for measures to deliver safe, quality, and patient centred care

€30 million

€65 million

in new funding for health services for older people

in new funding for disability services

in new funding for mental health services, including provision for 350 additional mental health services posts

€9 million

€8 million

to fund accessible contraception for women aged between 17 and 25

to modernise and increase capacity of the National Ambulance Service

€10 million in additional funding for Healthy Ireland

health report

Budget 2022 incorporated a record-breaking investment in Ireland’s health and social care services, increasing core spending by approximately €1 billion. In 2022, health expenditure will total €22.4 billion (including €0.2 billion held in reserve).

in new funding for national clinical strategies

€24 million


health report

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

A system under pressure With the pandemic now stretching into its third calendar year in Ireland and waiting list numbers reaching all-time highs in 2021, the Irish health system has come under significant pressure of late, at a time when efforts were to be focused on the implementation of the Sláintecare reforms. Covid-19 Yet again, the health system has come under pressure due to a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. Having been as low as 200-300 new cases per day in June 2021, case numbers steadily rose from October onwards, peaking at 5,959 new cases on 21 November, with between 3,000 and 5,000 new cases recorded each day for most of November and into December. While these numbers do not make for good reading, there is solace to be drawn from both testing numbers and hospitalisation rates that show a health system that has gotten to grips with the virus much more than in previous waves. The effectiveness of the vaccination campaign rolled out by the health system during 2021 is borne out in hospitalisation figures: on 5


December, a seven-day average of 4,885 new cases was recorded, with a seven-day average of 543 hospitalisations (11.1 per cent) and 115 (2.3 per cent) people in intensive care. In comparison, a seven-day average of 4,381 new cases per day was recorded on 15 January 2021, with a seven-day average of 1,623 hospitalisations (37 per cent) and 156 people in intensive care (3.6 per cent). Testing capacity has also been greatly increased, with November and December consistently recording seven-day average records for tests taken. The average now exceeds 30,000 per day. This, of course, has led to an increase in the rate of positive tests, with positive rates over 10 per cent recorded in October for the first time since January, reaching as high as 15 per cent in November, though still

not as high as the 25 per cent seen in January, when 5,000 less tests per day were being taken. However, despite the relative success of the vaccination programme in keeping people out of hospitals and in the increased testing capacity in detecting cases, the health system has still been put under significant pressure due to a lack of capacity. HSE figures released in mid-November showed 288 ICU beds open and staffed in Ireland, with 279 of them (97 per cent) occupied, 119 by Covid patients. Projections for numbers of ICU beds needed for Covid cases alone during this current wave range from 300 to 500; while Budget 2022 committed to the delivery of 340 ICU beds in the State by the end of 2022. ICU capacity is an issue that has affected the health system well before Covid, with the

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland, 2021 90%
















10% 0%

Booster shot received

New cases

New cases (7-day average)

Peope hospitalised (7-day average)

People in ICU (7-day average)

OECD reporting in 2019 that Ireland had 5.2 ICU beds per 100,000 of population, as compared to an average of 14.1. Capacity in testing has also been put under great stress due to the increase, specifically in the Greater Dublin Area, with three new centres opened in November in an attempt to alleviate some of this pressure. The Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2021 report stated that an expenditure increase of €3 billion had occurred between 2019 and 2020, with staffing increases due to the pandemic a major contributing factor. Separate HSE data published in November showed one-in-25 HSE staff to be off work at the time due to either being infected with Covid-19 or being deemed a close contact. 5,800 employees were absent at the time, a total of 4 per cent of the workforce, as compared to 1,800 a month previous.

Waiting lists Unsurprisingly, the pressure placed on the health system by the pandemic has seen problems elsewhere in the system worsen since March 2020. National Treatment Purchase Fund data published in August 2021 showed a record 908,519 patients on some form of public hospital waiting list for assessment by a consultant or treatment at the end of July. 268,500 of these were waiting for over a year for assessment, a 15 per cent increase on July 2020 and a seven times increase over seven years. 20,513 patients were waiting over a year for hospital care, an increase at a rate of 88 times since 2012. The Key Trends 2021 report, which was prepared by the Department of Health, found that there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of people who have spent more than six months on


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inpatient waiting lists since the pandemic began. Over 28,000 adults and almost 4,000 children were found to be waiting more than six months for inpatient treatment in October 2021. The Government had sought to reduce waiting list numbers by 18,300 between August and the end of October, but the final figure recorded was 10,700, or 60 per cent of the target. The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has said that it expects the target of 36,600 reduction by the end of 2021 to be missed.

Sláintecare Sláintecare implementation has been thrown into doubt of late with the resignation of three members from the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council (SIAC), but progress towards the goals in the reform programme continues with the Winter Plan and 2021 National Service Plan placing pronounced emphasis on the building of capacity for healthcare to be delivered within local communities. However, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has recently warned that basic financial information around the reforms is “severely lacking”, stating that no budgeting is available beyond one year, updated costing have not been produced since 2017; “little clarity on progress made is publicly available”; and public spending on health, pay and other cost issues “do not appear to have been factored into the original costings”. With this likely to have driven up the final cost of the implementation of Sláintecare, the IFAC has warned that factoring in these pressures “should be carried out as a matter of urgency”. 37

Immunising the nation

health report

Since the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 was a pandemic on 11 March 2020, a lot has changed in our personal and professional lives but one thing that hasn’t changed is my team’s dedication to preventing vaccine preventable diseases, writes Lucy Jessop, Director of Public Health, National Immunisation Office within the HSE. I lead a small but dedicated multidisciplinary team in the HSE National Immunisation Office; we manage vaccine procurement and distribution and developing training and communication materials for the public and health professionals to allow safe and high-quality vaccination programmes to be delivered in line with Department of Health Immunisation Policy. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have also supported the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and its many changes. The first Covid-19 vaccine was administered in the Republic of Ireland on the 29 December 2020 to Annie Lynch and up to the end of November 2021 over 7.4 million doses have been administered. It’s important to remember that as millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered in Ireland during 2021, our routine vaccination programmes continued thanks to dedicated health professionals who know the value of preventing vaccine preventable diseases.


In Ireland, our vaccination programme offers protection against 13 diseases including influenza, rotavirus, meningococcal disease and measles. We offer vaccines throughout the life course; the primary childhood immunisation programme at two, four, six, 12 and 13 months of age through GP practices, our schools programmes to Junior Infants in primary schools and first year in second level schools delivered by HSE school immunisation teams, vaccines in pregnancy and to those in risk groups through GP practices and pharmacies and our vaccines for health professionals delivered through peer vaccination


programmes in our CHOs and Hospital Groups across the country. In lots of cases the professionals who are delivering the Covid-19 vaccines also deliver our routine programmes.

reflecting the amount of clinical changes to the programme since it began; •

dealt with over 6,000 queries covering topics like intervals between Covid-19 vaccines, cold chain and clinical questions about vaccines;

provided up to date e-learning training which has so far been completed by 20,000 learners across the country;

worked with HSE communications to ensure information provided to people before and at the time of vaccination is clinically accurate;

we worked with colleagues in HSE Social Inclusion to provide information in over 26 languages using print, audio and visual materials; and

worked with the HSE Office of the Chief Information Officer (OoCIO) to test software releases and sanity testing before updates are made to the CoVax system being used to record Covid-19 vaccination records across the country.

Reflecting on 2021 My multi-disciplinary team have a wealth of experience in public health, medicine, pharmacy, procurement, ICT, communications and project management. With these skills we have supported our colleagues across the HSE working across different work streams to safely implement a population wide Covid-19 vaccination programme and maintain our support for the routine programmes. The National Immunisation Office has taken the lead on the training of vaccinators for the Covid-19 vaccination programme and in providing clinical information on the vaccine programmes. Frequent updates from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) have meant that we have had to respond quickly to ensure all our clinical and public facing materials always contained the most up to date advice which has been by no means easy. For example, so far this year we have: •

developed over 40 different clinical materials to support our vaccinators across the country and updated them as needed for example our Clinical Guidelines are currently on Version 29,

I have attended Department of Health NPHET briefings on four occasions and presented at Joint Health Select Committees, HSE press briefings, the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology, BIPA Committee B along with multiple TV and radio appearances to provide updates and answer questions about the Covid-19 vaccination programme. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing; the cyberattack in May meant we had to rethink the work processes we had put in place to run an efficient team. Our email, education, shared files and all

“It’s important to remember that as millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered in Ireland during 2021, our routine vaccination programmes continued thanks to dedicated health professionals who know the value of preventing vaccine preventable diseases.”

other HSE IT systems went off line overnight but our vaccination programmes continued, so we needed to adapt to continue to support them.

health report

My team developed a solution that allowed health professionals to contact us if they had clinical queries and they developed a bespoke training and education programme similar to that provided by the HSE HSELand platform to ensure vaccinators and vaccine advocates could continue to access up to date clinical training materials for the Covid-19 vaccination programme. This was up and running within days of the HSE systems going offline. During the time of the cyberattack we dealt with over 2,000 clinical queries and over 6,000 people completed the Covid19 Vaccination Training Programmes. Throughout 2021, we also continued to work on our routine immunisation programmes and adapt our messaging in line with Covid-19 measures. We encouraged people to avail of vaccines for their babies, school children and themselves to not only protect them from vaccine preventable disease now but when they are older too using traditional and digital channels.

Planning ahead As we approach the end of 2021, we are reflecting on the work we have completed so far this year and putting plans in place for our routine work in 2022. We are also very aware that we will need to continue to adapt to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme and whatever changes are required in line with Department of Health policy.

the position of Director of Public Health, National Immunisation Office. She was previously the Northern Ireland member of the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations in the UK and is now a member of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

W: www.immunisation.ie Lucy Jessop worked in paediatrics before training in Public Health Medicine in London. She worked as a consultant in both England and Northern Ireland. In 2019 she took up


Although Covid-19 public health measures like social distancing and reduced foreign travel have supressed the number of vaccine preventable disease being reported in Ireland temporarily, they have not gone away. Some people have not taken the opportunity to complete the recommended vaccination schedule for themselves or their children. It is never too late to catch-up on vaccinations so I would encourage people to contact their GP or other healthcare professional to arrange any vaccines they have missed.

The mission of the National Immunisation Office has not changed through the pandemic and beyond. We will continue to work with key stakeholders and support healthcare providers to maximise the uptake of all national immunisation programmes and provide strategic direction in support of a best practice based, equitable and standardised delivery of publicly funded immunisation programmes.

Social: @hseimm on Twitter and Instagram and National Immunisation Office on YouTube.


Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

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Digital transformation for resilience and better healthcare Gar Mac Críosta, Product Manager for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Product Lead for the Covid Tracker Ireland app, reflects on the experience of digital transformation during the pandemic and how it has informed a future vision of a more resilient health system.

“It has been a really interesting experience over the last year-and-a-half to see what we could do in the time we were given,” Mac Críosta begins. “We are now in a moment of reflection, figuring out what we bring forward, what we leave behind, and what are the constraints.” Capacity in the HSE has been severely tested during the pandemic, and Mac Críosta says that high demand is something the health system understands it must learn to live with. Furthermore, the HSE must use the opportunity to not just change technologically, but psychologically: “In healthcare, we have experienced massive demand that we know is not changing and we must determine how to avoid being overwhelmed. It is a fact that we are going to have to deal with the demand and in order to do that we have got finite capacity in our physical structures, so how do we rethink the delivery of healthcare in a sustainable way? “Before Covid, I felt like I had spent 25 years adding technology to existing processes and not really making too much progress. We were stuck, not in terms of the technology we were deploying, but in terms of the way we were thinking about this. “After Covid, we have a choice to go back to the status quo, and there are a lot of people who would feel comfortable with that because we


were safe there. However, if we move into this new world of continuous change, that brings with it a lot of other things. One of the common framings of digital transformation is changing from A to B. That is a poor framing. Digital transformation is changing the way we think, not changing the thing we are in any given moment. That is one of the big steps we need to take.” Problems emerge, Mac Críosta says, when technologies that were considered significant changes 20 years ago are now complicating modernisation attempts. A need to be more brutal with regard to these issues is one that the Product Manager touches on. “It all becomes intertwined and difficult to remove,” he says. “Even now as we deploy new technologies, you add time to it, and you get instant legacy issues and things go on life support. Technologies are livestock, you kill them when it is time and you move on, but we treat them like pets and nurse them, look after them, keep them alive for way too long and that causes stress and despair.”

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

From their experiences with the pandemic, Mac Críosta and his colleagues have developed three laws of operation: 1. Hardware will fail: “Stuff could fall over; heating units, servers, anything.”

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2. Software has bugs: “You pay for the software and the bugs come for free. Then it is up to us to fix them. It is part and parcel of this process, and we need to get away from thinking that it is awful and move towards a systemic way of fixing these issues when we find them, because we will find them.” 3. People will be people: “People are the greatest source of variance and failure in any system. That is the reality of it. Our job is not to engineer people out of it, but to recognise that this is a frailty in the system and figure out a way to deal with it and how do we support people through that.”

“One of the common framings of digital transformation is changing from A to B. That is a poor framing. Digital transformation is changing the way we think, not changing the thing we are in any given moment. That is one of the big steps we need to take.” A common theme identified by those implementing digital transformation amid Covid is the speed at which change has happened. Mac Críosta is no different, remarking upon how the pandemic has changed perceptions of both how and when to act, he asserts: “There is such a thing as being too late, there is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. As a result of Covid Tracker Ireland, we have had lots of conversations that span many government departments and there is consensus there is an opportunity now that we have never had before. “We never had it but, both from a technological and an urgency point of view, there is a feeling that we need to do something now. One of the big things is energy. The problem with our thinking is that we have spent the past 30 years figuring out how to do complicated things, from an order perspective all we have done is plan, treat the future as predictable, and work through it. Over the past 18 months, we have proved that does not work. I am not saying it does not work for everything, but in certain situations, particularly where there are people involved, you have to employ different techniques. We cannot do the same things as before.” Energy, Mac Críosta reflects, can be key in such transformations. Too many transformations are often stopped in their tracks due to too much energy demand. As such, the transformations targeted are too big in scope. “If you look at any change or transformation, the reason it does not stick is because the energy gradient is too high, what you are trying to do requires too much effort and unless you lower the energy gradient, you cannot make that move,” he says. “Over and over again, we see these grand programmes of change failing because the energy gradient is too high. Energy gradients within a system constrain what you can do.”



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Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Significant amounts of energy may be expended by Mac Críosta and his colleagues in dealing with older technologies, but a blanket perception of old as bad is one that he warns against, stating that fragility is the main issue of the day with technology. Age, in the case of resilient technologies, appears to be just a number, and understanding this requires a change in the way we learn. “There is nothing wrong with old technology; old fragile technology is the problem,” he says, adding: “We keep mischaracterising things, applying one label to everything else, saying old is bad and then rationalising and getting rid of everything. It is not that simple. “In a complex domain, I have got to probe, experiment, and learn, so it is a learning environment, whereas an ordered environment is a knowing environment. These are two opposing philosophies: One where I know everything and another where I am learning what I need to learn to create some coherence and begin to develop some knowledge. We are stuck in that, and this thinking goes back to school. We are taught to know things, not learn things. We talk about learning, but we do not examine things and that drives a particular perspective on things.” Reflecting on this lack of critical thinking, Mac Críosta concludes with what he believes to be the crucial aspect to digital transformation: “Imagination is the key in this. Nobody thinks about imagination in terms of decision-making but if I have no imagination, I have no options. Imagination is thinking about what could happen. What would it be like, in terms of delivery of healthcare in Ireland, if we could deliver it anywhere in the country at any point of time to anyone in collaboration with any other department that is out there? What would that look like? That’s totally reimagining how we deliver public services.”


“There is nothing wrong with old technology; old fragile technology is the problem. We keep mischaracterising things, applying one label to everything else, saying old is bad and then rationalising and getting rid of everything. It is not that simple.”

Major milestone on Ireland’s paediatric healthcare journey emergency care units – with the same staff and standards, as well as easier

access – are embedded in communities first, people will stay there and feel that they do not have to go the principle

hospital. That is our chief objective.”

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Breaking from a tradition whereby

referrals are often made directly to

specialists, this investment seeks to consolidate a cohort of general

paediatricians who can become a first point of contact, liaising with GPs,

community services, and families, to

manage most paediatric conditions and assess what must go to specialist services.

“By enabling healthcare professionals Eilísh Hardiman, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD at the opening of the new Paediatric Outpatient and Emergency Care Unit (ECU) at CHI at Tallaght.

Eilísh Hardiman, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) speaks with eolas Magazine about her organisation’s realisation of a major milestone on the journey towards modernising children’s healthcare in the State.

such as consultants and doctors, as well as nurse specialists, psychologists,

physiotherapists, and phlebotomists, to establish multidisciplinary teams, the

new facility at CHI at Tallaght will ensure more efficient, child-centred, family

focused care, which treats children at the earliest opportunity,” the Chief Executive asserts.

Indeed, a similar facility in CHI at

Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown

opened in July 2019 and its services It has been a challenging year for CHI. In fact, ‘challenging’ is an understatement. Alongside the busiest emergency department attendances in the history of its hospitals, CHI’s priority has been to recover from both the Covid-19 pandemic and the May 2021 ransomware attack on the HSE.

In this context, in 2021, CHI successfully met several objectives on its journey towards better health outcomes for children and young people throughout Ireland. Most decisively, Hardiman outlines: “We have opened a new paediatric outpatient and

contributed to a 65 per cent reduction in

Primarily, the model for paediatric care in Ireland is defined by keeping care in the home where possible or as close to the home as clinically appropriate and Children’s Health Ireland’s catchment area incorporates the entirety of Dublin city and county, alongside Meath, part of Louth, Kildare, and Wicklow.

Chief Executive of Children’s Health

“As such, we have to ensure that we have a paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre on both the northside CHI at Connolly and the southside CHI at Tallaght. This ensures that families can be supported locally without traveling to attend the New Children’s Hospital,” Hardiman explains.

waiting lists for general paediatric services.

“One-quarter of the citizens of Ireland

are aged under 18 and my purpose as Ireland is to advocate hard on behalf of children’s services. Our objective is to have healthier children and young

people, ultimately ensuring a healthier, wealthier, and happier nation,” Hardiman concludes.


Simultaneously, remarking on “long waiting lists and significant numbers of people waiting”, the Chief Executive identifies access to care as the single greatest operational risk facing her organisation. With the delivery of the New Children’s Hospital moved out until 2024, therefore, improving access to care in existing facilities has become a necessity.

emergency care unit at CHI at Tallaght. That is a very important milestone in the plan for the new children’s hospital. The rationale is to keep paediatric services local and convenient.”

W: www.childrenshealthireland.ie

“International experience indicates that if a hospital is established first, people will gravitate to it. However, if outpatient and 43

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Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Sláintecare Implementation Plan 2021–2023 Budget 2022 detailed the spending of €1.5 billion in additional government funding to “progress critical strategic reform measures at pace across the health system”. These reforms are “underpinned by the principles set out in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and Action Plan 2021–2023”. Along with the €1.5 billion outlined within the Budget that would progress the aims of Sláintecare as illustrated in the implementation strategy and action plan, the record €21 billion investment in health and social services delivered by Budget 2022 also includes €45 million specifically to “advance the Sláintecare objective that care is accessible and affordable for the most vulnerable”. Speaking upon the publication of the Budget, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said that the funding delivered would “address health inequalities and substantially ramp up the resources allocated” in a fashion “embodying the Sláintecare principles of delivering the right care, in the right place at the right time”. Under the “three key dimensions” of Sláintecare (access, quality, and affordability), the Budget delivered various commitments. Under access, €10.5 million will be provided for an additional 19 critical care beds in 2022, bringing the total to 340; €8 million will be provided to increase the capacity of the National Ambulance Service; and €22 million be provided for additional Winter Plan measures in 2022. In terms of quality measures, €36.5 44

million is to be provided for “a range of measures” including progression of the Safe Staffing Framework, which seeks to reduce patient time in emergency care settings and “better outcomes for patients and staff”, and expansion of the advanced nursing and midwifery workforce. Lastly, the €45 million pledged to affordability measures will enable the expansion of access to free GP care to children aged seven, the reduction of the monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme from €114 to €100 and “moving on a phased basis to reduce the financial burden of hospital charges for children under 18”. The Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and Action Plan 2021–2023 outlines the eight fundamental principles of Sláintecare: patient is paramount; timely access; prevention and public health; free at the point of delivery; workforce; public money and interest; engagement; and accountability. To begin on the path to delivering on these principles, the document sets out the two reform programmes to be prioritised from 2021 to 2023: improving safe, timely access to care and promoting health and wellbeing; and addressing health inequalities – towards universal healthcare.

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Reform Programme 1: Improving safe, timely access to care, and promoting health and wellbeing The first of the Sláintecare reform programmes scheduled for the period 2021-2023 is to be focused on integration, safety, prevention, shift of care to the right location, productivity, extra capacity and reduction of waiting lists. Seven projects make up Reform Programme 1: 1. Implement the Health Service Capacity Review including healthy living, enhanced community care and hospital productivity.

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2. Scale and mainstream integration innovation. 3. Streamline care pathways, from prevention to discharge. 4. Develop elective centres in Dublin, Cork, and Galway. 5. Implement a multiannual waiting list reduction plan. 6. Implement the eHealth Programme. 7. Remove private care from public hospitals and implement the Sláintecare Consultant Contract. Four targets set out under this programme are that nobody should wait longer than 12 weeks for an inpatient procedure, 10 weeks for an outpatient appointment, 10 days for a diagnostics test, or four hours in an emergency department. Of particular interest to the public among these goals will be the implementation of a multiannual waiting list reduction plan, with Ireland’s waiting times, already bad and worsening before Covid-19, now exacerbated to record levels by the pressures placed on the health system by the pandemic. Steps taken to establish the plan will include: identifying and reporting on all waiting lists for all locations by discipline including community, social care, hospital, diagnostic, and palliative care; arranging a programmatic and accountable approach to delivering the plan; establishing clinical groups to agree pathways from prevention to discharge; and implementing supporting eHealth projects such as waiting list management system and agreed care pathways.

Reform Programme 2: Addressing health inequalities — towards universal healthcare Reform Programme 2 is focused on moving Ireland towards the goal of universal healthcare. Four projects make up Reform Programme 2: 1. Develop a citizen care masterplan. 2. Rollout Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme. 3. Develop regional health areas. 4. Implement Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016–2025. The concurrent aims of rolling out the Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme and developing regional health areas will be key to the achievement of Sláintecare’s goal of relocating health in Ireland within communities. The Healthy Communities Programme aims “to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of the most disadvantaged communities in Ireland, objectively selected based on the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) areas”. 18 of 51 SICAP areas will receive additional investment in 2021 and “health-specific interventions will be offered by the Department of Health and the HSE, while non-health government departments, their agencies and delivery partners, will offer their wider determinants of health supports”. The six regional health areas were approved by the Government in 2019, with the development of the areas designed to improve clinical governance, corporate governance and accountability, population-based approach to service planning, and integration of community and acute services. A business plan and change management programme will be developed in 2021 to further progress the implementation of the regional health areas. 45

How new Health Impact Assessment Guidance can help to build healthier communities

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Incorporating the latest international and European developments and best practice in the field, the Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, Robin Swann MLA, and the Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being, and National Drugs Strategy in Ireland, Frank Feighan TD, both welcomed the suite of updated guidance documents launched in November 2021. At its core, HIA seeks to inform and enhance the decision-making process in favour of health and health equity while underpinning a whole-of-government ‘Health in All Policies’ approach to improving population health.

Dr Joanna Purdy, Public Health Development Officer, Institute of Public Health

Public Health Development Officer with the Institute of Public Health, Joanna Purdy, shares some insights into new Health Impact Assessment Guidance and how it can help policy- and decision-makers to ‘health proof’ new laws, policies, or programmes. As the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and responds to the many challenges posed by climate change, there is an opportunity to build healthier communities. One tool that can help to do that is Health Impact Assessment (HIA), a process that can ensure that proposals are more inclusive, more equitable, and more sustainable for everyone.


The Institute of Public Health recently published the fourth edition of HIA Guidance for Ireland and Northern Ireland, the first major update of this allisland guidance since 2009. The work of the Institute centres on promoting health and wellbeing, improving health equity, and reducing health inequalities throughout the life

course and this is a central theme of the suite of updated HIA Guidance documents. A HIA can be conducted on a new law, policy, plan, or programme, otherwise known as a strategic level HIA but can also be conducted at project level. This new HIA Guidance can assist policy- and decision-makers to assess the potential impact of a new proposal and how it might affect the health of the community or population before it is implemented. It is designed to help community organisations, local authorities, and other policy- and decision-makers at national, regional, or local level to build healthier communities and reduce health inequalities.

Healthy Ireland, the public health framework in Ireland, acknowledges that health is influenced by factors outside the health sector, such as housing, transport, social protection, employment, and environment. HIA can play a central role in national and local decision-making to help ensure that policies and planning in these sectors have a positive impact on health and mitigate any potential negative health outcomes. Based on the guiding principles of equity and equality, participation, sustainability, a comprehensive approach to health and ethical use of evidence, HIA also provides a unique opportunity to give communities a voice and say on proposed laws, plans, policies, or programmes that may affect their health. Whilst the guidance has been developed specifically within the policy and legislative contexts of Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is also transferable to the UK and Europe. HIA is not conducted in isolation and the new guidance sets out how HIA interfaces with both statutory and non-statutory impact assessments. When a new piece of legislation, policy, or programme is being developed, it is often subject to a number of statutory impact assessments, such as human rights and equality impact assessment. HIA practitioners and those working in a

CASE STUDY: Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax The Institute of Public Health carried out a HIA on a proposed tax to support a reduction in the consumption of high sugar drinks as part of Ireland’s obesity policy and action plan. This is an example of a policy level HIA. The tax, introduced in 2018, prompted drinks companies to reduce the sugar content of products to offer consumers healthier choices. 46

What is Health Impact Assessment? Health Impact Assessment (HIA) can be used to help understand how a new law, policy, programme, or project might affect the health of the population or local communities before being implemented.

HIA ensures that new proposals are more inclusive, more equitable, and more sustainable for everyone. For example, it can assess how people with less money, children, older people, or people with a disability might be affected by a new law or policy.

HIA can be carried out by a wide range of policy- and decision-makers in sectors such as health, transport, environment, housing, planning, education, and employment. Examples of organisations that can use HIA include central government departments and their statutory agencies, local councils, health and social care services, community and voluntary sector organisations, planning authorities and private developers.

This graphic outlines the seven stages involved in the HIA process.

range of sectors can conduct a standalone HIA or include health within environmental assessment, such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which follow the same principles, process and approach. There can be statutory, policy, and voluntary drivers for HIA, which will determine how the health impacts of a proposal are reported, either in a standalone HIA or as health within environmental assessment. There is no legal requirement to conduct a HIA in Ireland or Northern Ireland, but this tool has the capacity to ‘health proof’ new laws, policies, programmes, or projects and support better integration of health and health equity in decision-making. The HIA process underpins the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to reduce health inequalities and improve health equity. At a time when climate, health, and sustainability are in the spotlight, there is now a unique opportunity within our grasp to use the HIA process and this new Guidance to build healthier and more sustainable communities.

A suite of updated HIA Guidance documents has been developed for different audiences, including the general public, commissioners, policymakers and impact assessment practitioners. The Technical Guidance document provides practical tools for each stage of the HIA process. The HIA Guidance has been endorsed by the European Public Health Association and the International Association for Impact Assessment. For more information about this new HIA Guidance please visit www.publichealth.ie/hia. To discuss HIA or the Guidance documents, you can contact the Institute of Public Health by emailing hia@publichealth.ie.

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What are the benefits? •

HIA aims to ensure potential positive health impacts and prevent potential negative health impacts of a proposal;

HIA can support people from different backgrounds to work together to ensure that decision-making for health is fairer and more inclusive;

HIA can be used at strategic or policy level as well a national, regional and local level to ‘health proof’ new and future programmes or projects;

HIA provides evidence-based conclusions and recommendations; and

HIA can complement or inform other impact assessments such as poverty, human rights, or equality impact assessments.


HIA underpins a whole-of-government ‘Health in All Policies’ approach to improving population health. 47

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Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Health measures in Budget 2022 Budget 2022 identifies “immediate actions to address waiting lists” as the most urgent health priority for next year, before implementing a long-term multiannual plan for waiting lists in both hospitals and community health services. While Budget 2022 provided more than €1.1 billion for the expansion and modernisation of the health service, delivery was impeded by the Covid-19 surge last winter and the subsequent HSE cyberattack in May 2021. Consequently, not all the measures planned for 2021 will be delivered by the end of the year. Regardless, the additional funding provided during 2021 has been again made available for 2022. Indeed, an additional allocation of €1 billion, including over €300 million for new measures, has been added for 2022, increasing overall core funding allocation for current expenditure to over €20.4 billion. Referencing the pandemic as “the greatest challenge that has ever faced our health system”, Minister Donnelly asserts that Budget 2022 is a demonstration of the Government’s


commitment to deliver universal healthcare. Identifying his most urgent priority in 2022 as “taking immediate action to address waiting lists which are unacceptably high at present”. As such, the Department of Health, the HSE, and the National Treatment Purchase Fund are collaborating on a multiannual waiting list plan which will seek to resolve the backlog associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and align waiting lists with Sláintecare objectives. Another priority he emphasises is investment in women’s health, which will be boosted by an additional €31 million in 2022. This will fund the phased introduction of free contraception, beginning with women aged from 17 to 25, as well as measures to address period poverty and expand clinics for endometriosis and menopause.

Credit: Merrion Street

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare


BUDGET 2022:

Advancing Sláintecare AC C E S S A N D C A PAC I T Y

➤ €8 million to modernise and build capacity of the National Ambulance Service.

With a total allocation of €1.15 billion in Budget 2022, mental health will receive an additional €47 million (€24 million for new developments, €13 million for existing services and €10 million for once-off Covid funding) next year.

➤ €22 million for additional Winter Plan measures.

Mental health and older people

QUALITY ➤ €36.5 million for clinical governance system measures. ➤ Implementation of phases two and three of the Safe Staffing Framework. ➤ Funding to expand the advanced nursing and midwifery workforce to a target of 2.3 per cent of the total nursing and midwifery workforce in 2022. ➤ Implementation of the Nursing Home Expert Panel recommendations. A F F O R DA B I L I T Y ➤ €45 million provided into 2022 to advance the Sláintecare objective of health services moving to free at the point of delivery provision, based entirely on clinical need. ➤ Expansion of access to free GP care to children aged six and seven years. ➤ Expansion of dental access to medical card patients.

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➤ €10.5 million for 19 additional critical care beds in 2022.

Meanwhile, Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD outlines that Budget 2022 allocated a further €65 million to the €2.2 billion disability budget, inclusive of €10 million for one-off Covid measures. This, the Minister of State noted, would enhance the delivery of supports and services for disabled people, including the recruitment of therapists and administrative staff in support of the 91 Children’s Disability Network Teams, alongside increases in digital health technologies, respite houses, personal assistant hours, and residential places for disabled people.

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD remarks: “This investment will ensure significant developments in mental health services next year… New mental health services for older people will also be developed, in line with the model of care for specialist mental health services for older people and will be piloted next year.” Detailing the Budget’s €2.33 billion allocation to older people services, which includes €30 million for new developments, Butler explains that this will specifically facilitate: •

funding totalling €150 million for five million additional hours of home support in 2022;

an increase in the new home support hours that are ringfenced for people with dementia from 5 per cent into 2021 to 11 per cent in 2022;

further improvement in dementia services, as well as the implementation of the dementia registry and dementia audit within acute hospitals and the national intellectual disability memory service; and

the implementation of the Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report recommendations.

“This budget falls far short of what is needed to tackle waiting lists, invest in public hospitals, and bolster community healthcare.”

➤ Reducing the monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme from €114 to €100.

Sinn Féin spokesperson David Cullinane TD

➤ Moving on a phased basis to reducing hospital charges for those aged under 18 years.

Public health, wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy Announcing a €16 million investment in new measures to in support of Healthy Ireland and the National Drugs Strategy and €13 million of Covid funding, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan TD outlines specific initiatives for 2022 which include “a healthy weight campaign, an innovative coordinated approach to encourage physical activity through Sport Ireland and the HSE, and funding for the expansion of the HSE’s pilot online STI 4 testing programme”. 49

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Reaction Welcoming the health allocation in Budget 2022, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) praises proposed spending on women’s health, “including the long-underfunded National Maternity Strategy”, as well as Sexual Assault Treatment Units, and mental health, disability, and hospice services.

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However, the INMO indicates that it would seek greater clarity on several areas including the number of nurses and midwives to be recruited by the end of 2022, the Safe Staffing Framework in Nursing, and the number of additional CAO places that will be allocated to nursing and midwifery. Meanwhile, having acknowledged the additional funding for health in Budget 2022, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) asserts that it will not be

Resource allocation for the health vote group in 2022

Gross Voted Current Expenditure (€m)

Gross Voted Capital Expenditure (€m)

Total Gross Voted Expenditure (€m)

















sufficient given that around one million patients were on a waiting list at the end of 2021, one-in-five consultant posts are vacant, and there are only three hospital beds per 1,000 of the population. Equally critical, Sinn Féin spokesperson on health, David Cullinane TD remarks: “It is clear that the Government does not realise the scale of the challenge in health, and this budget falls far short of what is needed to tackle waiting lists, invest in public hospitals, and bolster community healthcare.” Likewise, Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith TD suggests: “Budget 2022 will be a disappointment for many people in Ireland, particularly those with additional care needs. It’s clear that this government will do nothing to tackle the huge systems failures within the health service… There is no vision for community based primary care and moving treatment outside the acute hospital setting.”


Keeping track of the Covid-19 vaccine TrackVax is now running in nearly all 43 Centralised Vaccination Clinics. A barcode scan of each vaccine records the critical data, including its batch and the exact time a vial is to be discarded. Prior to the introduction of TrackVax, the discard time was handwritten on the vials, a time-consuming process that also posed a medication safety risk.

GS1 standards are helping to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines get efficiently and safely to patients at Central Vaccination Clinics, writes Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland. Almost immediately after the world learned that Covid-19 vaccines existed, a question arose: what is the best way to ensure their efficient and safe distribution? This is the sort of challenge where GS1 standards can, and do, play a critical role. GS1 barcodes can be used globally to identify Covid-19 vaccines uniquely and securely as they move from manufacturing sites through complex distribution networks to points of administration. During the last year, the team at GS1 Ireland worked closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to help ensure the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

barcode on each of the vaccine boxes,

It was important for the National Immunisation Office (NIO) that no dose was wasted and that batches of vaccine could be tracked to the point of vaccination. Following an intensive design phase with the HSE project team, two software applications were developed: ScanVax and TrackVax. ScanVax was installed on over 1,000 PCs across the country to allow for the receipt of vaccines. By scanning the

High Level Taskforce has been really

vaccine information is then uploaded to the national vaccine administration

system. This means that vaccinators can select the correct batch when

administering the vaccine. TrackVax has

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“Traceability is a key part of managing the vaccine process. The use of barcodes has been very beneficial, and it is evident that while it has saved time and resources, more importantly it is giving time back to clinicians while providing accurate information for decisions. Patient safety is key and TrackVax has been a real enabler in this case,” says John Swords, National Director of Procurement, HSE. The excellent data quality from TrackVax provides the NIO with oversight of vaccine usage, logs accurate stock level data, and keeps waste to a minimum. Looking forward TrackVax has been operational since 3 March 2021. The software has enabled the tracking and management of nearly four million vaccine doses, as of December 2021, or nearly 50 per cent of Ireland’s vaccination programme. TrackVax has been widely accepted across CVCs and has delivered value to the HSE through medicine safety, vaccine tracking, operational efficiency, and programme integrity. The next step is to provide ongoing traceability support for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland and, in time, for other vaccines.

been installed in all CVCs across the

country. This allows the CVC teams to identify, label, track, and report on the vaccines in their centres, allowing a much easier vaccine reconciliation

process locally and nationally. Both

solutions are provided by GS1 Ireland. Senior Management Teams and the

positive in terms of enabling visibility


“The feedback on TrackVax from the

GS1 licences the most widely used system of supply chain standards, serving more than two million public and private sector organisations worldwide. T: 01 208 0660 E: healthcare@gs1ie.org W: www.gs1ie.org/healthcare Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland

of vaccine usage and it has been

recognised that TrackVax has made a significant contribution to the

efficient rollout of the Covid-19

vaccinations across Ireland,” says Lucy Jessop, Director of Public

Health, HSE National Immunisation Office.


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Time for a medical workforce strategy

A comprehensive and coordinated approach to the medical workforce is needed to secure the future of our health service writes Leo Kearns, Medical Council CEO.


For the past two years, healthcare providers and institutions in Ireland have had a tumultuous time, navigating the uncharted waters of the Covid-19 pandemic. While there have been many steep learning curves, the dedication of tens of thousands of healthcare staff to meet the challenge of delivering care to their patients and the wider community in such difficult circumstances has been truly outstanding. This experience has once again reminded us that our health service is fundamentally dependent on the people who work in it. Quite simply, without high-quality healthcare staff, at all levels and in all disciplines, it is not possible to have a high-quality healthcare service. While the pandemic may have 52

refocused attention on the challenges faced by healthcare staff, the reality is that issues relating to workforce and staffing long predate the arrival of Covid-19. The primary role of the Medical Council, as the regulatory body for the medical profession, is to protect the public. While there is perhaps a general perception that this only refers to the Council’s responsibility to investigate complaints against doctors, the Council’s actual role is much broader and relates also to registration, education and training, maintenance of professional competence and ethical and professional guidance; all of which play a very significant role in protecting the public.

In the context of this broader role, the Medical Workforce Intelligence Report, published by the Medical Council, provides essential information regarding the make-up of the Irish medical workforce. The 2019/2020 Report highlighted issues that affect Ireland’s doctors including excessive working hours, resourcing issues, workplace bullying, consultant vacancies, doctor training numbers and the need for a greater focus on doctor wellbeing. 24,720 doctors retained their place on the Medical Council’s register as of June 2020, while 1,135 doctors withdrew voluntarily from the register in 2019, of whom 382 doctors were graduates of Irish medical schools. The main reasons cited for voluntary

withdrawal were resourcing, excessive working hours, lack of respect, personal and family reasons, retirement, costs of professional indemnity and registration, inflexibility of the registration model and in 2020, reasons associated with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Medical Council’s annual Your Training Counts survey provides insights into the experiences of trainee doctors and interns in the Irish healthcare system and examines working conditions, experiences of bullying, retention and career plans, and the health and wellbeing of doctors on training schemes. Overall, the results of the latest Your Training Counts survey have been broadly positive, and in some areas, we have seen improvements on recent years. The latest survey was carried out in 2019 and 2020, so although it captures the timeframe of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, interns and trainees largely reported feeling safe in their workplace, having good general and mental health, and their selfreported quality of life is similarly positive and improving year on year.

Long working hours are associated with burnout and stress and increase the likelihood of involvement in adverse

“The latest survey was carried out in 2019 and 2020, so although it captures the timeframe of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, interns and trainees largely reported feeling safe in their workplace, having good general and mental health, and their self-reported quality of life is similarly positive and improving year on year.” events, thereby negatively impacting patient safety. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is followed in all clinical settings. Furthermore, compliance with EWTD is necessary in addressing retention and attrition rates and ensuring the wellbeing of doctors and high-quality, sustainable patientcentred care. These are challenges that must be addressed as they impact directly on patient and professional safety. Patterns highlighted in previous reports are repeated in 2019 and 2020 and will continue to do so in the future unless there is a commitment to collective, coordinated and planned action across stakeholders. There is no simple or single solution to the problems faced by the medical workforce. We must address the systemic issues impacting our doctors, so we can truly protect patients, and support our medical workforce. What is clear is that we need a comprehensive medical workforce strategy for our country, one which addresses critical immediate issues and also plans for the next 10 to 20 years. This needs to be part of a broader healthcare staffing strategy to meet the needs of an integrated, multi-disciplinary model of care for patients. It is only by working collectively with all stakeholders

that we as a country can make real positive changes in healthcare delivery in Ireland and ensure continued highquality care for our patients. Leo Kearns is Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Council, appointed in May 2021. Previously, Kearns was Chief Operating Officer of VHI Health and Wellbeing DAC from 2019 to 2021. He was Chief Executive of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) from 2006 to 2018 and National Lead for Transformation and Change for the Health Service Executive (HSE) from 2013 to 2015. Kearns was heavily involved in the development of the National Clinical Programmes and played a key role in the development of Clinical Directors within the Irish health sector. He played a major part in the introduction of Professional Competence Schemes for doctors and was instrumental in founding the Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies. Kearns holds a master’s degree in organisational behaviour from Trinity College, Dublin.


However, significant issues do remain, including bullying and harassment, and working excessive hours. While the percentage of trainees who reported experiencing bullying has decreased since the previous survey, it remains far too high. An environment where bullying or intimidation is tolerated creates conditions where an adverse event is more likely, with the consequent implications for patient safety.

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There has long been a positive history of Irish doctors moving to work abroad for a period and returning to work in the Irish healthcare system, which then benefits from that enhanced experience. However, it is concerning that despite having a relatively high number of medical school graduates by international standards, the Irish healthcare system is still significantly dependant on recruiting doctors from around the world to fill staffing gaps and who in the main are not in a training programme. Recent changes to legislation to remove the barrier to access training for non-EEA qualified doctors are very welcome, but more needs to be done in this regard.

E: info@mcirl.ie W: www.medicalcouncil.ie


Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

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€77 million Winter Plan unveiled The Health Service Executive’s Winter Preparedness Plan was belatedly published in early November 2021, pledging over €77 million to deliver on Winter Plan funded initiatives, as well as the implementation of 2021 Service Plan aims such as the delivery of 205 acute beds over the winter.


Of the €77 million dedicated to Winter Plan specific measures, the two initiatives receiving the most funding will be the increasing of acute services purchased from private capacity (€20.16 million) and the funding of transitional care for older persons (€20 million). Most notable among the supports to be implemented during the winter of 2021/2022 from the 2021 Service Plan are the addition of 205 acute beds, 1,100 private bed days per week, 275 community beds and 100 additional private community beds.

Aside from the additional beds to implemented as part of the 2021 Service Plan, the winter of 2021/22 will also see the expansion of the ECC Programme, circa 4,000 GP diagnostics per week and the addition of 2.7 million home support hours available “in the context of pressures caused by unfunded price increases” as part of the Service Plan. The five priorities for the winter, as outlined in the plan, are: building capacity; pathways of care; testing and contact tracing; population health; and vaccinations.

The full year 2022 cost of the Winter Plan will be €77,051,157 overall, with the costs broken down into four basic categories. In line with government priorities under continuing efforts to progress Sláintecare reforms, community services are the most wellfunded of these categories, receiving €41,654,978, 54.1 per cent of the total. Acute services will receive €29,345,777 (38.1 per cent); the National Ambulance Service will receive €5,700,402 (7.4 per cent); and €350,000 (0.45 per cent) will be pledged towards communications.

New initiatives to be rolled out to ensure the meeting of these priorities include the implementation of new community based models of care; the introduction of new roles such as ED phlebotomists; the expansions of the Pathfinder Frailty model; additional emergency Placement, Respite and Complex Packages of Care; and the identification and targeting of those who have not yet been vaccinated with a communications campaign addressing hesitancy.

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Between 119 and 313 general acute care beds will be needed in the conservative scenario, with between 513 and 615 needed in the pessimistic scenario. Before the announcement of Budget 2022 and the recent uptick of Covid-19 cases, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) had stated that the number of critical care beds in hospitals would need to be doubled. “The fragility of our health services was exposed during the pandemic and had it not been for exceptional efforts of doctors, and other professionals across the country and huge temporary financial support, the services may have collapsed entirely,” IMO President Ina Kelly said in September 2021. “As it is, the services have been severely weakened and patients are being forced on to ever-lengthening waiting lists which should shame a leading EU state.” Upon publication of the plan, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said: “I

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particularly welcome the enhanced focus on service restoration in disability services, mental health, services for older people and social inclusion care groups. I fully support the HSE’s commitment to improve Patient Experience Times, particularly in terms of keeping everyone safe while we respond to Covid-19.” However, the IMO has labelled the plan “inadequate”, pointing to the pressure that the healthcare system was under at the time of its launch in terms of both bed capacity and staffing. Kelly said: “This plan was launched at a time when we have only 21 ICU beds available in the country. Every doctor and healthcare worker is working beyond capacity right now and it is untenable that they are being asked to face into a winter with insufficient support.

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With the number of beds in both critical care and general acute care a major talking point and point of criticism of the Government’s recent Budget 2022 due to its addition of just 19 additional ICU beds, the plan includes Covid-19 demand and capacity modelling. Broken down into conservative and pessimistic scenarios, the modelling predicts the need for between 43 and 89 or between 152 and 164 critical care beds in conservative and pessimistic scenarios respectively. The 19 additional beds will bring the total to 340; in January 2021, when there was a capacity of 348 due to the leasing of private beds, occupancy peaked at 330.

“We have 700 vacant consultant posts meaning huge extra pressure on those consultants we do have. We have NCHDs working excessive and illegal hours putting them under enormous strain, and we have GP services facing unprecedented demand from patients. The capacity is simply not there to meet demand and it is not all Covid-related.” An additional 16,000 hours whole-time equivalent was approved in the 2021 Service Plan “for a comprehensive range of new initiatives”, but just 10,716 were taken on, with an additional 3,200 staff recruited for vaccination and contact tracing. Further criticism has surrounded an apparent lack of clarity as to how the staffing increases still needed given the failure to meet this target will be met, with no details offered in the Winter Plan.


• 1,152 acute beds (795 open) • 73 sub-acute beds (all open) • Circa 1,100 private bed days per week • 551 community beds planned (276 open) • Access to 572 private community beds (472 currently contracted)

• 205 acute beds • 1,100 private bed days per week • 275 community beds • 100 additional private community beds • ECC programme expansion

• 96 EEC networks planned (15 networks in place YTD)

• Circa 4,000 GP diagnostics per week

• 85,315 diagnostics accessed by GPs

• 2.7 million additional home support hours available in the context of pressures caused by unfunded price increases

• 5 million additional home support hours (2 .3 milion used YTD) • Full population coverage for CIT services


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The future of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service hospitals to start cancelling elective surgery that may require blood support. “Despite the Covid-19 crisis I was keen that we finalise our strategic plan and Connections That Count was approved by the Department of Health in May 2021,” says O’Brien. “This Strategy is an exciting development with a vision for the IBTS in five years time that will transform the organisation. Work commenced on implementing strategic initiatives in early 2021 and we will continue to deliver on our strategic objectives over the coming years.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s (IBTS) Chief Executive, Orla O’Brien talks to eolas about the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, the organisation’s strategy, Connections That Count, published in 2021, and Research and Development Lead Allison Waters outlines the key elements of the first ever R&D strategy Advertorial

devised by the IBTS. As the pandemic rolls on, the IBTS has continued to provide blood and blood products to the Irish healthcare system. This has been incredibly challenging, and we have been in real difficulty meeting hospital demand on occasion. We imported RhD blood from the NHSBT in June as ongoing restrictions and social distancing requirements on donation clinics made it increasingly harder to meet our collection targets. 56

Many venues previously used to run clinics were too small to allow for adequate social distancing and some venues were no longer available to us because the hospitality industry was effectively dormant. This meant we were relying on the same cohort of donors to keep the blood supply going. In October, we initiated a targeted appeal to replenish the blood supply as we were in very real danger of having to advise

“It has a strong emphasis on initiatives that will strengthen innovation and people development. One of the services the IBTS is focusing on is the re-establishment of the Irish Eye Bank, the project plan for this complex project was developed in consultation with healthcare partners and approved in Q3 2021. Delivering a project of this scale will take some time, however it is expected within the lifetime of this strategy, the IBTS will be in a position to launch the national eye bank for Ireland, facilitating a safe and sustainable supply of corneas procured in Ireland for use in cornea transplants.” The National Donor Screening Laboratory in the IBTS undertook a benchmarking exercise with My Green Lab, an organisation that aims to introduce sustainability to the communities responsible for the world's life-changing medical and technical innovations. The IBTS is committed to introducing sustainable best practice throughout the organisation and utilised the services of My Green Lab to commence work on this. On the basis of the benchmarking exercise, the NDSL introduced a pilot project to improve some of the practices in this area with the aim of rolling it out to other departments in 2022. In developing Connections That Count, the majority of feedback from our donors

The IBTS is undergoing somewhat of a transformation, there is an emphasis on innovation, agility and improving the experience of our people and our customers. In 2021, an innovation working group was established in the IBTS and in 2022 it will be progressing an action plan with a series of initiatives aimed at embedding innovation in the organisation. The action plan is very much aligned to the Public Service Innovation Strategy, and we look forward to implementing innovation initiatives and building capacity for innovation, research, and development in the IBTS. There is also a renewed focus on R&D so that the IBTS “can do its own research and development providing an Irish context on transfusion medicine,” according to Allison Waters.

The research and development strategy is underpinned by three core objectives:

1. To gain a deeper understanding into the dynamics of the donation process. Insights into the factors motivating and preventing people donating blood will drive improvements to blood collection policies, testing algorithms and clinical guidelines. 2. To future-proof the service in relation to changing technologies, blood demands and blood component usage, thereby optimally serving all transfusion and transplant recipients. Specifically, the development of novel cellular solutions to disease management requires translation from the research benches to large-scale production using good manufacturing processes. 3. To position the organisation as a key research leader in the field of transfusion medicine through participation in national and international networks, and through collaboration with clinical colleagues, international blood services and commercial partners for research endeavours and clinical trials. The effective implementation of research best-practice, a clear research governance structure and a supportive research culture has begun the creation of a positive and innovative environment for all personnel engaging in research. Over the course of 2021, the IBTS have contributed to 10 peer-reviewed publications and presented their research findings at numerous international and national conferences. The newly formed R&D department also further developed its research profile through collaboration on six different

international studies alongside international blood establishment partners. In 2021, research investment was directed to supporting public health monitoring by investigating the progression of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in healthy donors. The SARSCoV-2 antibody profile was investigated through each infectious wave and following the rollout of the vaccination programme. Furthermore, European funding supported the production high titre Covid convalescent plasma, which successfully enabled the production of plasma from Irish donors for the firsttime in over two decades. Other research focused on profiling the red cell antigens in the Irish donor population providing baseline Irish blood group data. Investigations on blood components gained insights into the mechanisms impacting the function and activation of cold-stored platelets, as well as red blood cell oxygen saturation. The focus for the immediate future is on effective research communication and building on the innovative research culture foundations laid throughout the past year. The team aims to design and launch a research, learning, and development website, targeted at clinical, scientific, and academic professionals. In addition, the IBTS will lead on a future-focused blood donation and haematology research symposium. Lastly, they will continue to build on their research publication strengths in epidemiology and component production.


“In April 2021, the IBTS published its first-ever dedicated research and development strategy outlining the role of research in maximising the ability of blood and tissue donation to improve the health of patients,” she explains. “The organisation is committed to providing the evidence-base from which to build future improvements to its blood and tissue services. Research engagement will be supported at all levels throughout the organisation, thereby capitalising on previously untapped expertise of personnel, and clinical and academic colleagues, and ultimately positioning the IBTS as a key research leader in the field of blood donation and transfusion.”

“Research engagement will be supported at all levels throughout the organisation, thereby capitalising on previously untapped expertise of personnel, and clinical and academic colleagues, and ultimately positioning the IBTS as a key research leader in the field of blood donation and transfusion.”

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was that they would like to have an online appointment system. Our donors donate not just their blood but also their time and so it's important to us to make the donor experience as efficient as possible. We are tying this in with our sustainable objectives as we work towards a digitalised environment. We are aiming to remove the need for paper forms on our clinics by Q2 2022, donors will be able to use a tablet to complete the health and lifestyle questionnaire before progressing with their appointment. In addition, we aim to have an online appointment system available before the end of 2022, this will mean donors will be able to make appointments themselves either on their laptop or phone without the need to speak to one of our customer service agents. Of course, that option will still be available for those donors who prefer to use the telephone.

W: www.giveblood.ie


Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Next decade care costs will require billions health report

The Government will need to substantially increase its expenditure on primary, community, and longterm care by 2035 to meet rising costs and population growth and ageing, an ESRI report has found.

Projected nominal expenditure growth by health and social care service, 2019–2035 General practice

2019 2035

Public health nursing* Occupational therapy* Physiotherapy* Speech and language therapy* GMS/DP/LTI HT LTRC Home support ­




2,000 2,500 Expenditure (€m)





Projected nominal expenditure growth under the central scenario. *Provided through HSE Primary Care services. Source: ESRI

The need for increased expenditure will be largely driven by the cost of delivering care, specifically pay-related costs, the report, which projects expenditure in health and social care from 2019 levels out to 2035, found. Designed to help inform policymakers on which parts of the health and social care system should be prioritised for investment and where policies should be focused to contain cost pressures, the report suggests that up to €12 billion could be needed to fund primary, community, and long-term health services over the next 14 years.


A range of factors and pressures including population changes, healthy ageing, government policy measures and pays costs will affect the scale of the increase needed, with overall projections ranging between a low of €4.4 billon to a potential high of €12 billion. Analysing four services, it estimated the largest cost increases will be: public and private GP services and public health nursing and community care; high tech-medicines dispensed in the community; long-term residential care; and home support services. The report’s authors find that “continuing current trends will lead to expenditure

growth on high-tech medicines and long-term residential care that far exceeds that of general practice and home support in the medium term”. The increased cost of providing care is identified as the largest driver of projected expenditure growth of between €1.6 billion and €2 billion in public and private general practice by 2035. The report implies a 2.9 per cent to 4.5 per cent average expenditure increase. A 6.1 per cent to 10.5 per cent average annual increase in high-tech medicines reflects a continuation of high recent growth in demand and comes at an estimated expenditure increase of between €2.3 billion and €4.4 billion in 2035. Population ageing is the key driver of projected expenditure increase in public and private long-term residential care of between €3.8 billion and €5.7 billion in 2035. The costs imply a 4.3 to 6.9 per cent average annual expenditure increase. Finally, the ESRI follows the Sláintecare recommendation that a statutory home support scheme be established and predicts a 4.4 per cent to 10.4 per cent average annual increase requirement to meet a projected public and private home support requirement of between €1.2 billion and €3 billion in 2035. “Changes in the cost of delivering care, particularly pay-related costs, is the main driver of expenditure growth. In addition, population ageing, and additional modelled demand for hightech medicines and the assumed introduction of the statutory home support scheme, are key drivers of expenditure growth. Identifying approaches to address the projected increases in the unit cost of care delivery should be an important consideration of policymakers,” the report states.

A modern and dynamic nursing and midwifery regulator

Development of our new strategy will begin in 2022 and we are more aware now than ever of the need to provide leadership to registered nurses and registered midwives.

Modernisation at NMBI

Essene Cassidy, President of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) talks about the role of the regulator, modernisation and adapting during the global pandemic.

As we enter the final year of our Statement of Strategy 2020-2022, we will continue to ensure we can adapt to the evolving global healthcare environment and regulate effectively, while upholding the highest standards.

As well as streamlining the process for registrants the new online portal MyNMBI also allows for the collection of data which assists us in our work to maintain standards and associated public safety and contribute to workforce planning. This is more relevant than ever with the rollout of Sláintecare in the years ahead. Since the start of the pandemic NMBI has moved speedily and dynamically to embrace new technology. As a board we showed agility, as our meetings continued without disruption. Our complaint management process also moved online or to hybrid format to ensure hearings could continue. Witnesses can give testimony from anywhere in the world now without having to get on a plane or into a car.

Pride in my colleagues On behalf of the board, I would like to acknowledge the challenges faced by nurses and midwives since the Covid19 pandemic began and express our appreciation for the valuable contribution they have made in treating patients and maintaining ongoing healthcare services. Nursing and midwifery professionals in all their roles have always been able to adapt to change. For generations, new ideas have been embraced and welcomed, all with the sole aim of improving outcomes for our patients. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, once again we saw our nurses and midwives adapting to change in all care settings. It has been a difficult time for many, but the dedication and compassion of our professions shone through and continues to do so. It fills me with enormous pride to witness this incredible commitment to care.

T: 01 639 8500 W: www.nmbi.ie


As the regulator for more than 80,000 nurses and midwives in Ireland, NMBI’s mission is to protect the public and the integrity of the professions through the promotion of high standards of education, training, and professional conduct. We maintain a Register of Nurses and Midwives and a Candidate Register for students.

NMBI is dedicated to the implementation of our digitisation agenda. Every nurse and midwife practising in Ireland must be registered with NMBI and the annual process of renewing registration is taking place online for the second year running.

nurses and midwives. A key example I recall is the removal of the requirements for collaborative practice agreements (CPAs) for nurse prescribers. This change has allowed our nurse prescribers to become autonomous practitioners. We also worked with the Department of Health on the advanced practice policy and revised the Advanced Nurse Practitioner pathways.

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Our focus remains on professional development and competence, engaging more with registrants and stakeholders, and the continued digitisation of the organisation. We also remain committed to building trust and to ensuring our role as a regulator is understood.

Embracing change for all stakeholders Engagement with stakeholders, and in particular our professions, has never been better. NMBI does a huge amount of work in collaboration with key stakeholders around setting standards, supporting practice initiatives, and promoting quality care provision by


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Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Capital spending in health Capital spending on health accounted for 10.4 per cent, or €1.084 billion, of the €75 billion allocated under the National Development Plan in 2021. Capital spending on health will amount to €5.7 billion in the first five years of the renewed NDP. Of the 10 national strategic outcomes included in the renewed NDP, released in October 2021, number 10 pledges the Government’s commitment to “access to quality childcare, education and health services”. Under this heading, the expansion of primary and community care in line with Sláintecare reform goals is the key health goal mentioned, a goal that will require sustained capital spending on health around the State in order to localise health infrastructure. In its sectoral strategy section for health, the NDP states that the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy “identifies capital investment as a critical enabler of the reform proposed” and that “capital investment has a key role to play in enhancing service provision, ensuring the delivery of high quality and safe health and social care” such as the delivery of the


recommendations of the Health Capacity Review, the eHealth Strategy for Ireland, the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026 and a host of other government plans. Over the full course of the NDP, 20212030, the plan says health capital investment will be “based on needs to enhance service provision, enable reform in the sector and the ongoing need to address patient safety and regulatory requirements”; from 20212025, the investment will be focused on “patient safety, regulatory requirements” and will “provide the foundations for reform in the sector”. Projects outlined as priorities in health spending from 2021 to 2025 include: eHealth and ICT investment programmes (estimated between €50 million and €100 million); the new Children’s Hospital campus at St

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Strategic investment priorities in health, 2021-2025 Status

Estimated cost

Cybersecurity enhancement

Not given

€250 million-€500 million

CHI, EHR and ICT improvements

In progress

€50 million-€100 million

Integrated Financial Management System

In progress

€50 million-€100 million

Children's Hospital and Tallaght Hospital

Construction stage with commissioning completion in 2024

Over €1 billion

Oncology units in Galway

Construction completion in 2024

€50 million-€100 million

Dublin Beaumont Phase Two

Construction completion in 2025

€50 million-€100 million

St James's

Preliminary design

€50 million-€100 million

Acute bed capacity projects

In progress

€500 million-€1 billion

Primary care centre construction

In progress

€100 million-€500 million

Enhanced Community Care Programme

In progress

€100 million-€500 million

Replacement and refurbishment of Community Nursing Units

In progress

€500 million-€1 billion

Equipment Replacement Programme

In progress

€100 million-€500 million

Infrastructural Risk Programme

In progress

€100 million-€500 million

Ambulance Replacement Programme

In progress

€50 million-€100 million

Ambulance Base investment

In progress

€50 million-€100 million

Mental Health Capital Programme

In progress

€100 million-€500 million

James’s and the second outpatient department and urgent care centre at Tallaght Hospital (over €1 billion); radiation oncology units in Galway, phase two of Dublin Beaumont construction and St James’s redevelopment (all €50 million-€100 million); acute bed capacity projects (estimated €500 million-€1 billion); and the construction of primary care centres (estimated €100 million-€500 million). Health service capacity will, given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, be the most high profile of the reforms funded through the NDP, but it is an area of the plan where details are light. The plan states that the building of dedicated elective centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway is currently being progressed for consideration through the Public Spending Code and that “these facilities will provide high volume, low complexity procedures on a day and outpatient basis, together with a range of ambulatory diagnostic services”. The plan also states that additional capacity has been delivered since the publication of the Health Service Capacity Review in 2018, but that “further beds in line with overall requirements and informed by regional requirements will be required to be

provided in the period to 2030”. In 2018, before the pressures of the pandemic, the Health Service Capacity Review stated that an additional 2,590 hospital beds would be required between 2018 and 2031; the plans within the NDP do not seem to address this need.

The National Maternity Hospital project, which will add capacity to the health system, is estimated under the plan as costing €20 million-€50 million, which indicates that its construction will likely not commence until after 2030, with the majority of the capital spending related to the project happening then.

Indeed, amongst the most costly and common of the health priorities for the period 2021-2025, many appear to be refurbishment and replacement schemes that while providing necessary updates to Irish health and its technologies, will not increase capacity. It has been well documented that the National Children’s Hospital will not add significant capacity to the health system, but other projects such as the replacement and refurbishment of 88 community nursing units to regulatory compliance are estimated to cost €500 million-€1 billion. Continued maintenance of the current ambulance fleet is set to cost €50 million-€100 million with no added capacity. Both the Equipment Replacement Programme, which will update diagnostic equipment, and the Infrastructural Risk Programme, which focuses on fire and electrical safety as well as emergency supply, carry estimated costs of €100 million to €250 million.

While the capital spending on modernisation efforts within the health system are no doubt worthwhile and necessary, aside from the Children’s Hospital, the plan shows a bias towards replacement buildings, equipment, ambulances and investments in eHealth, which raises the question of the amount being spent. The €5.7 billion of capital spending allocated to health from 2021-2025 account for approximately 5 per cent of the total health spend in that period. When the capacity issues facing the health system are taken into account, the lack of projects similar to the Children’s Hospital in scale, but with the key provision of enhancing capacity, seems a glaring omission.

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A modern hospital with medieval foundations the destitute in Limerick by creating the first ‘fever hospital’ in Ireland (or Great Britain for that matter), fitting out the old ‘guard house’ with beds and whatever essentials she could get to help the helpless. As epidemics evolved, so too did the hospital; the take-over of it by the Little Company of Mary sisters in 1888 enhancing care and operational standards. The raison d’être of the order, physically caring for the poor, sick, suffering and dying people in our midst, was an imperative for the time.

There’s a remarkable yet reassuring dichotomy story writ large in the annals of St John’s Hospital in the heart of Limerick city today. It is of an old hospital, Limerick’s oldest, that dates to darker days of even more deathly epidemics, Advertorial

such as cholera, typhus, and typhoid. A creaking and capacity strained 99 bed hospital of narrow corridors and constricted rooms, its 20th century constructs mixing with old limestone remnants of the original 15th century Walls of Limerick. Yet, for all its reminders and challenges of past, it’s a hospital very much of the present and with a definite focus on the future, and it’s a hospital that still puts the patient at the centre of everything. It may be wrapped by medieval city 62

walls, but the remarkable thing is that, in contrast with those ancient surrounds, it’s a hospital of innovation. A hospital breaking new boundaries, meeting new needs with new approaches and practices and all with a ‘patient first’ approach. Then again, St John’s has always been about meeting the greatest medical demands of the day, right from its very foundations in 1780 when Lady Hartstonge responded to the needs of

Through the decades it met, struggled with, and saw off pretty much everything that was thrown at it, not without pain and loss but always with courage and resilience. Much of the 500-year-old city defence walls may have gone but St John’s remains at the frontline of health responses, finding new ways for innovation. It was such last year when Covid hit, turning the clock back to origins of the ‘fever hospital’. The words of its CEO Emer Martin in a short video documentary titled House of Courage synopsises this latest heroic frontline siege of the Limerick hospital: “There's a lot of history behind these walls, but so much of it is about the courage of St John’s and the people who come to work here every day. It was that way in 1780 and it's still that way today.” It’s a hospital, the only acute voluntary hospital still standing in the city centre, that’s always served the people of Limerick well, has always put them first in return, St John’s has a special place in the heart of Limerick people, as borne out by patient feedback to this day. As is often said locally, “everyone has a St John’s story”. It’s the proverbial underdog that never gives in, using whatever resources it can

to succeed and today that’s very much about innovation. In fact, it’s flourishing in a classroom in the Old Medical School, otherwise the ground-breaking Rapid Innovation Unit (RIU). The Science Foundation Ireland sponsored unit uses 3D printing and other engineering pathways to find live patient-centric solutions, as explained by the unit’s Director, Leonard O’Sullivan, who works on the project with Kevin O’Sullivan, Research Lead and Aidan O’Sullivan, Technical Lead.

One of the many examples of this ‘living lab’ at work is resolving catheter issues for a teenager who had cystic fibrosis. “The child had a feeding tube into the stomach that had a problem. It resulted in the child being unable to feed successfully. It just took 24 hours to design a solution, get it made on-site and put it on the patient. The child would not have been a good candidate for surgery because of the medical condition so that was a really good outcome.” He adds: “We’re throwing away shackles of old-fashioned manufacturing methods. What we have in St John’s is a pilot to demonstrate this. It’s a ‘factory in a box’. The digital element is important. We identify the opportunity with front line staff and then digital manufacturing kicks in.”

“The first day I walked on the ward I thought the beds are so close, the rooms are so tight but what it does is it makes us sharper. It’s managed so well by our staff that infection rates here are very, very good. For example, CPE bug rates are high in the Mid-West, yet our infection rates are so low. We work hard

“There's a lot of history behind these walls, but so much of it is about the courage of St John’s and the people who come to work here every day. It was that way in 1780 and it's still that way today.” Emer Martin, CEO, St John’s Hospital at it. That’s the way it is here. When things are hard, people get on with it. No matter what we do, patient care is at the centre of it.”

“Internationally this is now recognised as

Andrew Scott’s contribution in setting up a regional service in respiratory care is another example of how St John’s is a patient-first hospital. “My goals since I have started in July 2020 are to develop a Respiratory and General Internal Medicine centre of excellence. I have from the beginning had excellent support from the senior management in St John’s Hospital. Everyone here is enthusiastic to develop St John’s into something we can all be proud of,” he says.

train family members to look after

“Recently we have initiated a lung function lab in St John’s which will provide basic respiratory tests to the patients of the region which is something that was greatly missing over the years for patients in St John’s. We’ve also introduced the indwelling pleural catheter (IPC) service for managing malignant pleural effusions, which is another first for patients in the region.

a first line option for the management of malignant pleural effusions. The patient can normally go home the next day. We patients at home following this very simple procedure, allowing patients to have more control over the management of their own care in the later stages of their diagnosis and to have more time with their loved ones.” Some 240 years after Lady Hartstonge’s


The old hospital’s ability to meet today’s needs is also reflected in how it is dealing with one of the biggest threats to patient care everywhere today: infection control. The appointment last year of a new Director of Nursing, Michelle Burke, to also take on the role of Director of Infection Control, the only hospital in the country to twin these roles, reflects just how seriously St John’s is taking on the threat.

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“We just saw potential benefit from having a natural innovation unit between a hospital and university, working with clinical stakeholders in University of Limerick Hospital’s Group to identify unmet needs from patient quality of life perspective,” he says. “It was really important to move out of the university and embed this into the hospital setting and St John’s has been a great partner in this. We are using 3D printing to be able to innovate and create the novel medical devices of the future and get them onto patients as quick as possible.”

intervention, St John’s is still putting patients first and finding innovative new ways to care for them.

St John’s Hospital St John’s Square, Limerick, V94H272 T: (061) 462 222 W: www.stjohnshospital.ie


Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Irish health statistics Main results of Irish Health Survey 2019 health report

Of those aged 15 years and over (self-reported):


In the last 12 months


are overweight or obese

of females visited the GP

compared with






of 15–24-yearolds drink six or more units of

of unemployed people have some form of depression

alcohol in one sitting at least once a month



of employed people have some form of depression

people have no limitations in everyday activities due to a health problem


of 25-34-year-olds perform muscle strengthening exercises

16% of 55-64-year-olds perform muscle strengthening exercises 64

Source: CSO, Irish Health Survey 2019


25% have a longlasting health condition

92% of ‘very affluent’ people feel their health status is ‘very good or good’


of ‘very disadvantaged’ people feel their health status is ‘very good or good’

Removing Barriers of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Persons with disabilities Of those aged 15 years and over (self-reported):

43% 25% have some form of depression

Source: CSO, Irish Health Survey 2019

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have a health status of ‘bad or very bad’

have unmet health needs due to waiting times

Of those aged 55 years and over (self-reported):


Of those


have difficulties with personal care activities

with personal care difficulties get help with these activities.

Source: CSO, Irish Health Survey 2019

Carers and social supports Of those aged 15 years and over:


19% of carers suffer from some form of depression

of non-carers suffer from some form of depression

11% 14%

of males are carers

of females are carers

Source: CSO, Irish Health Survey 2019

1/8 of persons aged 15 years and over provide care 65

health report

DASSL: A technical infrastructure to support access, sharing, storage and linkage of health data the RCSI, HSE, and TCD, was awarded funding from the HRB to develop the proof-of-concept (PoC) technical infrastructure for DASSL. Hosted by NUI Galway and supported by DFHERIS, ICHEC is Ireland’s national centre for high-performance computing (HPC), providing e-infrastructure, services and expertise to higher education institutions, industry, and the public sector.


Simon Wong

Orna Fennelly

Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of and accelerated the demand for high-quality health data for policymaking, practice, and research. Ireland has a poor track record in this regard and in a recent OECD report1 ranked last for secondary use and availability of health datasets. Ireland is also one of only two countries not regularly linking datasets for research, statistics, and monitoring.


Across the Irish health services, barriers to data sharing and linking datasets have included siloed datasets, inconsistent application of existing legislation, the need for new enabling legislation, concerns, and different interpretations over data protection. Added to these barriers, minimal use of unique identifiers and the lack of a formal and secure infrastructure to integrate, link and support remote access to data for secondary purposes, including for research, has led to valuable projects being inordinately delayed or in some cases abandoned. Internationally, similar barriers have been 66

overcome. To protect individuals’ privacy while driving benefits from routinely collected, statistical and survey data, national Health Data Platforms have been developed, most notably in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Finland. A similar model has been proposed for Ireland by the Health Research Board (HRB2); DASSL, or, data access, storage, sharing, linkage. The DASSL model aims to provide a single point-of-access to researchers and data controllers to facilitate linking of health data in a safe and trusted manner, with patient anonymity secured at all times. The Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), along with collaborators from

A key objective of the work ICHEC is undertaking with the PoC is to develop a prototype technical infrastructure for DASSL and test it using synthetic health data. The final report will provide recommendations gathered during the PoC and from key stakeholders which will inform the development, technical infrastructure requirements, operations, and governance of Ireland’s future Health Information Systems. The overall objective of which is to improve healthcare and public health and wellbeing.

The proposed model Overall, the DASSL model includes several components to facilitate safe and secure access, sharing, storage and linkage of health and related datasets as outlined in Figure 1.

Governance Access, sharing, storage and linkage of national health data requires a lawful basis, clear security and data protection policies and procedures, and governance boards. While this PoC will only use synthetic data, the national roll out of a solution that processes real health and related datasets will necessitate legislation, significant investment, public consultation, appropriate governance structures and various project approval boards (e.g., Research Ethics Committee

Figure 1: DASSL Model

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approval, declarations from the Health Research Consent Declaration Committee, access requests via a Research Data Governance Board). These processes are under review by the Department of Health as part of a reform of Ireland’s Health Information System.

Stakeholder involvement and engagement

By linking GP care data, emergency hospital admissions, prescriptions and asthma deaths together with geographical and socioeconomic deprivation areas from 2013 to 2017, an asthma study found that people from deprived areas in Wales have worse outcomes and increased risk of death. This was then used to inform new policies to combat inequity.

Research Support Unit

Technical operation

The Research Support Unit (RSU) plays a pivotal role in facilitating researchers from the conception of a project idea, support in conducting the research and managing any research output. As the point-of-contact for researchers, the RSU staff require in-depth knowledge of the datasets to assess whether a research project is feasible, prepare linked pseudonymised datasets for researchers (with the data minimisation GDPR principle in mind) and assess any research outputs to ensure privacy is preserved prior to export. The RSU role also includes managing a catalogue of datasets.

A key principle that underpins the

operation of the DASSL model is that only the data custodians store (a)

personally identifiable information such as names, addresses and (b) the



In addition to close engagement with the HRB (the commissioners of this project), other key stakeholders have contributed to the planning and development of the DASSL PoC, including the formulation of use cases. This includes representatives from the Department of Health, the HSE, public and patient representatives, HIQA, researchers, and data controllers. It is clear that ongoing public consultation including a Public Advisory Board will be critical to the success of any model taken forward. Openly sharing of the results of research projects using national data will also be crucial to promoting use of these findings for public trust and enhancing public benefit.

SAIL Databank (Wales) Use Case2

1. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/55d24b5d-en.pdf?expires=1632828042&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=17313F06FC4DAB502633A51CBDF16130 2. https://saildatabank.com/wp-content/uploads/Annual_Report_2020_21.pdf 3. https://www.hrb.ie/fileadmin/publications_files/Proposals_for_an_Enabling_Data_Environment_for_Health_and_Related_Research_in_Ireland.pdf


and outgoing internet access is disabled. The researcher is provided with the required analytical software to process the requested datasets. Once the researchers have completed their analyses, any output that needs to be exported (e.g., for publication) is placed in a folder for output checking before being released.

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Output checking

“Research is a crucial component of healthcare practice and innovation that improves life for everyone. DASSL is an important step towards supporting the secure and safe use of health data and more importantly the ability to share and link that data for better research outputs” Loretto Grogan, Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director, HSE.

corresponding medical/clinical/health data. They are split at source into Dataset A and Dataset B and sent to the Trusted Third Party (TTP) and the Health Research Data Hub, respectively. Datasets can then be linked, prepared, analysed and any research output vetted by the following components of the system.

Trusted Third Party: where records are linked


The TTP is a trusted team of people or an organisational unit who conduct record linkage using personal data (Dataset A) received from data custodians. Linking individual records between datasets is critical for reassociating a person across their healthcare pathway to produce useful insights, and the establishment of a TTP for this purpose is common practice internationally. Again, the explicit separation of personally identifiable information from corresponding health data ensures that only the data controllers have both sets of information and thus helps ensure privacy. The TTP then shares encrypted linkage keys with the Data Hub. 68

Health Research Data Hub: where data is prepared This is a tightly controlled data storage and processing platform to prepare datasets for researchers. It receives the variables of interest to the researcher (Dataset B) that are already pseudonymised (i.e., personally identifiable information is stripped and replaced with a random identifier). Using linkage keys from the TTP, the same individual can be linked across the different pseudonymised datasets. These datasets never store any personally identifiable information and are stored for only as long as required in line with GDPR. Access is highly restricted to operations staff (e.g., the RSU) who need to prepare datasets for researchers.

Safe Haven: where data is analysed A locked down, secure research environment supports virtual access to the pseudonymised project data by approved researchers. Once a researcher is securely connected to this environment (following a stringent access request and approval process), data is prevented from being imported/exported

The research findings that the researchers want to export from the Safe Haven are assessed for statistical disclosure control by the RSU. This ensures that the data released does not contain any information that could reidentify individuals.

Outlook There is a huge demand for a national technical infrastructure to support safe and secure analysis of linked datasets both in Ireland and internationally. Increased momentum of initiatives such as the European Health Data Space and associated EU legislation to support the coordination of international data sharing will also require Ireland to be able to facilitate secondary use of data for public benefit. The DASSL PoC, commissioned by the HRB and delivered by ICHEC will report its findings at a critical time to inform actions to shape a fit-for-purpose Irish health information ecosystem, with a clear policy intent to optimise the use of health and social care data for secondary purposes, and informing the associated governance, legislation and investments required. The ultimate aim is to enable a better, evidence-informed health system and stimulate research and innovation to improve healthcare outcomes and the wellbeing of the population.

T: 01 529 1042 E: info@ichec.ie W: www.ichec.ie

IACP celebrates 40th anniversary

In 2021, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) celebrated its 40th anniversary. For 40 years, the IACP has been promoting safe and effective counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland. From auspicious beginnings, when the inaugural meeting was held in a basement in Dún Laoghaire in 1981, the IACP has become the most prominent and leading body of counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland. We now have over 4,700 members, and our membership continues to grow. The years 2020/2021 were challenging; our organisation, no different to any other, was significantly affected by the pandemic and had to move its operations online. Like countless others, we had to rapidly adapt to this shifting paradigm, and we took advantage of the available technology.

Continuing with our public awareness raising and lobbying work to increase accessibility to counselling and psychotherapy, we launched our PreBudget Submission (PBS). This is a vital tool for an organisation to communicate their wants to government ahead of the publication of the following year’s budget and we publish one yearly. This year, in keeping with our move to embrace technological advances, we also called on our members to engage via a digital advocacy platform where they could send emails directly to their Oireachtas representatives.

From our modest beginnings in Dún Laoghaire 40 years ago, we have seen a remarkable change in public attitudes towards counselling and psychotherapy. We have been instrumental in changing these views. Inevitably, there is more work to be done, and persistent campaigning is one such means of achieving our goal. The firm belief that all people should have access to regulated, high quality and professional counselling and psychotherapy services continues to propel us forward. The IACP believes that counselling and psychotherapy must be an integral part of healthcare provision, and we will continue to lobby and advocate for the realisation of this vision.

T: 01 230 3536 E: ceo@iacp.ie W: www.iacp.ie


To celebrate this momentous year, we hosted our 40th anniversary campaign. This consisted of a public awareness campaign and an online public event. The awareness-raising campaign aimed to promote our excellent Find a Therapist function on iacp.ie. This tool facilitates potential clients to connect with accredited IACP members. Our first online public event, Essential Conversations with IACP, was a resounding success. Essential

Conversations featured host Blindboy Boatclub, and moderated discussions in featured panels on body positivity, parenting, sports and mental wellbeing, and inclusion and diversity. Each forum featured panellists such as Colman Noctor, Dublin football’s Shane Carthy, and Síle Seoige. The IACP and our PR company, Fuzion Communications, were nominated for Best Technology Innovation for this event at the recent Digital Media Awards 2021.

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expansion and evolution of our profession and the increased discourse around mental health, particularly during this pandemic period. These are very positive developments and our requests to the government in our PBS are reflective of this trend. We are simply seeking parity of esteem with other health professionals. The implementation of our requests would have multiple benefits. Tax relief, if fully extended to counselling and psychotherapy, would not only make therapy more affordable, it would also further endorse the profession and solidify the view that good mental health is of the utmost importance to us all. Further details of our submission are available on our website.

In our 40 years, we have witnessed the



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Harnessing AI: A positive and transformative force for Ireland

Ireland is well positioned to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Minister of State with responsibility for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Robert Troy TD, writes. When we talk about AI, there is a tendency to speak in terms of the future or in potential and opportunity. We talk about what AI can help us to achieve and what it will do for us, but the fact is that many Irish businesses are already using and benefitting from AI, whether it is to improve productivity, to interact with their customers or to gain a better understanding of market opportunities. AI is changing the way we work and live, opening up new ways to address problems in almost every field of human activity. It is when we recognise it as a tool for the present that its true potential can be realised: to help us as we drive toward a society and economy that is greener, more productive, and more innovative. To get there, though, we need to create the right conditions for the use of AI here and now. In July 2021, the Government launched the National AI Strategy, AI: Here for Good, to provide high-level direction to the design, development, deployment, and governance of AI in Ireland. The strategy reflects our ambition to harness AI as a positive and transformative force for Ireland. We want to support more businesses to benefit from AI and to help those 72

businesses already using AI to achieve more sustainable growth through trustworthy systems. We will do this by building on Ireland’s existing capabilities, our thriving community of indigenous SMEs, and the presence of world-leading software and ICT industries. In an effort to boost the uptake of digital technology, including AI, we have established a Digital Transition Fund. This €85 million multiannual fund will run until 2026 as part of Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. This funding will help businesses as they work to become more productive, to develop new business models, and expand into new markets. As an enterprise ecosystem, Ireland is already well positioned to harness the potential offered by AI. Many of the largest technology companies have an established presence here, we have an agile and highly skilled workforce, a record of scientific excellence, and a strong drive for innovation. To further help our SMEs as they look to the opportunities offered by AI and other digital technologies, the Government has committed to establishing several European Digital

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Innovation Hubs (EDIH), which will offer upskilling, innovation and advisory services to enterprises and public authorities in areas aligned to AI, as well as offering technical expertise, research facilities, and experimentation.

While all the EDIHs will engage with SMEs and help them as they adopt AI, one will be specifically designated the National AI Digital Innovation Hub. This hub will serve as the national first stop for AI, acting as a point of contact for businesses as they engage with AI adoption and the broader AI innovation ecosystem. We are also working to assemble an Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum (EDAF), which I will chair. This forum will comprise representatives of enterprise – both large and small – AI experts, academics, and state bodies. It will work with government to drive enterprise adoption of AI and other digital technologies.

technology and innovation report

At the core of each EDIH will be a research and technology organisation, or a higher education institution lab. These hubs will serve as the first stop for businesses looking to implement AI and other digital technologies. They will also serve as SME incubators, offering access to infrastructure, technologies, and test beds.

Ultimately, if AI is to be truly inclusive and have a positive impact on all of us, we need to be clear on its role in society and ensure trust in AI is the ultimate marker of its success. To facilitate this, the National AI Strategy is underpinned by three core principles: the adoption of a human-centric approach to AI; staying open and adaptable to new innovations; and ensuring good governance to build trust and confidence so that innovation can flourish. By making human rights and ethical principles a key focus of the National AI Strategy, Ireland is making a commitment to ensuring AI-based systems and solutions developed and used here are trustworthy, fair, and inclusive. Founded on these core principles, it is our ambition that we can put Ireland at the very forefront of a people-centred, ethical, and responsible rollout of AI. The Government will also appoint an AI Ambassador to promote awareness among the public and businesses of the potential AI has to offer, serving as a champion of AI as a positive force for the economy and for society as a whole, emphasising an ethical approach. To inform the work of the AI Ambassador, we will soon begin discussions on young people’s attitudes to, concerns

“The Government’s vision is for Ireland to become a leading country in the use of AI…” Minister of State Robert Troy TD

As with all new technologies, there is a degree of risk involved in the implementation of AI, and it is important we be cognisant of those risks. While it is true AI has unique potential to help us further our ambitions as a society, we must temper those ambitions with an awareness of the potential ethical implications of the deployment of AI. The Government’s vision is for Ireland to become a leading country in the use of AI to benefit our citizens through a people-centred and ethical approach to AI adoption and use. The National AI Strategy will serve as a roadmap as we work towards that goal, adopting AI to the benefit of business and society in an inclusive and responsible manner.

about, and visions for an AI-powered future using Comhairle na nÓg, the national structure for consultation with young people. AI can help us to address long-standing challenges in areas like public health, education, housing, and urban development, to name just a few. While government has a role to play in facilitating and enabling the use of AI for the public good, this is a journey that will involve all of us, as a society. Ireland can become a leading international hub for the ethical and responsible use of AI, and we all stand to benefit from that.


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Public sector takes to the cloud technology and innovation report

organisations and the citizens they serve.

Rethink cloud journeys The business case for cloud has always been built on the promise of resilience, agility, scale, speed and responsiveness. Covid-19 has made it hard to argue with the benefits, but more importantly, it has changed the conversation about the fundamentals of what the cloud can do for government.

Rapid adoption of cloud services during the pandemic has changed the roadmap for public sector organisations, according to Jonathan Maguire, Accenture’s Health and Public Services Cloud First Lead, with all signs pointing to more agile services and better citizen engagement.


The accelerated adoption of digital and cloud technologies during the pandemic, has demonstrated how fast paced change is possible. People’s willingness to embrace new ways of doing things saw levels of digital transformation occur in weeks that had previously taken years. Back in October 2019, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer had already called for a switch to cloudfirst thinking, declaring that “the decision to be made now is what, how and when to move to cloud”. As it turned out, agencies had to make those decisions 74

much sooner than expected when the first lockdown happened at the end of March 2020. Over the next 18 months, public service agencies demonstrated a capacity to pivot in the face of an unprecedented crisis and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Citizens took to the cloud and the number of MyGovID accounts soared. The challenge now is to build on what has been achieved. There is a golden opportunity for public sector leaders to maintain the momentum and continue to transform, powered by the needs of their own

Many public sector leaders still prioritise so-called sovereign clouds, where the starting point was always about securing data and regulatory responsibility, but reasons to migrate to public clouds are now too compelling to ignore. During lockdown they became enablers for citizens, partners, and employees to interact remotely. Cloud is now seen as a way to transform and modernise operating models, rather than a static repository for sharing information and data. After a year of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, the cloud is also recognised as a safer place to host IT infrastructure and services. Organisations know they could never match the huge investments cloudproviders are making to keep their platforms secure, especially around building solutions natively on public clouds. With security becoming part of the public cloud business case, governments can start to think about other cloud benefits and look more at nurturing innovation. We know from Accenture’s Cloud Continuum research that public service executives understand the opportunity. 57 per cent believe that accelerating cloud is business critical; 83 per cent agree or strongly agree that cloud is essential to fuel innovation and new business models. The next step is to identify service areas that will reap the biggest rewards.

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Personalise at scale One priority will be about serving citizens through their channels of choice at a time of their choosing. There have been huge technological developments in this area, such as virtual interactions and automated customer service, with more to come. Fuelled by AI and machine learning, these operations require the huge computer power and scale that cloud provides; ensuring that more citizens can be served more quickly without compromising their experience. This is partly about personalisation, providing tailored services across previously siloed departments, where citizen information is shared by joinedup agencies, ‘raising all boats’ in the transition from physical to digital engagement. At the core is data, or the insights that can be derived from it. The challenge is extracting meaningful insights from an array of data sources in legacy applications, as well as new volume-intensive sources, such as body-worn cameras.

Scale is the other component. One of the long-standing cloud benefits has been the way services can be ‘flexed’

Migrate and innovate Responsive cloud components provide a blueprint for modernising public services. Not least is a flexible and accessible technology architecture that increases the potential for cross-agency and external partner informationsharing. Taking the decision to decouple from legacy and migrate to the cloud will break down silos and deliver true digital transformation, but there is a right and wrong way to do it. Simply doing a ‘lift and shift’ of existing applications never makes the most of the cloud opportunity. At worst, you simply relocate less-than-perfect legacy solutions and end up paying more than before because of cloud consumption costs. A much smarter migration is the one that takes the opportunity to modernise applications, leveraging different platforms to rethink and optimise value and quality of service.

1. Leadership teams define an outcomes-based vision that everyone in the agency understands. 2. Prioritise citizen and workforce experiences by reimagining how your agency operates. 3. Define a cloud journey and new IT structure that enables execution of the agency vision. 4. Establish standard practices to support ongoing adoption of new technologies and operating models. 5. Build a decoupled IT architecture reducing the constraints of legacy, enabling hybrid IT modernisation and cloud adoption.

hyper-scale cloud platform can reduce carbon emissions by more than 84 per cent and cut energy usage by 65 per cent. There is no doubt that cloud-based platforms can support governments to provide better services, cost-effectively, quickly and more sustainably, facilitating new types of citizen interaction. People from all walks of life have shown an appetite for change during the pandemic that the public sector must do its best to satisfy. Quite simply, it’s too big an opportunity to miss.


For example, the pandemic proved what’s possible with track and trace and the Covid Tracker app, where real-time data is shared across public and private sector organisations for societal good. New services were created in days rather than months by using the cloud to ingest, process and analyse data from multiple sources, and the time to actionable insights was dramatically shortened.

up and down to meet changing demand. This was highlighted during the pandemic when, for example, the Department of Social Protection utilised cloud-enabled systems to cope with the huge surge in benefit payments. It plays to another cloud strength that strikes a chord with public sector bodies facing significant budgetary restrictions: services can be configured to make sure they only pay for what they need and use.

Five steps for successful cloud journeys

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“We know from Accenture’s Cloud Continuum research that public service executives understand the opportunity. 57 per cent believe that accelerating cloud is business critical; 83 per cent agree or strongly agree that cloud is essential to fuel innovation and new business models.”

E: j.m.maguire@accenture.com W: www.accenture.com

Cloud is now seen as key enabler for more green and sustainable public services. According to Accenture’s The Green Behind the Cloud report, migrating on-premise applications to a 75

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Post Covid-19: The future of digital public services services Irish Government CIO at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Barry Lowry, discusses the acceleration of digital public services use and the influence on the forthcoming National Digital Strategy. Highlighting the acceleration of digital services since the outset of the pandemic, the Government CIO believes that changed habits are here to stay and must be built upon if Ireland is to achieve its digital first ambitions. Speaking in broader terms than government alone, Lowry points to significant shifts in purchasing habits but also in businesses, with digital pervading in sectors in ways that were never thought possible in 2019. “Circumstances have forced organisations to rethink the entire way in which they work, and they have had to respond, or they wouldn’t be here,” states Lowry, emphasising that governments have also had to change. The CIO is quick to point out that while the past two years of pandemic have served to accelerate uptake and interaction with digital public services, acceleration has built on a trend of constant improvement. Gov.ie, the central portal for government services and information didn’t exist in 2016 but by 2019 it had 76

achieved a “very respectable” five million hits for the year. However, between January and April 2020, the first few months of the pandemic, the portal had over 35 million visits. Lowry points out that Gov.ie became to “go to” source of detailed information during the pandemic covering everything from infection figures to accessing emergency benefits and obtaining Digital Covid Certificates. Similarly, the number of verified MyGovID accounts also saw exponential growth from below 500,000 in early January 2020 to over 630,000 accounts in early May. Again, this was a spike that was building upon a steady growth from 8,300 in 2016 to 447,000 in 2019. In 2020, this figure almost doubled to 929,000 and at the end of September 2021, almost 1.3 million verified accounts existed, meaning almost 40 per cent of the Irish adult population now have a MyGovID verified account. The figures mean that Ireland has moved ahead of many heavy-hitting digital countries and research by

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Gartner recently showed Ireland to be the fastest growing country in the world in terms of uptake and usage of digital ID accounts.

The CIO believes that Ireland needs to go further than good growth and evolution of digital public services and actively push digital government at every opportunity, as is being done in many other EU countries.

Collaboration The Government CIO outlines that beyond uptake and usage of digital services, the pandemic has also served as an accelerant of collaboration. Pointing to the emergence of Ireland’s Covid Tracker app and the digital

Lowry says that those projects are also exemplars of pandemic-driven innovation; the previously untested use of Bluetooth to identify contacts was successfully delivered in a very short space of time and APIs, QR codes and cloud were all critical elements of the Digital Covid Certificate solution.

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However, Lowry is quick to point out that there is still work to be done. In the latest DESI 2021 figures, while Ireland ranks at fifth place overall, it is 17th amongst EU member states for the eGovernment Services. Ireland’s 69 per cent score is below the EU member state average of 71 per cent.

Covid certificate as two very successful pieces of technology, he outlines that the projects were delivered through the excellent collaboration between five public service bodies and four private sector partners, who were never all in the same room together.

Collaboration is being taken further by the Government’s The Future Tech Challenge pilot competition, a collaboration between Ireland’s public service and private sector actors to drive innovation and technology adoption in order to solve pressing public service challenges. In October 2021, the Our Public Service team invited nine public service bodies to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts across

“The message from government going forward has to be that the use of technology can facilitate not just a better service for people that are comfortable with using it, but a better service for everyone.” three categories of remote connectivity; artificial intelligence; and cloud computing, with the winning projects securing services to the value of €100,000 and a partnership with an industry leader to develop their projects into fruition.

Pan-European digital Lowry also contends that the two years since the onset of the pandemic have presented opportunities for digital government interoperability. He expresses his disappointment that the EU was not able to act on Ireland’s offer to deliver the digital tracker app together but says that that delivering interoperable systems was the next best step. In seeking to deliver on its ambitions for a digital decade, the European Commission has launched the communication Digital Compass: The European Way for the Digital Decade identifying four main goals to reach over the next decade in the form of: 1. a digitally skilled population and highly skilled digital professionals; 2. secure and sustainable digital infrastructures; 3. digital transformation of businesses; and 4. digitalisation of public services.

be the basis for Ireland’s National Digital Strategy to be published in January 2022. However, meeting some of the targets will be challenging. For example, in relation to eHealth the communication calls for 100 per cent availability of medical records digitally. Another challenge will be the ambition to have 20 million plus people skilled as ICT specialists in the EU, which equates to around 6 or 7 per cent of Ireland’s workforce. Significant steps will be taken to raise current levels of around 4 per cent of the workforce working in digital. “At government level we have responded to the challenges coming from Europe and to some extent we have gone further in that we’re working to not just have government services available digitally, but that they are actually being consumed. “Importantly, digital government is not just for those who can do digital. It is also about freeing up resources for those who cannot. The message from government going forward has to be that the use of technology can facilitate not just a better service for people that are comfortable with using it, but a better service for everyone,” Lowry states. Re-emphasising the need to build upon pandemic-driven acceleration of digital public services, Lowry concludes: “2021 was a pivotal year and a year that we will build upon.”

Lowry states that the four compass points will 77

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eInvoicing: Taxing times across Europe eInvoicing is proving popular across Europe. Last year alone saw Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and Hungary move towards extending or introducing mandatory electronic Invoicing (eInvoicing) in their societies. Oonagh Hackett, eInvoicing Ireland Programme Manager in the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), outlines a number of new policies and initiatives across Europe that shine a light on opportunities made possible when eInvoicing is the norm. It is gradually becoming more important for Irish suppliers to be able to issue invoices in a structured electronic format in order to compete for cross border trade in the EU. There is also a growing trend by public administrations across Europe to further leverage eInvoicing to simplify tax reporting and compliance, reduce administrative costs for businesses and enable real-time management of aspects of both government and business finances.

How public bodies enabled eInvoicing Electronic invoicing is changing the face of how we do business, and today public administrations across the EU are reaping the benefits of this digital milestone.


From day one, the OGP provided vital supports and advice around eInvoicing and it continues to play a crucial role in the entire process.


transition to eInvoicing and meet their legal obligations. Hackett explains: “A national approach was established for public bodies in Ireland to support the receipt of EU standard eInvoices through the Peppol network. “To receive and process eInvoices, public bodies must avail of a service to connect to the Peppol network, and likewise, suppliers who wish to send eInvoices must avail of a similar connection service. “So, the OGP established a National Framework Agreement to provide eInvoicing and Peppol networking services to the public sector in Ireland.” The eInvoicing service providers on the Framework connect public bodies to the Peppol network and offer solutions to enable compliance with the EU Directive around eInvoicing.

Since April 2020 when the European Union made it a legal requirement for all public bodies to be able to process electronic invoices, the OGP has been there every step of the way.

Hackett adds: “To date, our clients from across all sectors of the public service have found the framework easy to use to access the eInvoicing solutions and can now process EU standard eInvoices from suppliers.

Firstly, the OGP set up an eInvoicing Ireland Programme to help public bodies

“Getting suppliers on board is not as easy as they are not obliged to send

eInvoices. Generally, where eInvoicing has been made mandatory for suppliers, like, for example, in Italy or Norway, the take up is very high.”

Reaping the benefits Therefore, the focus now must move to suppliers and how to entice more of them to sign up to eInvoicing. From a business perspective, the more people using eInvoicing, the better as there are so many benefits to this digital process. One of the most obvious and timely advantages to eInvoicing is the environmental impact. As the climate crisis intensifies, using less paper and reducing the associated energy and costs for transport and storage is always welcome. As there is a standardised approach to eInvoicing across Ireland and Europe, it makes it easier for suppliers to do business with government agencies. Once suppliers are up and running with an eInvoicing system, they can also use it for other transactions.

Mandatory Some member states have made eInvoicing mandatory for suppliers, others have introduced electronic

ordering and payments, while others have even established mandatory eInvoicing for business to business (B2B). France has been ahead of the curve on eInvoicing. Since January 2020, all suppliers to the public sector were required to issue eInvoices. This year, France announced plans for B2B eInvoicing. The gradual mandate will start with large enterprises in 2024, extending to SMEs in 2026.

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In Belgium, the Walloon regional Government say that eInvoicing will be the preferred option from next year. From January 2022, they will no longer accept invoices via email in PDF or word format. eInvoicing is already mandatory in other areas of Belgium. In Poland, eInvoicing will also be the only option from January 2023, replacing the current paper and email invoices. Hackett says: “Over the last year, we are seeing a trend as governments look to push the boundaries further and harness the potential of eInvoicing for tax reporting, compliance and real-time management of finance. “In Italy, for example, both public and private sector invoices are processed through a centralised system known as the Sistema di Interscambio (SDI) which is controlled by the tax authority. “Mandatory eInvoicing allows the tax authority to simplify tax compliance for businesses via the automatic capture of data in real-time from invoices. Italy estimates, around €2 billion could be directly attributed to the improvement in VAT compliance following the introduction of the measure.”

Leveraging eInvoicing data to help make tax administrations more effective for the greater good of economy and society is also an objective for other European countries such as France and Hungary. It’s clear to see the wide-reaching benefits of eInvoicing, and the eInvoicing Ireland team along with partners in Central Government, Health, Education and Local Government will continue to

The National Standard Authority of Ireland (NSAI) also plays a part in promoting the use of eInvoicing and is producing guidance for suppliers to support them in making this digital switch. Several other initiatives are underway across the public service to enable suppliers get on board with eInvoicing, and crucially, to then reap the benefits for the future.

Office of Government Procurement eInvoicing supports for Public Bodies To facilitate public bodies in reaching compliance with the eInvoicing Directive, the Office of Government Procurement

established a National Framework Agreement for the provision of eInvoicing and Peppol networking services to the public sector in Ireland. The eInvoicing service providers on the Framework connect public bodies to the Peppol network and offer solutions and services to enable basic compliance with the Directive as well as a more fully integrated approach to eInvoicing, facilitating ‘straight-through processing’. eInvoicing and straight-through processing helps businesses pay and receive money faster and more efficiently.

T: +353 1 773 8310 E: oonagh.hackett@ogp.gov.ie / einvoicing@ogp.gov.ie W: https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation/ office-of-government-procurement

For further information


Hackett continues: “Furthermore, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, in a recent submission to the European Commission, the Italian Government noted how data from mandatory eInvoicing proved to be of great help in analysing the changes in the economy associated with the health crisis, and in putting into place the most appropriate support measures.”

raise awareness about the intrinsic value of this digital process for both suppliers and buyers.

Please log onto www.gov.ie/en/publication/d2be0-einvoicing-ireland/ or contact: einvoicing@ogp.gov.ie

Accessing the Framework For anyone looking to access the OGP eInvoicing Framework, please log onto the OGP Buyer Zone via www.buyerzone.gov.ie/ and select/ search as follows: Category: Managed Services Keyword: ‘PEPPOL’ or ‘eInvoicing systems’ OGP Clients must register to gain access to the Buyer zone available to all public service buyers accessing live contracts/frameworks.


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The EU’s digital decade In March 2021, the European Commission laid out its vision for digital transformation in Europe from 2021 to 2030, a timeframe it is terming the EU’s ‘Digital Decade’. The Commission plans to use both “a robust joint governance framework to monitor progress and address insufficiencies” and “multi-country projects combining investments from the EU, member states and the private sector” to achieve the targets it has set out for the digital decade. The most notable of these targets fall under four main groupings. Skills: In terms of digital skills, the Commission aims for there to be at least 20 million ICT specialists in Europe, with gender convergence in this workforce. It is also hoped that a minimum of 80 per cent of the European population will possess basic digital skills by 2030. Digital infrastructure: “Gigabit for everyone, 5G everywhere” reads the first of the Commission’s aims in this regard, with plans also afoot to double the EU’s share in global production of cutting-edge semiconductors. In terms of edge and cloud data, the Commission plans to have 10,000 climate neutral highly secure edge nodes by 2030. It also hopes to see the building of the EU’s first computer with quantum acceleration. Digital transformation of business: The Commission has set a target of 75 per cent of EU companies using cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and/or big data by 2030. It plans to “grow scale ups” and finance and to double the number of EU unicorn companies, a process that has already begun, with 23 companies becoming unicorns in 2021 as of June, compared to just eight in the whole of 2020. It is also hoped that more than 90 per cent of European SMEs will “reach at least a basic level of digital intensity”. Digitalisation of public services: The Commission has set ambitious targets for the governments of its member states, with 100 per cent of key public services to be available online and 100 per cent of citizens having access to digital medical records by 2030 if targets are met. The Commission has also set an 80 per cent target for citizens using digital ID. A framework of digital principles will be established to “help promote and uphold EU values in the digital space”, with the framework to be “identified through a wide societal debate”. Examples given by the Commission as to what this debate could concern include:


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Digital rights o

Freedom of expression and access to diverse, trustworthy information;


Freedom to conduct business online;


Protection of personal data and privacy; and


Protection of the intellectual creations of individuals.

Digital principles A secure and trusted online environment;


Universal digital education and skills;


Access to digital systems and devices that respect the environment;


Accessible and human-centred digital public services;


Ethical principles for human-centred algorithms;


Protecting and empowering children online; and


Access to digital health services.

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The Commission proposes to reach the above targets and build the governance framework through its Path to the Digital Decade, which will be based on an “annual cooperation mechanism” between the Commission and member states, whereby the Commission will develop projected trajectories and the member states will formulate national roadmaps to meet these targets. This proposed cooperation mechanism will consist of a “structured, transparent and shared monitoring system” which will be based on the Digital Economy and Society Index, an annual progress report throughout the digital decade, multi-annual digital decade national roadmaps, a “structured framework to discuss and address areas of insufficient progress through joint commitments between the Commission and member states”, and a mechanism to “support the implementation of multi-country projects”. The Commission has explained that these multi-county projects will typically involve investment in areas such as data infrastructure, low-power processors, 5G communication, high performance computing, secure communication, public administration, blockchain, digital innovation hubs and digital skills. The Commission advises that each member state set aside 20 per cent of the funding received under the Covid-related Recovery and Resilience Facility for digital transition projects. An example of a possible multi-country project offered by the Commission is a network of security operations centres, powered by AI, with the goal of anticipating, detecting and responding to cyberattacks at the national and EU level. These multicountry projects “could”: combine investments from the EU budget, including the Facility, from member states and the private sector; address gaps in the identified critical capacities of the EU; and support an interconnected, interoperable, and secure digital single market. A European Digital Infrastructure Consortium is newly available to “help interested member states speed up and simplify the implementation” of these projects. The EU states that it plans to “promote its human-centred digital agenda” globally in order to promote “alignment or convergence with EU norms and standards” and will attempt to build international partnerships by investing in improved connectivity with the EU’s partners, designing digital economy packages, and building a toolbox of regulatory cooperation, capacity building and international investment. Possible areas of cooperation mentioned include 6G, quantum computing and the use of technology to fight climate change. The Commission is currently in discussion with member states and the European Parliament, as well as economic and social partners, in an effort to progress towards an inter-institutional declaration on digital principles by the end of 2021. Such a declaration would then allow the Commission to develop projected trajectories for each target within its Path to the Digital Decade together with member states and allow those states to formulate their national plans.


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Pexip simplifying video communications for Irish organisations Users want to be able to schedule a meeting and connect quickly and easily regardless of technology or location and ultimately have a high-quality experience. The term ‘video fatigue’ has been used in line with experience. This is something that Pexip believes is a result of poor video experience and the number of meetings that people are having. “Delivering an outstanding user experience is a key focus of Pexip’s and in turn reducing video fatigue with adaptive composition,” says Doyle. “Removing black screens, our adaptative composition automatically arranges the screen layout to elevate large groups and active speakers. It also automatically crops, pans and tilts so users can maintain better eye contact and focus on their conversation but most importantly, it works on any device or platform.”

Niall Doyle

Global video conferencing software provider, Pexip, is trusted by many governments and public sector organisations for delivering secure and scalable video communications. Its unique offering simplifies video communications by unifying meeting participants across multiple platforms and devices; something which is proving to be extremely valuable as hybrid working Advertorial

becomes the norm. Niall Doyle, Pexip’s Ireland Country Manager, outlines how Pexip is transforming the way video is being used and the benefits it brings to Irish organisations: “At Pexip one of our primary focuses is to remove complexity from collaboration. Our solutions can be easily integrated with existing collaboration tools to extend the reach and efficiency of these systems within organisations, as well as maximising return on investment by replacing the need to ‘rip and replace’ legacy 82

infrastructure. As the requirement for video continues to grow throughout Ireland, Pexip is supporting mixed technology environments, which is essential to unify hybrid workplaces with teams in multiple locations.”

The experience Now that users have become more comfortable with video, the focus has shifted to the experience, namely the ease of use, video, and audio quality.

Doyle adds, “Innovation is at the core of everything we do and that is why Pexip continues to break down the barriers that exist between collaboration platforms to create a simple, effective video solution that enables users to connect from any device at any time, from anywhere. We are already using AI to improve the user experience in video calls and recently announced a key partnership with Nvidia to further enhance the quality of our virtual meetings.”

Interoperability and flexibility Pexip works with customers to understand their individual business needs and where Pexip and video can provide additional value to their existing workflows. The interoperability of Pexip offers a winning solution to organisations, who nowadays work with many different collaboration tools, by bringing these platforms together and removing the traditional barriers for truly pervasive video collaboration.

From a strategic perspective Pexip see their core success driven by delivering vertical solutions through their partners that enhance workflows and provide deeper and richer video integration for productivity enhancement. Pexip has already proven the value in replacing previously physical processes with a virtual solution as demonstrated through some of the solutions they have provided to public sector organisations in Ireland.

Secure tailored solutions High security and data sovereignty is of paramount importance to Pexip when building its innovative, scalable software solutions. This is one of the reasons that Pexip is used by healthcare providers throughout Ireland to provide telehealth solutions for remote communication between healthcare professionals and their patients. The Court Service of Ireland also utilise Pexip’s secure video solutions to facilitate remote hearings which helped to ease the backlog of legal cases heightened by the pandemic. The success of this solution has helped to pave the way for ‘hybrid hearings’ to be considered as a model for the future.

Launched only a year ago, Pexip Health has strengthened Pexip’s reputation in the healthcare field by enabling healthcare providers to extend the reach of their practice, providing secure, easyto-join telehealth visits for patients from any device or location. The use of Pexip’s APIs means that those providing

“We are the only provider who can truly provide a ‘browser to the boardroom’ type experience.”

care can use their own technologies to meet virtually with patients so there is no need to purchase any additional hardware or tools. To ensure that user data is stored securely and is protected, Pexip offers multiple deployment options. “We can provide a public cloud service or a private cloud service, or we can provide an on-premises deployment,” explains Doyle. “With an on-prem solution the customer can deploy a full video service on their own network using their own data centres. The recent cyber-attack on the HSE highlights the importance of security and the impact a breach of security can have. Security is one of our founding principles and we operate and maintain the highest standards of security globally. We have several very security conscious customers using our services, including the courts services both in the North and the South of Ireland.”

and accelerate growth by supercharging the existing sales model and expanding the current product offering. The company works with valued customers in the healthcare, judicial and enterprise sectors in Ireland and provides local support to the large multi-national and global customers headquartered in Ireland as well as supporting the public sector with vertical solutions for government. Pexip plans to invest further in its headcount in Ireland for technical and partner management across the next three years. Pexip does not sell directly; 100 per cent of revenue is delivered through an accredited partner community and Pexip actively supports the growth of its Irish partners.


Doyle adds: “The healthcare and government sectors have really benefited from the successful implementation of integrated video solutions to enhance their existing services, tools and workflows as well as improving user experience. Pexip’s wide range of APIs enables services like telehealth consultations and virtual court hearings and is the platform powering many of these applications.”

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Pexip is also supporting organisations in their journey to being more flexible for their team. “Whether a customer is on a Microsoft Teams journey and looking to connect to existing/legacy endpoints or video systems, looking at integrating video into their customer workflows and customer journeys through contact centre integrations, or video enabling existing customer portals with video services (for example virtual banking) Pexip can help,” says Niall. “We are the only provider who can truly provide a ‘browser to the boardroom’ type experience.”

With the advent of the new video economy, and with video moving out of the meeting rooms to a broad range of applications, Pexip is powering that shift to a video-enabled world.

The future for Pexip Pexip’s strategy aligned to 2024 is to build upon the current business model

E: niall.doyle@pexip.com W: www.pexip.com 83

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A tradition of innovation

Damian Griffin of the Defence Forces of Ireland discusses the creation of the new Research, Technology, and Innovation (RTI) unit with an ambition to deliver world class capability. Griffin is the capability lead of the recently established civil-military Research Technology and Innovation unit within the Defence Organisation established in January 2021. Setting the context for the creation of the Unit, a concept which emerged in 2019, Griffin states that the Defence Forces has had innovation at the core of its operations for decade and has excelled in innovation in many scenarios spanning the world. However, Griffin acknowledges the enabling capability of innovation in multiplying and empowering organisations throughout the public sector.


“Innovation has become a business bingo term over the last number of years and as a term, is becoming quite crowded,” he admits. “As organisations we are all trying to discover the that magic formula to bound us into the future. However, the reality is that we are quite weak at predicting the future. Where we are strong is on how we remember success has been achieved and made commonplace.” Griffin acknowledges that innovation, as a military capability, has until now not been the focus of specific resourcing across the Defence Forces but believes that “the curiosity to explore innovation has the potential to empower more confidence for our citizens and for our organisations”.

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Outlining the unique position of the military and other frontline organisations when trying to embed innovation, in that, they are not afforded the luxury of choosing their operational challenges, he asserts that Covid has served to highlight how organisations like the Defence Forces must strive to keep ahead of a changing world, which delivers the unexpected.

Discussing the emergence of the RTI unit, he says. “We needed a unit that would challenge the status quo in the correct way and that would help augment our decision making and build a diverse eco-system.

Offering an example of work already underway, Griffin points to a partnership with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) which saw the launch of the SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge, an invitation to academic research teams to work with the Defence Forces and innovate on specific challenges, including medical technologies, disaster relief, climate and ICT.

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“Incremental improvement will not suffice with the pace and demands of today’s world. We can only succeed by being a more agile Defence Forces, that nurtures innovation in all of its forms and which builds an identity to deliver innovation for defence and defence of the future,” he states.


The Defence Forces will embed their subject matter experts and logistic support with the academic teams, identifying challenges to the organisation and translating meaningful solutions. “What we have seen is the energy and freedom to solve real problems in this nature is so palpable,” says Griffin.

“Incremental improvement will not suffice with the pace and demands of today’s world.” “We needed a safe place for thinking differently, where it would be welcomed, fostered and of course, amplified.” The unit launched in January 2021, empowered by an organisation-wide feasibility study, which Griffin says provided a comprehensive blueprint for building the first dedicated civil-military unit. “The unit is developing within the Defence Forces, and we have the operations to deliver a world class capability but of course for that we need seamless innovation culture. We know we cannot do this alone and so we are looking for collaboration across the greater ecosystem of the public, government, academia, industry, media and of course, the Irish start-up community,” he explains. “The RTI unit can be a focus on where innovation lives on the day-to-day within defence. We are a focal point, but we cannot predict the future. We must question how we support this ecosystem of innovators, explore new ideas, learn quickly and iterate.”

“This nature of partnership will allow the Defence Forces to further develop its organisational innovation radar. It is going to allow us to enable rapid instigation and response to change in an ever more agile future. We cannot plan for everything, but we have to have something in place that will allow us to be that way more proactive.” The capability lead adds: “This unit is not the single point of truth. We have to build franchises. We have to empower people to experience a culture that allows space and time to switch from that ‘fixed’ to ‘growth’ mindset, where we all know creativity will be set free.” Griffin says that alongside processes and technology, the core of innovation in the Defence Forces will continue to be its people. “We have that legacy of innovating but that in itself will no longer be enough. That is why we are accelerating towards an innovative future. Our success will be laying the foundation for future innovators and establishing that culture to help them succeed. It must be more agile and innovative than we have ever been before,” he concludes.


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The ransomware attack on the HSE’s IT system in May 2021 showed Ireland that cybersecurity can no longer be taken for granted, writes David Curtin, CEO of .IE, the company that manages .ie, the preferred online address for business in Ireland. Most importantly, it alerted the Irish Government to the dangers of an underresourced cyberdefence network. Since the attack, it has pledged €2.5 million in funding for the National Cyber Security Centre. This is good news; more resources will help protect Ireland’s critical infrastructure from future disruption. The EU, too, is funnelling more money and minds towards cybersecurity threats. The Commission presented its plan for the Joint Cyber Unit in June; if approved, it will allow member state capitals to pool resources and provide mutual assistance should a catastrophic cyberattack occur. Two new EU laws, updates to NIS2 (Security of Network and Information Systems Directive) and CERD (Critical Entities Resilience Directive), will require critical sectors to have more robust cybersecurity policies, reporting procedures, and stronger physical protection of their technical infrastructure.


This increased cybersecurity awareness is not a coincidence. There has been a dramatic increase in our usage, reliance and dependence on digital tools, systems and applications during a year and a half of lockdowns and semirestricted trading. A successful cyberattack could conceivably put many SMEs out of business. Indeed, according to a 2021 Hiscox report, one in six businesses surveyed said a cyberattack this year had ‘materially threatened the solvency or viability of the company’. The same Hiscox report shows that the median cost of an attack on a micro-business is $8,000. SMEs, which make up 99 per cent of Irish businesses, are regular targets for cybercriminals.


From .IE’s work with SMEs, including our .IE Digital Town programme1 and .IE Tipping Point research2, we know that when it comes to digital, SMEs are frequently concerned about a lack of skills, time, and money. This means many SMEs de-prioritise important digital best practices, such as cybersecurity. Fortunately, the risk of being a victim of a cyberattack can be decreased dramatically with good security hygiene.

United we stand The beginning of a trend towards greater cooperation between government bodies, business and law enforcement is a very welcome development in the fight to contain damage inflicted by cyber criminals. Clearly, we are stronger if we are united in building defences and cyber skills. Guided by its multi-stakeholder policy advisory committee, .IE has commissioned a third party to provide ongoing monitoring and alerting services for its registrar/hosting channel. To date the service has helped over 300 SMEs and citizens, who are innocent victims of attacks related to phishing, bots and malware which had targeted their .ie domains. In addition, .IE has protocols with regulatory bodies, see www.weare.ie/governance for more detail, which result in suspension or deletion of .ie domains which operate fake webshops or offer for sale banned products, services or medicines. Thanks to the managed registry model operated by .IE, Ireland has a less risky namespace when compared to .com or .co.uk. All new .ie domain registrations

require documentary proof of a connection to Ireland, which is then manually verified by the .IE team. Owners of .ie domains can also avail of two additional security features that are provided by the registry: DNSSEC and Registry Lock. DNSSEC uses cryptography to add an extra layer of security to users’ networks, while Registry Lock protects a domain from malicious or accidental modification. All .ie website owners can also avail of an independently provided security certificate, which proves to visitors that a website is legitimate and secure. Our analysis shows that 40 per cent of .ie websites have security certificates. While it isn’t yet a majority, it demonstrates that the number of active .ie websites had a 44 per cent increase year-on-year.

Recognising cyber scams Most attempts at malicious entry to a computer network are opportunistic. Billions of personal and commercial email addresses and phone numbers are in circulation on the dark web. Hackers will routinely target large segments of these addresses and numbers in the hope that a tiny percentage of people will fall for their scam. As a result, the vast majority of successful cyberattacks depend entirely on deception. For example, a hacker might send an email that appears to be from a legitimate company, such as a bank, courier, or a subscription service that someone is likely to use, such as Netflix or Amazon. Typically, these emails claim that the user’s account will

be deleted if they do not take action. The user is directed to a dummy login page and enters their password and payment details, which are then stolen. This form of attack is described as a phishing attack.

Security hygiene All organisations, including SMEs, can take some basic steps to drastically reduce the likelihood of a cyberattack occurring: 1. Take updates seriously It's easy to dismiss your antivirus or operating systems update notifications during a busy workday, but it’s in your organisation’s best interests to act quickly and install them. These updates typically fix security holes in software, which hackers are notoriously quick to spot and exploit. Ensure all employees update when prompted. Security experts strongly recommend that you automate this task, to make it mandatory, and less prone to human lapses in security discipline.

By using a password manager, such as 1Password or Dashlane, you only need to remember one master password. The password manager will create random passwords for all your other accounts, securing them with encryption. 3. Be on your guard If an email offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sceptically interrogating suspicious messages can be the difference between business as usual and a costly mistake. Never open an attachment from a suspicious email’s sender. If in doubt, employees can check an address by safely hovering over it or clicking 'more details' in their email client. Be on the lookout for inconsistencies, unusual email addresses and mis-spelled domains. 4. Protect laptops when working from home

With more services and suppliers requiring sign-up details comes the temptation to reuse old passwords. While it’s convenient in the moment, the downside is that if your password becomes known to a hacker, all your accounts are at risk.

Using company laptops when working from home became commonplace during the Covid lockdown. Employees should be instructed to never, ever let their children or visitors use the company laptop to check their email, play music or surf the web. In particular,

never use a personal USB stick device on the company laptop. Fundamentally, the same cybersecurity principle that applies to multinational corporations and governments applies to micro and small businesses: prevention. Use a domain from a managed registry, such as .ie. Protect it with further security features, such as DNSSEC and Registry Lock. Acquire a security certificate from a third-party authenticator. Recognise danger and practise good security hygiene, and always update your software when prompted. Through simple proactive steps, SMEs can drastically reduce their chance of falling victim to an expensive and potentially ruinous cyberattack. Make cybersecurity your organisation’s priority in 2022.

E: marketing@weare.ie W: www.weare.ie 1: www.weare.ie/about-ie-digital-town 2: www.weare.ie/tipping-point


2. Enforce your passwords policy

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Other malicious emails request that you download a file, which is typically an executable file (.exe) disguised as an image, text document, or spreadsheet. When the user opens and initialises the file, the ransomware is deployed. The effect may be immediate or take days, weeks, or even months to surface, but the consequences are always the same: the user is logged out of its systems, when the hard drive is maliciously encrypted by the hacker. An automated message demands payment for the decryption key.


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Ireland climbs to fifth in DESI rankings Ireland has continued its ascent of the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) rankings, ranking fifth for 2021, having been sixth in 2020 and 2018, seventh in 2019 and eighth in 2016 and 2017.


Founded in 2014, the DESI monitors the digital progress of EU member states each year, breaking each state’s performance down into four main categories: human capital; connectivity; integration of digital technology; and digital public services. Ireland is outperforming the EU average in all four of these categories.

accounts for 27 per cent of Irish SME turnover, compared to the EU average of 12 per cent. However, Irish enterprise was found to be behind in electronic information sharing (28 per cent of enterprises versus an average of 36 per cent), use of AI (14 per cent versus 25 per cent) and use of e-invoices (19 per cent against 32 per cent).

In the Commission’s report on Ireland’s DESI score, particular mention is given to the performance of Irish SMEs and their level of digital activity, which falls under the integration of digital technology category. 66 per cent of Irish SMEs were found to have at least a basic level of digital intensity, compared to an EU average of 60 per cent; 32 per cent of SMEs are selling their goods and/or services online, compared to an EU average of 17 per cent; e-commerce

Ireland’s performance for connectivity improved in 2020, climbing above the EU average. Marked improvement was recorded in fixed very high-capacity network (VHCN) coverage, which increased from 35 per cent to 83 per cent. Ireland ranks behind the EU average in 4G coverage (99 per cent of populated areas versus 99.7 per cent), 5G readiness (30 per cent versus 51 per cent) and broadband price index (63 versus 69), but ahead on 5G coverage

(30 per cent versus 14 per cent), fast broadband coverage (96 per cent of households versus 87 per cent), and overall fixed broadband take-up (78 per cent of households versus 77 per cent). Ireland also scored well in the digital public services category, particularly in open data (92 per cent versus 78 per cent average) and providing digital public services for citizens (index score of 86 versus average of 75) and businesses (100 versus 84 on average). In terms of human capital, Ireland performs above the EU average in advanced digital skills, ICT specialists, female ICT specialists and ICT graduates, although the possession of basic digital skills (53 per cent of the population) are slightly lower than the EU average of 56 per cent.

Collaboration makes Digital Covid Certificate a success

“We went from a standing start to delivering a DCC and standing up a call centre in record time,” says Derek Tierney, Head of Health Infrastructure at DoH. “When there's a clear mandate, a unity of purpose, and the right partnerships, no-one can surpass what the public sector can achieve.”

How the Department of Health and Accenture came together to innovate and deliver a ground-

Tierney, who was Programme Director on the State’s High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination, was tasked with finding a way to establish a call-centre as part of rolling out Ireland’s DCC solution. Accenture proved to be a crucial partner in this end-to-end process. The first task was taking data from the HSE to allow the Office of the Government CIO team to build the solution to create the Digital Covid Certificate with a QR code. Simultaneously, wheels were in motion to mobilise a call centre that would be available from day one to resolve citizen queries.

When the EU Digital Covid Certificate

Digital contact centre solutions

breaking Digital Covid-19 Certificate

(DCC) regulation went live on 1 July,

enabling national health authorities to issue digital covid certificates, the

pressure was on European countries to deliver them to their citizens. On 19

July, less than three weeks later, the Irish Government was ready with its DCC, the culmination of an

With a short deadline, Accenture worked collaboratively with the public sector to design, build and operate the multichannel call centre solution. The choice of cloud solutions was informed by the Irish public sector’s existing vendor relationships with Amazon and Microsoft, and Accenture’s record of

The scale and ambition of the project, however, soon called for technologies that took the partnership into new territory. In the first weeks of operation, where around 60,000 calls were expected; it received more than 400,000. The pressure was on to scale up and automate. Different service channels were in place, but more was needed to cope with the volume of enquiries. Accenture responded with leading-edge technologies. Secure digital verification tools were used to help verify citizens were who they said they were without manual intervention, and a solution called CALM (conversation analytics and language modelling) was deployed to analyse the intent of customers. Insights from the software was used to identify the most common queries, informing which responses could be automated. “We had to accelerate a transition from a traditional agent-intensive service to a digital solution,” recalls Tierney. “Working with Accenture, we were able to quickly deploy self-service options and managed to keep the public with us on the journey.” He describes a “collaborative partnership approach” that went way beyond a commercial relationship. “The Accenture team challenged our thinking and the traditional mindset in terms of how to go about designing and delivering a solution that allows the public engage with you across multiple channels,” says Tierney. “The last five years have seen a significant step forward in the provision of eGovernment services, with a steady uptake in service consumption, which then spiked enormously during the pandemic. This project builds on the ambition to evolve from eGovernment to digital government.”


call centre service.

“The Accenture team provided the systems integration competency and the call centre solution and services, but more than that, they drew on emerging trends and made us think about how we designed the service, and how we understood the user journey,” explains Tierney.

deploying these solutions at scale: the contact centre solution was built using AWS Connect, with the Agent Case Management Solution built using Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

technology and innovation report

extraordinary team effort cutting across several government departments and agencies. As well as generating and issuing millions of DCCs, there was also a need to establish a contact centre, steered by the Department of Health (DoH) to deal with citizen queries.


Home or hybrid work and device security technology and innovation report

The human element (falling for phishing, scams, poor password practice) and technology and cloud-specific challenges (exploits targeting unpatched VPNs, misconfigured RDP servers, vulnerabilities, and user misconfiguration of SaaS offerings, as well as reports of stolen account passwords) pose the greatest threats of cybersecurity incidents. The good news is that security experts like ESET have been promoting best practices in security for years. While there’s no silver bullet, the following will help to mitigate cyber-risk to hybrid working practices: •

classify enterprise data flowing through the cloud and put in place appropriate controls;

strong encryption for data residing in the cloud at rest and in transit;

health-related measures. But has security of the

strong passwords (use a password manager);

devices used kept up to pace?

multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all accounts;

restrict access to sensitive accounts with a policy of least privilege;

prompt risk-based patching of all cloud servers and software;

zero trust approach to reduce the impact of breaches; and

regular staff security training on how to spot phishing and scams.

Ireland, along with most of the developed world, has seen a massive shift towards working from home or hybrid work in the past two years, due to the known


A November article on TheJournal.ie, titled “We’re to ‘work from home unless it's absolutely necessary', so can the civil service set an example?”, quoted the Government’s advice that everyone should work from home “unless it is absolutely necessary” and told us that “The Association of Higher and Civil Public Servants (AHCPS) estimated in a survey during the summer that about 80 per cent of staff within various departments were either working remotely or were engaged in blended working”, while a July article in the Irish Times, “Civil servants could work from home up to March 2022”, commented on the speculations of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD that, conditioned by public health advice and the trajectory of the pandemic, individual departments and offices would finalise and rollout their long-term blended working policies and implementation plans “from September 2021 to March 2022”. 90

If not working from home entirely, many organisations have adapted hybrid work as their policy, which has further complicated managing devices because in many cases the line between home devices and office devices has blurred. In a hybrid work setup, some devices may remain in the office, while others will commute back and forth. This makes limiting use to a particular network complex, not to mention finding the extra time staying on top of security. Therefore, ensuring that the migration of both personal and work devices between home and office networks is secure may require enhanced tools and practices. ESET research in 2021 found that 80 per cent of global businesses are confident their home-working employees have the knowledge and technology needed to handle cyberthreats. However, in the same study, three-quarters (73 per cent) admitted they are likely to be impacted by a cybersecurity incident, and half said they’d already been breached in the past.

While technical measures like prompt patching are obviously vital, so are human considerations. Regular training and awareness sessions for all employees are a crucial component to enhancing any organisations cybersecurity posture. They may be the weakest link, but staff are also the first line of defence.

ESET Ireland T: 053 914 66 00 E: info@eset.ie W: eset.ie

technology and innovation report

With Cloud First, you uncover value faster

Health tech innovation in Ireland eolas provides an overview of the 2021 HealthTech Ireland Awards winners that are bringing innovation to health technology in Ireland. YellowSchedule YellowSchedule won the Best Healthcare Innovation piloted in an Irish healthcare setting award in 2021 for its innovative solution to managing and streamlining visitations. The technology allows for the self-scheduling of visits by nominated visitors, allowing ward capacity management to enable social distancing in the context of Covid-19, as well as Covid screening questionnaires and visitor check-in. Piloted in South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork, the digital solution automates the tasks of visitor management and contact tracing, and can also manage the verification of Covid vaccine certificates for the hospital.

TriMedika TriMedika, in conjunction with the HSE, won the sustainability award for its TRITEMP product, a non-contact thermometer. With a 900-bed hospital 92

likely to use up to three million disposable thermometers per year, the reusable non-contact thermometer has been credited with both saving money and reducing waste in hospitals.

of care to produce patient observation records. It allows caregivers to complete observations digitally though a tablet that is linked to the central station of the ward and to a server.

The TRITEMP is medically graded and accurate to within 0.2ºC, using infrared technology that collects infrared rays emitted by the patient, typically from the forehead. The thermometer then uses multiple algorithms to convert the temperature from the forehead to a core body temperature. The technology developed by the Belfast-based company is now used in over 500 hospitals, including 150 NHS sites.

The tablet is connected to a vital signs monitor where possible via a cable with the output port of the monitor. The product then accepts direct feeds of data from the monitor while allowing for manual data inputs and possible overrides from the medical professional operating the machine. Once the data is saved by the caregiver, it is transmitted to the server and the ward’s central station and typically automatically fed to the EHR from the server in order to make the patient’s vital signs data immediately available to any authorised viewer. This quick uploading of the data allows ward managers to review patient acuity concerns, nurse caseload, resource management and protocol compliance all at a glance at the ward’s central station.

Syncrophi Syncrophi, in conjunction with the HSE’s Digital Transformation and National Medical Device Office teams, won in the patient safety category for its Vital Signs KEWS integration product. The KEWS 300, a paperless patient observation tool, is a software product that is deployed in hospitals at the point

Connecting rural communities will transform Ireland

they live or work. It’s quite an incredible feat and it’s going to be transformational for Ireland.

In November 2019, we proudly signed contracts with the Government to deliver the highly anticipated National Broadband Plan. Recognised as one of the biggest and most ambitious telecoms infrastructure projects of its kind globally, it has been heralded as “the biggest investment in rural Ireland ever”. Fast-forward to today and the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the criticality of reliable, high-speed connectivity, which has become essential for work, education and so many aspects of our lives. Such is the demand for bandwidth, that internet usage has grown by over 40 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Stretching across 96 per cent of the country’s land mass, we’re laying enough fibre to go around the world nearly four times. This is about radically changing the broadband landscape across the country to ensure that every man, woman, and child has access to high-speed broadband, no matter where

The NBP is an example of incredibly ambitious Government policy and supports Ireland’s heritage in punching above its weight. Take for example, Ireland’s service economy: Ireland is a small country geographically, but it’s number seven globally in exporting services. The economy is moving globally to be tech enabled and the foundation for that is having connectivity to every person and making sure it’s viewed as an essential utility. Across almost all developed countries, what we see today is a digital divide whereby urban areas have an incredible advantage with access to connectivity and digital services, but many rural areas have been left underserved and that causes all sorts of problems.

Ireland. Over 277,000 premises have now been surveyed nationwide, which involves NBI crews physically walking the routes where fibre will be laid. Over 228,000 of these premises are already designed or progressing through detailed design work. Collectively, these are critical components which pave the way for fast and effective construction work. As of today, construction work is underway for over 125,000 premises across the country and over 30,500 premises are now able to order services via retail service providers, with minimum speeds of 500 megabits per second. With nearly 50 RSPs ready to sell services on the NBI network, this is going to be a game-changer, bringing significant benefits directly to consumers and businesses across Ireland.

Visit www.nbi.ie for more information, including to find out if you’re in the intervention area and to receive Eircode specific updates on the rollout progress.


Taking on the challenge of the National Broadband Plan, our team at NBI will be deploying fibre on approximately 1.5 million poles, many of them new, over 15,000km of underground ducts, will use up to 142,000km of new fibre cable, and will run along almost 100,000km of the road network.

In less than two years, our team has grown to have over 1,200 people working on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, either directly with NBI or through our network of specialist contractors. We have the best team in the world working to deliver this complex project, with experience of financing, building, and operating some of the biggest infrastructure assets in the world.

technology and innovation report

National Broadband Ireland Chairman David McCourt discusses “the biggest investment in rural Ireland since rural electrification”.

We have to be in a position where people in a rural environment can start a business or grow a business from where they live. You can’t just assume that the only smart people in the world are those who live in an urban environment, and this is something that needs to be rethought. The solution is well underway. Work on the NBP continues at pace with our teams working in every county across 93

technology and innovation report

Digital transformation to drive better governance HIQA implements Decision Time Alongside significant reviews of their organisational structure, changes to oversight arrangements and a drive towards formal quality management systems, HIQA decided to implement a new set of digital tools to support its governance. They chose Decision Time to help track the delivery of their objectives, the management of risks, the implementation of audit recommendations and the facilitation of compliance with key statutory requirements.

David Braziel, Technical Director, Decision Time.

In recent years, leaders in the public sector have been faced with significant changes to how they must govern and run their organisations. Pressure is increasing to be more accountable, deliver on performance targets, and widen governance scope to include environmental and social impacts.


At the same time, significant external risks such as the global pandemic, cybercrime and shifting macro-economic and political forces all need to be identified, controlled, and managed. Across Ireland, organisations are finding new ways to meet these challenges and new tools to support them. Digital transformation is changing the way we govern. By implementing modern risk management, decision-making, and performance frameworks, organisations are remodelling how they operate, becoming more flexible, more resilient, and improving their performance. They are also finding new ways to 94

HIQA found that carefully selecting the right tool was significant in managing their risks and objectives successfully. Kathleen Lombard, Board Secretary at HIQA, said: “Because Decision Time is easy to use, it has helped to embed risk management at different levels in the organisation. In addition, it facilitates the tracking of internal audit recommendations and ensures that the relevant statutory requirements are recorded and reviewed regularly. The system also provides a more efficient way of running our board and committee meetings.”

demonstrate compliance and their level of control to stakeholders and regulators.

Solution meets council needs on security, data hosting and ease of use

As a quality improvement agency and the independent regulator of health and social care services in the Republic of Ireland, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is an organisation with a wide range of diverse and expanding functions. Supporting those functions is a busy, growing workforce, and this workforce, like many others, is undergoing transformative changes to the way they work. Meeting objectives in this complex environment requires detailed planning and delivery under increasing scrutiny.

Monaghan County Council implemented Decision Time for their meetings and risk management and was impressed by the direct benefits and how the solution fits their vision. As a progressive council, Monaghan aims to adopt digital technologies. In June 2021, they launched a five-year digital strategy in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and leaders in education, the community and business. To monitor and deliver these ambitious strategic goals, complete actions, and drive digital transformation across the county, the steering

committee needed to embrace an easyto-use digital platform. Carmel O'Hare, Information Systems and Innovation Lead for the Council said: “Decision Time provides us with an easyto-use platform that facilitates the smooth running of our board and committee meetings, embeds risk management and encourages collaboration. The solution meets our key requirements on security, data hosting and ease of use.”

Building a flexible, resilient organisation with solid controls, a clear vision, and a well-defined set of objectives should be the primary task for any leader. While the core of good governance shouldn't be complicated, it is time-consuming and needs to be embedded across your whole organisation, so choosing the right tools is essential.

Over-engineering solutions to governance problems is a real danger To succeed, organisations need new digital solutions and governance frameworks that are more appropriate to the modern world. These solutions must be easy to use, clear, reliable, secure, and available anywhere and at any time of the day. They do not need to be complex, in fact, over-engineering solutions to governance problems is a real danger leading to a false sense of security and over-burdening teams with additional work just to feed the system. Decision Time's straightforward approach is based on three pillars:

“Decision Time provides us with an easy-touse platform that facilitates the smooth running of our board and committee meetings, embeds risk management and facilitates collaboration.” Carmel O’Hare, Information Systems and Innovation Lead, Monaghan County Council

Build an effective culture of accountability

enabling the prompts and status

You will also need a well-structured, embedded approach to risk management with easy capture, assessment and categorisation of risks supported by automatic reminders and prompts to review and test your controls. An embedded approach means that risk management is no longer the sole responsibility of an individual or team within the organisation but is on everyone's agenda. This is difficult when using a centralised spreadsheet or word document to track risks but becomes easier when you deploy a proper digital system that all leaders can access and update in a controlled way.


Moving from flat reports, either printed or distributed as PDFs, is the first step. Using a well-designed, visual, digital dashboard instead gives you a clear view of your risks, objectives, and results from the highest level down to specific departments and teams. A good dashboard will let you see an overview of the current status, spot any warning signs or problems and then drill down into the details when you need to.

Finally, you need a way to capture all of the actions that emerge from your governance activities, those for mitigating risk, repairing controls, addressing performance issues or implementing decisions from meetings. These actions need to be owned and given clear deadlines, which the system can then use to issue email prompts and reminders until the action is complete. By making these actions visible and by

2) Making decision-making more efficient so that you know what needs to be done.

updates, you can build an effective

culture of accountability across your

Choosing the right tool is essential The days of managing risks and

objectives on a set of spreadsheets or

word documents are over. Modern digital governance tools provide an integrated,

easy-to-use interface with all the controls and alerts you need to deliver

outstanding performance. Choosing the right tool is essential but selecting the right partner to work with is also vital.

Decision Time has a unique software platform, but, just as importantly, it has the experience and skills honed from


3) Building a culture of accountability in your teams so they can do what is necessary to meet their objectives.

We all attend so many meetings now and often feel that they could be more focused, shorter, and more effective. A straightforward digital meeting tool gives you a way to manage meetings, create agendas, add documents, and track outcomes, decisions, and actions in context without piles of paper or complex email threads and drop-boxes.

1) Enabling you to see at a glance, the health of your organisation, your risks and progress towards your goals.

technology and innovation report

Both of these examples combine the right tools and a solid framework to improve the organisation’s governance significantly.

deploying solutions in many public sector organisations across Ireland and the UK. Talk to Decision Time today about how it can help you to drive better governance in your organisation: T: +44 28 9448 7753 E: info@decisiontime.co.uk W: www.decisiontime.co.uk




Bo th



in g s Fe g de oo br ua adlin n ry e 20 22 ok

Yearbook 2022 The essential desktop sourcebook for the Irish energy sector.

Closing soon for 2022! This year is the 23rd edition of the Energy Ireland Yearbook. The Energy Ireland Yearbook is a high quality reference source for users interested or involved in Irish energy from inside or outside Ireland – this includes policymakers, regulators, energy sector company executives, facilities managers, large energy users and professional firms servicing Ireland’s rapidly developing energy markets.

The Energy Ireland Yearbook is the only detailed guide to Irish energy (north and south). Content includes: • Energy policy north and south • Overview of electricity market networks • Gas sector including biogas

• Sustainable energy in industry and transport • Digital energy • Unique who’s who in Irish energy

• Renewable and sustainable energy

Benefits of advertising: 4

Direct contact with key decision makers within the energy sector


Distributed directly to delegates at energy conferences north and south throughout the year


Excellent opportunity to profile/showcase your organisations goods/services to a key audience throughout the energy sector


Gain recognition as a thought leader

Tel: +353 (0)1 661 3755 Email: leanne.brannigan@energyireland.ie


Education and skills report




education and skills report

Minister Simon Harris TD: Education, skills, and lifelong learning Credit: Merrion Street

Education, skills, and lifelong learning are the most robust, transformative and lasting means to future-proof our country’s economic and social wellbeing, writes Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD. Our education and skills system needs to be flexible to meet the needs of the learner, of the economy and of society, in order that Ireland can retain its advantage in the global war for talent by retaining and building on its skilled workforce. The education and skills system must encompass everyone and must validate everyone’s path on their skills and career journey. The truth of this is borne out by recent experience. It is fair to say Covid-19 has upended each of our lives in different ways. From an economic and societal point of view, it exposed many divides in our society. One of the most glaring divides was in the area of digital skills. When the world moved online in March 2020, a whole cohort of people were left behind. One-in-six of us struggle with reading and understanding everyday text. One-in-four adults have difficulties using maths in everyday life. Half of us do not have the basic digital skills we need.


While most of us could work online, do our shopping, our banking online, there was a whole sector of society struggling to get by. Ireland prides itself on being a knowledge-based economy but until we can tackle the digital divide, we risk leaving a whole generation of people locked out of the economy and society. This is why my relatively new department is working to address this challenge. We want to ensure that every single person has the tools to reach their full potential in life. We need to broaden the conversation beyond what people should do in life to what they want to do and how we help them meet those goals. One of the most important initiatives we have launched this year is a new Adult Literacy for Life Strategy. This is one of the most important things we will do. This really important piece of work will see significant investment and resources allocated to ensuring people have the ability to read, to write,

education and skills report

Minister Simon Harris TD with John Fitzsimons, CEO of St Andrews Resource Centre, and Dermot McCarthy, Chair of St Andrews, at the graduation for the Construction Skills and Retrofitting programme at Dublin Port. Credit: Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

“Until we can tackle the digital divide, we risk leaving a whole generation of people locked out of the economy and society.” to go online. From next year, we will place 16 regional literacy co-ordinators in each Education and Training Board (ETB), across the country. This will mean one person will oversee the literacy services and supports that are available throughout the region and can be offered to each person to ensure they have the best chance in life. What will this mean in practice? Well, I was lucky enough to meet with some women in Kilkenny recently. They told me they felt ashamed of their inability to read and write for years. Because of the work they have done in the ETB, they were able to type me a letter explaining how much it meant to them. The truth is Ireland will never fulfil its potential if each of our citizens cannot participate in society and that is why inclusion is key in addressing the challenge of ensuring we have a highly skilled workforce. Otherwise, we risk missing out on the skills and talents of a whole cohort of people – and this is bad for the individual, bad for enterprise and bad for society. My department has achieved a lot in its first year, and we have plans to do a lot more. Since November 2021, school leavers who have logged on to the CAO webpage can see all of their options including further education, training and apprenticeships. This is so important. Because across dinner tables over the next few months, our fifth and sixth years will start wondering what is next for them. For far too long, that is a conversation that has focused on the university they want to attend, rather than the career they wish to have. Increasing the visibility of further education and apprenticeships will rebalance the scales, we hope, and send a strong message that there is no right or wrong way to learn. There are different ways. Our evolving apprenticeship system reflects this. The Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 will bring about a unified and coherent system of programmes, which will make apprenticeship a more recognised and valued qualification. It will be easier for 4


education and skills report

Minister Simon Harris TD and Minister Simon Coveney TD at Munster Technological University's Bishopstown campus in Cork, in November. Credit: Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

“Increasing the visibility of further education and apprenticeships will rebalance the scales.” both learners and employers to engage with and present further opportunities within our overall skills offering.

empower and encourage individuals to manage their own career journey, and best support them to do so?

The pace of change in the world of work is exponential and Ireland’s future sustainability and success depends on the achievements of learners, researchers, and innovators, on their specialised knowledge, expertise, on their capacity to progress their own development, and on their collective capacity to widen and deepen social and economic progress, regionally and nationally.

We are thinking a lot about this challenge already, including considering a set of guiding principles for how we develop skills policy around lifelong learning and how we can build on our already strong partnerships with enterprise to embed a culture of lifelong learning across all kinds of businesses.

As we enter 2022, there are some key challenges we must get to grips with. The first is lifelong learning. We know that Ireland in general does a good job of educating our young people. We know though that we tend to stop learning when we enter the workplace. I want to do better on this. How can we best


We know that in a dynamic and evolving economy, there will always be skills shortages. The imperative is to ensure agility and responsiveness in the system to respond to shortages as they emerge. As our work advances, it will be critical to ensure that this system continues to meet the standards of responsiveness, flexibility, and adaptiveness that we need, now and into the future.

Léargas: Supporting innovation for both teachers and students

Students at Castleconnell National School, County Limerick, celebrate Erasmus+.

As Ireland’s National Agency for European Union programmes like Erasmus+ and eTwinning, Léargas have managed international and national exchange programmes in the adult education, school education, vocational education and training, and youth sectors for almost 35 years. These exchanges connect people across different communities, counties, and countries, and bring a European dimension to Irish organisations. In the last two years, many Irish education and training organisations have had to adapt and innovate as they have found new ways to bring their educators and learners together. In November 2021, to recognise their work, Léargas brought together three key European award schemes into one celebration of the most creative and inspiring communities, organisations, and teachers at the forefront of teaching and learning across Ireland.

Award-winning European Language Label projects all supported learners at school or university to deeply engage with other languages, from English as a second language to Spanish to Lithuanian. One of the winners, the University of Limerick, created immersive virtual exchanges to ensure their Erasmus students could develop their language and digital skills in new ways.

Three Irish schools were among the recipients of the first European Innovative Teaching Award which highlights outstanding teaching practices in Erasmus+ projects. In 2021, the Award focused on projects that used distance learning, alongside teaching practices and related digital tools and other forms of blended learning, to provide effective and inclusive education, a theme that is particularly relevant in the current Covid-19 context. Castleconnell National School worked with partners across Europe to create an inclusive model of special education in their school.

The eTwinning National Quality Label is presented to teachers with eTwinning projects that show excellence in using Information and Communication Technology in their classrooms, using a variety of teaching methods, and putting pupils at the centre of their work. Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada, Árainn Mhór, County Donegal won an eTwinning National Quality Label for their project ‘The Multilingual Book’. “My favourite part of the project was creating my character and coming up with the story for her,” said one of the pupils at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada. As we head into a new year of Covid uncertainty, Léargas and our programmes will continue to support teachers and learners to find innovative ways to work and learn together with their peers across Europe. To find out more, visit leargas.ie.

Léargas Points of Contact: www.leargas.ie Programme Support & Development Team psdt@leargas.ie eTwinning etwinning@leargas.ie Languages languages@leargas.ie Twitter: www.twitter.com/Leargas Facebook: www.facebook.com/Leargas.ireland Instagram: www.instagram.com/leargas.ireland


The Léargas Innovative Learning Awards (LILAS) ceremony celebrated winning projects in three different but interlinked European exchange and learning initiatives: the European Language Label; the new European Innovative Teaching Award; and the eTwinning National Quality Label.

Florence le Baron-Earle, teacher of French and Technology at University of Limerick said: “We wanted to make sure that virtual exchanges are maintained in the future… because it’s been proven that virtual exchange can really help students. Even if they go on exchanges after (travel) resumes, it’s a great way to prepare them. So, the overall results of the project are very positive. We could see really strong engagement from students, and the main goals of developing their linguistic skills, their intercultural competencies and digital literacy have been achieved.”

education and skills report

“By collaborating with other professionals in other European schools, we can learn so much from each other and Erasmus+ is an ideal opportunity for teachers to bring those practices home to their own schools,” said Brian Dillon, Assistant Principal of the County Limerick school.


education and skills report

Education at a crossroads Ireland boasts more third-level graduates than the EU average, but the Oireachtas has been told that second-level education is not equipping students for the future. With the immediate threat to the sector of Covid-19 still looming, Irish education finds itself at a pivotal crossroads. ‘Bold’ action is needed to halt the failure of the Leaving Certificate to prepare Irish students for the challenges of the future, the Oireachtas’ Joint Committee on Education has been told. Emer Smyth of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) told the committee that the focus on exams in the Irish education system is having a “significant negative effect” on both teaching and learning. “The exam-focused approach is seen by students, parents and teachers as leading to rote learning, with a focus on memorising material at the expense of authentic understanding and a neglect of the development and assessment of broader skills,” Smyth said. “Exam marking schemes have become a key driver of student engagement in exam preparation. Levels of stress tend to escalate in sixth year with students finding their schoolwork even more difficult. Many students, especially female students, report feelings of strain and loss of confidence in sixth year.”


Smyth was speaking to committee as it considered submissions around the topic of Leaving Cert reform, a topic that has defined Irish second-level education for over a decade now, culminating in the first of the modern Leaving Cert reform measures in 2012, when maximum points achievable were increased from 600 to 625. In its current form, the Leaving Cert is having a “pernicious” impact on the learning and lives of young people, Anne Looney of Dublin City University told the committee, with Tom Collins of Maynooth University adding that it was “stacked against poorer students and less well-resourced schools”. Speaking on the challenge facing those working to reform second-level education, chairperson of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs Tony Donohoe told the committee: “We’re trying to prepare young people, who will still be in the workplace in 2070, 2075, so it’s impossible to predict. It is not a precise science. Who would have predicted the pandemic, for example, and its impact on digital skills?”

Further CSO data for 2021 shows the 25-34 age group continuing to have the highest levels of third-level education qualifications, with three in every five possessing a tertiary qualification. Regionally, these rates can differ, with 61 per cent of people in Dublin aged 24-64 having a qualification, a rate that drops to 44 per cent in other areas. A possible explanation for the education system’s focus on getting students to third-level could also be seen in the data: women were shown to be three times more likely to be employed if they possessed a third-level qualification; men aged 25-64 with a qualification had an employment rate of 90 per cent compared to 38 per cent for those without a qualification.

education and skills report

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has said that there is “more to progression beyond senior cycle than just CAO points and higher education” and pledged to reforming the Leaving Cert so that it works for “all” students in the coming years. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD told the committee that the “current system does not prepare a student for life beyond education”, “does not teach students about financial literacy, digital skills, sex education, or climate skills” and that “such skills would help our students transition to the thirdlevel system or employment”.

Two-thirds of school leavers between 18-24 were found to be economically inactive in 2021, compared to 35 per cent of others in the same age bracket, pointing to the possibility that reform of the Leaving Cert and third-level system may well depend on reform of an economy that demands its workers have third-level qualifications. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created more urgent problems for the education system once again, with masks now introduced for primary school children and primary school aged children accounting for 19.6 per cent of all Covid cases. With demands for increased ventilation that does not sacrifice heat during the winter months in schools, the Department of Education and Minister Foley have found themselves under increasing pressure as the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation calls for increased protection for its members, such as the return of contact tracing.

Credit: Merrion Street

That third-level system turns out a significant number of graduates greater than the EU average according to recently released Central Statistics Office (CSO) data. A CSO study conducted in 2020 found 58 per cent of 25–34year-olds in Ireland to have a tertiary level qualification, compared to an EU average of 41 per cent.

Both the Government and NPHET had previously insisted that schools were safe zones during the pandemic; with that now evidently untrue, the onus will be on the Department to protect staff and students while avoiding a return to the lost hours of education seen in 2020 and the first half of 2021.

More than half of people in Ireland aged between 25 and 64 were found to possess a third-level qualification, 53 per cent in total, reflecting the steady increase of participation in the third-level sector over time. Whether this acts as vindication for the Leaving Certificate system or a validation of the criticism that it simply facilitates progress to third-level without equipping students with required with skills, however, would likely depend on a given viewpoint.


education and skills report

Curriculum change: What is and what might be

Last year, in eolas issue 43, we introduced the work of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in an article titled ‘Crafting curriculum and assessment for this generation and the next’. Since then and despite the tumultuous challenges of Covid-19, we have been progressing our consultative and developmental work across early childhood, primary and post-primary education in support of the Department of Education’s Statement of Strategy 2021–2023.


In this article, we’re putting the spotlight on curriculum developments in support of greater curriculum alignment and continuity across primary and early childhood education. We begin by outlining the consultation process on proposals for a Redeveloped Primary Curriculum before moving onto the rationale and the process for NCCA in updating Ireland’s Early Childhood Curriculum Framework.

Primary What children learn and how children learn in primary school is changing, and 104

we are asking the public for their views on the proposals published in the Draft Primary Curriculum Framework. The current Primary School Curriculum is 22 years old, and since it was launched in 1999, Ireland has changed considerably. Primary schools are more dynamic and busier than ever, and teachers and principals respond to a greater diversity of children and families. There have also been many policy developments such as universal preschool education, and the publication of a number of strategies which have specific actions related to the primary curriculum. In

addition, society has growing expectations of the purpose of a primary curriculum reflecting, to some extent, changes in societal values, globalisation, technological advancements, and commitments to sustainability, social cohesion, and inclusion. Taking all of this into account, we need to ensure that the primary curriculum continues to do the best for children, especially when we think of how children born this year will begin primary school in 2026 or 2027, start their working lives in the 2040s and retire in

the 2080s/2090s. All of this creates an important opportunity to think about the purpose of a primary curriculum when we think of the years ahead.

supporting transitions between primary school and the home, preschool, and post-primary school;

introducing seven key competencies from junior infants to sixth class to enable children to adapt and deal with a range of situations, challenges, and contexts in support of broader learning outcomes;

using five broad curriculum areas for junior infants to second class that support subject-based learning from third to sixth class: language, mathematics, science, and technology education, wellbeing, arts education, and social and environmental education. The curriculum will continue to include the Patron’s Programme of the school which can be religious education, ethical and/or multibelief education; having more focus on physical education (PE), social, personal and health education (SPHE) and digital learning, along with the introduction of modern foreign languages (from third class), technology, learning about religions and beliefs, and a broader arts education;

giving schools more flexibility to decide, with some guidance, how their time is used across the school day and week. For example, a school might decide to allocate some time to a project or initiative in their local community; and

promoting learning experiences that involve children being active, interacting, collaborating with each other, thinking creatively and problem-solving, and feeling a sense of belonging in their school.

Taking account of the pandemic and the challenging circumstances in schools, consultation on the Draft Primary Curriculum Framework was re-designed into two phases. Phase one took place from February to December 2020 and focused on engagement with national stakeholder organisations and groups, while phase two, open from October 2021 to February 2022, prioritises working with teachers, school leaders, the general public, parents and, importantly, children.

Public consultation on updating Aistear is taking place over two phases. Phase one began in May 2021 and is ongoing to gather responses to two key questions:

Early Childhood Now turning our attention to early childhood, we have initiated an updating of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, which is now 12 years old. The framework supports adults in providing appropriately challenging, motivating, and enjoyable learning experiences within nurturing relationships for children from birth to six years. Early childhood is a time of being and becoming, a time which provides important foundations for children’s learning and for life itself. Aistear is underpinned by twelve principles and unlike the curriculum used by schools, it describes learning and development using four interconnected themes: well-being, identity and belonging, communicating, and exploring and thinking. The framework can be used in a range of settings, including day care, playgroups, naíonraí and preschools. While Aistear is only 12 years old, much has changed in Ireland since 2009 and this impacts on children’s lives. These changes include a society that is now more socially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse; developments in national policy such as First 5: A Wholeof-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Their Families, as well as curriculum and assessment developments. New research, particularly research on babies, continue to raise awareness and emphasise the critical importance of this period in a child’s life. Given these and other changes, it is timely that we update Aistear to ensure its continued relevance and impact in enhancing quality curriculum provision for our youngest children. This is an opportunity to revitalise and update the framework by incorporating learning from practice and research with the overall aim of enhancing children’s lived experiences in Ireland.

What is working well with Aistear?

What might be enhanced or updated?

Children are at the heart of Aistear, and a strand of the consultation is dedicated to gathering the views of babies, toddlers, and young children. This is being undertaken by a team led by Maynooth University. Additionally, a team from Dublin City University Institute of Education is conducting a literature review to update the research base for Aistear’s themes. The findings from these activities will be used to develop proposals for updating Aistear, and these will be the focus for Phase 2 of the consultation which will be initiated later this year.

Conclusion Curriculum is central in ensuring continuity and progression in children’s learning within and across early childhood and primary education. Highlevel, sectoral consultations, such as those described in this article, don’t happen often. The aim of our consultative processes is to hear the views of all stakeholders, including children, on how future curriculum frameworks in both the early childhood and primary sectors can best support children’s learning, development, and wellbeing. The findings from both consultations will influence each other and thus ensure that there is strengthened curriculum policy alignment across early childhood and primary education which supports appropriate learning experiences for children.


The consultation process

education and skills report

As well as using research information, we have worked directly with schools and preschools to develop the draft framework. This has included working with a network of 60 schools, called the ‘Schools Forum’, consisting of different types of primary, post-primary and preschools from across the country. The public consultation on the Draft Primary Curriculum Framework is looking at the main changes proposed for the primary curriculum. These include:

The consultation process

You’ll find details on how you can have your say on the NCCA website at https://ncca.ie/en/updates-andevents/consultations/

T: 01 661 7177 E: info@ncca.ie W: ncca.ie


P RO F I L E :

education and skills report

Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Established following Orders of Dáil Éireann and of Seanad Éireann on 31 July 2020 and 16 September 2020 respectively, the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science agreed its Work Programme in January 2021. In conducting its work, the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science informs debate and examines matters pertaining to the education system, including early education, primary, secondary, further education and training, and higher education. Simultaneously, it examines matters relating to research, innovation, and science. Meanwhile, the Dáil Select Committee on Education was established by order of Dáil Éireann on 31 July 2020. The Select Committee is responsible for considering legislation relating to both the Department of Education and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, as well as proposals contained in any motion, estimates for public services, other matters as referred to the Select Committee by the Dáil, annual output statements, and relevant value for money and policy reviews.


Clerk to the Committee:

Senators: Carol Nolan

Tara Kelly


Aisling Dolan FINE GAEL

Jim O’Callaghan



Paul Kehoe



Pádraig O’Sullivan FIANNA FÁIL



Fiona O’Loughlin FIANNA FÁIL

Marc Ó Cathasaigh GREEN PARTY

Pauline O'Reilly GREEN PARTY

Deputies: Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Rose Conway-Walsh



Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Alan Farrell



106 Credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

KEY POLICY AREAS Key policy areas identified for examination by the Joint Committee are divided into three categories.

2. Primary and secondary level: Implementing protocols for at risk students and staff; school bullying and mental health repercussions; homework in primary schools; school completion, and home school community liaison; educational disadvantage; special needs provision; Leaving Certificate reform; the RSE Programme; the Retention of Records Bill; the relationship between the education system and child and youth mental health; the future of Irish language education; a new modern languages in primary schools initiative; school patronage at primary and post-primary level; class sizes and the pupil/teacher ratio; introduction of a healthy eating programme; reducing school costs; the School Building Programme and Energy Efficiency Upgrade Pilot Programme; feeder schools and school catchment area challenges; provision, content and delivery of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and

Continuous Professional Development (CPD); and school transport for 2021. 3. Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on further and higher education institutions; reopening colleges and future funding reforms; rising accommodation costs; a National Student Accommodation Strategy; expansion of technological universities; higher education’s ability to acquire and retain international research funding; the apprenticeship model; future funding of higher education; future of ERASMUS; reforming scientific and innovation research models; developing pathways to further and higher education for STEM talent; reviewing Innovation 2020; establishing a National Innovation Council; the Higher Education Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme in the Technological University/Institute of Technology sector; progress on New Decade, New Approach commitments on higher education provision in the north-west; supporting a north-south programme of research and innovation; a proposed Connaught/Ulster Alliance in Higher Education; progress on measures to challenge sexual violence and harassment in higher education; education challenges facing asylum seekers and those in direct provision; a new literacy, numeracy and digital skills strategy; National Strategy for Further Education and Training; and engagement between higher education institutions in Ireland with Chinese universities.

education and skills report

1. General: progress on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals set out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda; requirement for a Citizens’ Assembly on the Future of Education; addressing discrimination of minority communities facing exclusion from all levels of the Irish education system; decent work for people working within each level of the education sector; progress on the implementation of relevant recommendations within the Report of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Climate Action; the impact of Brexit on Irish education; and the adequacy of the Department of Education’s Digital Strategy.

R E C E N T R E P O RT S Recent reports published by the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science include: 1. The Work Programme 2021: Outlining the Work Programme of the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science for 2020. 2. The Report on the Impact of Covid-19 on Primary and Secondary Education: A compilation report examining the safe and sustainable opening of schools; 2020 Leaving Certificate calculated grades and 2021 Leaving Certificate preparations, and other issues such as the use of reduced timetables in schools; cyberbullying and educational disadvantage. 3. The Annual Report 2020 of the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: A report outlining the procedure and role of the Joint Committee, including the minutes if its proceedings for the period between 30 September 2020 and 31 December 2020.

4. The Report on School Bullying and the Impact on Mental Health: A report covering the nature and impact of bullying on mental health, the nature and impact of cyberbullying on mental health, developing a whole school and community culture, and international evidence and best practice. 5. The Report on the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Higher Education Authority Bill 2021: A prelegislative overview and assessment of the General Scheme of the Higher Education Authority Bill. 6. The Report on Visit to Cork and Limerick, Thursday and Friday, 25 and 26 November 2021: A report covering the Joint Committee’s delegation study visit to Cork Centre, Munster Technological University, and Technological University of the Shannon.


Quality and qualifications in Ireland: A collaborative approach education and skills report

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is the state agency responsible for promoting the quality, reputation and integrity of Ireland’s further and higher education and training system. Chief Executive Officer Padraig Walsh outlines the importance of strategic partnerships in the development and delivery of the organisation’s direction and priorities for the next three years. The Covid context For almost the last two years, the world, the country and education and training have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. QQI was well served during this challenging time by a focus on the integrity of the National Framework of Qualifications and confidence in the quality and reputation of the qualifications included in the framework. The value of collaboration and engagement was highlighted during the pandemic when all partners – further and higher education institutions, institutional and learner representative bodies, funding agencies, IT service providers, the Department, and the Minister – worked together to provide a system-wide response to the challenges posed by Covid-19.


We prioritised the importance of analysing the impact of measures taken to maintain and improve the quality of education and training for the benefit of learners. This was never more important than when QQI was called upon by government to undertake an analysis of the steps taken to maintain the quality, integrity and reputation of further and higher education when the institutions offering these services were physically closed in March 2020.


A refocus on qualifications As we worked over the past year on the development of our new statement of strategy, we sought to build on the priorities of previous strategies. Since our establishment, we have placed much emphasis on our quality assurance functions: • the importance of agreeing new quality assurance procedures with our many further and higher education providers; • the development of an integrated model for an institutional review of quality across the entire public higher education sector via the CINNTE model; and • the first-ever review of quality in our education and training boards. Our strategic planning called for a renewed emphasis on our role in the qualifications system, both as the custodian of the National Framework of Qualifications and as an awarding body in our own right. In 2019, we also received new powers through amending legislation: • to widen the range of awarding bodies that can have their

qualifications included in the National Framework of Qualifications; • the power to regulate the provision of English language education on a statutory basis for the first time; and • the authority to protect the integrity of education and training by highlighting the danger to academic integrity posed by the proliferation of global contract cheating services and so-called ‘essay mills’. All these considerations fed into the development of QQI’s new statement of strategy.

A new strategic direction Our new strategy is guided by a focus on four key priority areas: Information Better information on the progression pathways across and between further and higher education is vital for schoolleavers and for all those seeking learning opportunities. In our strategy, we commit to upgrading our information platforms and services – the introduction of a new corporate website; redevelopment and modernising of Qualifax, the national learners’ database; and positioning of the Irish Register of Qualification as the

authoritative source of quality-assured qualifications included in the National Framework of Qualifications. We will increase learner choice and opportunities by including more qualifications in the NFQ from other recognised awarding bodies and increased access to flexible and innovative micro-credentials. Protection

education and skills report

The implementation of strengthened regulation to protect our learners will see QQI continue to work with the provider-led National Academic Integrity Network to promote and maintain awareness of academic integrity and the monitoring of those seeking to undermine it. A statutory learner protection fund will provide security to learners in independent private education and training providers offering QQI awards. Tthe awarding of the International Education Mark to qualifying English language and higher education providers will provide greater confidence to international students coming to study in Ireland. Development Support for provider development will be enabled through engagement with community education providers to ensure that their learners continue to have access to education and training qualifications in the NFQ, and with the education and training boards to drive capacity-building for flexible and agile programme development. Specifically, we will facilitate increased autonomy and flexibility for mature independent providers of higher education by enabling them to pursue delegated authority to make their own awards. Insight

In this year, the 10th anniversary of QQI’s establishment, we will reflect on the achievements of the past decade

Partnership and excellence None of these challenging objectives can be achieved without the enabling contribution of excellence and partnership. Over the last year, we have been building organisational excellence through the recruitment of new staff to deliver on our new regulatory functions and investment in all our staff to develop an agile, engaged, responsive and motivated workforce. This will be underpinned by embedding sustainability in our work processes and facilitating more flexible work practices. Finally, if there is one thing we learned during the past 20 months, it is the importance of strengthening strategic partnerships to create system change, whether through the efforts of the National Tertiary Education System Covid-19 Steering Group or the information provided by individual further and higher education providers and learner representative bodies that allowed QQI to analyse the impact of

Covid-19 on teaching, learning and assessment. We will continue with this spirit of collaboration through the establishment of the Irish Quality and Qualifications Forum to harness the concerted efforts of a multitude of actors to preserve the strengths of our existing systems and implement change for the better. We hope that our many partners across the tertiary education and training system recognise themselves in our new strategy and we look forward to delivering on our common vision of an Ireland that offers diverse high-quality further and higher education opportunities and enables learners to reach their full potential through qualifications that are widely valued nationally and internationally.


Drawing on our extensive data and knowledge, we will publish authoritative analysis and insight of benefit to the wider tertiary education and training sector. Through our significant networks of peer agencies, we will continue to evaluate the experience of remote and blended learning, contributing to and influencing national policy.

with a series of publications and events which will celebrate the successes to date and the challenges and opportunities in the decade ahead.

Tel: +353 1 905 8100 https://twitter.com/QQI_connect www.linkedin.com/company/qualityand-qualifications-ireland-qqi www.facebook.com/QQIreland


education and skills report

Digital inclusion in Ireland

Secretariat to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) Anne-Marie McGauran discusses the council’s recommendation for a national strategy for digital inclusion. McGauran recently authored a report that looked at connectivity, devices, and skills in relation to digital inclusion in Ireland and argues that a digital inclusion strategy would help address the digital needs of groups who remain poorly engaged with digital technologies, namely those who are older, poorer, and with lower levels of education. McGauran stresses that a focus on the needs of people in these key groups would build on Ireland’s large investment in broadband connectivity and critically, would help to combat social exclusion in the long term. “Aiming for full digital inclusion is the next logical step to build on Ireland’s large investment in broadband connectivity, and in eGovernment. International studies show that the return from such investment in digital inclusion is high. From a social cohesion point of view, such investment aims to ensure that digital divides do not persist, and so


helps to combat social exclusion.” Explaining the premise of digital inclusion, the policy analyst says that everyone can contribute to and benefit from the digital economy and society. For the individual, this means having “convenient, reliable access to affordable, accessible digital devices and an internet connection”. For businesses, it is about the spread of digital transformation to all enterprises. The pandemic has added an additional layer to the importance of digital inclusion, accelerating the reliance on digital and its importance for social inclusion. This accelerated reliance has occurred against a backdrop of greater digitalisation in the form of the fourth industrial revolution and Ireland’s large investment in broadband. “Everyone needs to be enabled and equipped to work in this new labour market and those least-well equipped are most likely to be left behind,” says

McGauran, highlighting research from the UK, which suggests a £15 return for every £1 invested in digital inclusion. McGauran outlines the main dimensions of digital inclusion and some of the challenges associated with them, namely: Connectivity: An improving issue across Ireland but one which remains a problem in rural Ireland and poorer communities; Skills: Content literacy and technical skills, both of which require constant updating; Devices: Cost is a major factor in either device absence or outdated models; and Confidence: The confidence to engage with the digital world. While the pandemic has accelerated use of the internet, obvious gaps remain. McGauran’s research shows

that in 2020, 25 per cent of over 60s hadn’t used the internet in the last three months, a similar picture for 16 per cent of those on the lowest income quintile. On connectivity, only 79 per cent of the west of Ireland had fixed broadband connection in 2020 and 73 per cent in the border region.

education and skills report

Assessing public services, the NESC report shows that even amid the pandemic, only half the population seek government information or download government forms online. For businesses, a stark figure is that 40 per cent of companies, mainly indigenous SMEs, completely lack digital technologies, while a further 30 per cent have few digital assets. McGauran points to a range of existing policies and programmes, ranging from an upcoming renewal of the National Digital Strategy, the implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code to domestic law, and the recent National Strategy on Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy. Domestic policies and programmes are supported by a range of EU programmes, such as WIFI4EU and the EU’s web accessibility directive. “The report highlights that there are several State policies focused on digital technologies. There are also a range of state agency, business, and community programmes. There is a need to coordinate across these policies and programmes if digital inclusion is to improve,” she says. Highlighting that a review of Irish policies and or international best practice suggest an agenda for policy action to address the varying levels of digital inclusion in Ireland, McGauran believes that pursuing this agenda will help to “better prepare individuals, the economy, society and the public service for a more digitised future”.

The five overarching recommendations outlined by the NESC report are: 1

develop a national strategy for digital inclusion, with a key focus on coordination, and with a strong commitment to fine-grained measurement of progress;


create a comprehensive framework for digital skills progression;


support digital inclusion at community level;


deliver targeted supports for material access to key groups; and


enhance guidance for digital and assisted-digital public services, and ‘complementary’ channels.

The policy analyst welcomes the use of DigComp, the digital reference framework developed by the European Commission setting out 21 competences, grouped in five key areas, over eight proficiency levels, to best describe what it means to be digitally competent, in the National Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy Strategy published in September 2021. Other commitments in this Strategy will help address the recommendations in the NESC report on creating a comprehensive framework for digital skills progression. Concluding, McGauran says: “The council believes that, while digital inclusion should be part of a national digital strategy, there should also be a stand-alone Strategy for Digital Inclusion. Such a strategy can provide a shared direction and responsibility, coordinate existing work, highlight and address gaps, and allow for collaboration of statutory bodies, businesses, and communities. It could include specific targets and target groups, and a focus on connectivity, skills, material access, and the provision of public services to those who are not digitally engaged.” 111

education and skills report

Tackling the retrofit skills shortage head on

The Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB), National Construction Training Centre in Mount Lucas, County Offaly is aiming to meet the challenge of training the huge numbers of skilled workers needed for Ireland’s planned housebuilding and deep retrofitting programmes, writes John Kelly, Manager of the National Construction Training Centre.


Following the Government’s ambitious target to retrofit 300,000 homes by 2030, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD established the LOETB National Construction


Training Centre in Mount Lucas as one of four centres of excellence, with the anticipation of training 2,000 people in retrofit skills, including near zero energy buildings (NZEB) skills. Facilities at the training centre include a large purpose-

built deep retrofit hall of 600 square metres. The retrofit training hall includes full-scale rigs representing the gamut of situations encountered on most projects, everything from roof, wall and floor insulation to airtightness application, ventilation installation and commissioning, and renewable energy installation. It is truly a showcase in terms of state-of-the-art upskilling facilities for those involved in delivering deep retrofits.

The first are short, City and Guilds assured courses, which focus on delivery of NZEB. These courses include the very popular NZEB Fundamentals (one-day course), NZEB Retrofit (two-day course) and NZEB Ventilation (three-day course). There are also trade-specific courses for carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, and plasterers as well as a more detailed programme for site supervisors. The second include practical programmes which are industry recognised, the objective of which is to ensure learners, including new entrants, have the skillset currently required by employers to contribute to the Government's retrofit targets. Examples of such courses include external wall insulation, internal wall insulation and airtightness. The third category of programmes are longer QQI accredited courses, including Thermal Insulation Installation and Construction Skills. These courses typically run from five to eight days and include a formal assessment on completion.

“The facilities, programmes and educational resources needed to deliver a growing pool of retrofit experts is now in place. At the LOETB National Construction Training Centre, there is an exciting multi layered training programme for every level, from entry to expert.” which can be acquired and substantiated with the Certified Passive House Tradesperson course. This twoday blended learning course is delivered online (one day) and onsite in the National Construction Training Centre at Mount Lucas (one day).

Tony Dalton, Director of Further

All programmes are delivered in a flexible manner to ensure convenience and accessibility to all. With provisions for day, evening, and weekend courses. Many courses offer a blended approach, with both online and on-site delivery.

exciting multilayered training programme

The key attraction for learners attending the National Construction Training Centre at Mount Lucas is the quality of training rigs which provides for a deepimmersion experience. As well as learning about deep retrofit from a theoretical perspective, learners get to grips with the very latest products, details and application methods from expert tutors who are deeply passionate about delivering deep retrofits at scale.

Education and Training at LOETB

adds: “The facilities, programmes and

educational resources needed to deliver a growing pool of retrofit experts is now in place. At the LOETB National

Construction Training Centre, there is an for every level, from entry to expert.

“2022 will see further investment in the training site, increasing NZEB and

Retrofit capacity, and developing future construction training facilities including construction simulation and BIM.”


The National Construction Training Centre at Mount Lucas has also commenced delivery of the Certified Passive House Tradesperson course. Passive house buildings are energy efficient buildings that provide users with high levels of comfort and excellent air quality around the clock. They may not look any different from other buildings, but good planning as well as careful execution of the details is essential in the construction of such projects. This ensures that the high requirements for the building envelope and technology can be met. As a result, building professionals need additional expertise

education and skills report

With the target of 2,000 people in mind, the National Construction Training Centre at Mount Lucas, launched an extensive suite of courses, which focuses on both retrofit and new build all of which are fully funded for people in employment under the national Skills to Advance initiative. Three different course types are provided.

E: nzeb@mountlucas.ie W: www.mountlucas.ie


education and skills report

Teaching and fostering the skills of the future As the world’s economy seeks to emerge from the damage wrought by Covid-19, more than 80 per cent of businesses “face critical gaps in the skills needed to build resilience amid ongoing uncertainty”. With skills development now critical, apprenticeships and online learning once again come into focus.


Two new reports from McKinsey and Company – Reviving the art of apprenticeship to unlock continuous skill development and Setting a new bar for online higher education – make the case for the modernisation of both the apprenticeship and online higher education worlds. Cognisant of the 80 per cent figure for skills gaps in business, McKinsey notes that only 42 per cent of employees are taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities and that “there is simply too much to learn and not enough time for formal learning to meet all of an organisation’s reskilling needs”.

The McKinsey imagination of these roles places them in all workplaces, not just in the vocational occupations typically associated with apprenticeships.

Modern apprenticeships

3. Identify the skills that individuals need to build.

Modern apprenticeships are a “learning model that distributes apprenticeship skills and responsibilities throughout the organisation” that “represents a focused effort to intentionally build the same specific skills, habits of mind, and actions as those of a domain expert”.

4. Be broad and inclusive about who can apprentice.

Organisations, the report says, can take four steps towards introducing apprenticeships into their organisations as a “powerful skill-building tool and to begin to reshape culture around the idea of continuous learning”: 1. Create a clear organisational expectation for both learning and teaching. 2. Build apprenticeship skills in every employee.

McKinsey’s model recommends that the manager in the apprenticeship situation models “how to approach the work instead of giving prescriptive directions

to be followed”, gives the apprentice manageable tasks to complete individually, provides samples of work as supports, asking the apprentice questions, provide opportunities for the apprentice to articulate their thinking on the subject, offer coaching and feedback throughout the process and assess the apprentice’s progress and add complexity over time.

education and skills report

The report states that learning environments “flourish in organisations with strong learning cultures because those cultures emphasise the importance of every person taking ownership for their development and growing their skills” and advises that the “teacher does not have to be the direct team lead, the senior leader, the ‘guru’, or expert faculty”, but rather can be “anyone in an organisation, even peers or junior colleagues who possess a skill that others need to build”. Steps recommended towards reaching a culture of continuous learning with an organisation include: visibly positioning a CEO or senior leader who “values learning and teaching”; supporting learner agency within the organisation; and creating incentives to encourage individuals to both teach and learn.

Online learning As a result of the worsening of the already existing skills gaps across worldwide industry, learning methods will have to modernise to equip both the workforce of today and of the future with the skills that have been found to be lacking. Key to doing this, along with the development of a modern apprenticeship system, will be the utilisation of online learning, as McKinsey and Company illustrates in the second of its reports. Research conducted via a survey of more than 30 institutions, “including both regulated degree-granting universities and nonregulated lifelong education providers” and ethnographic market research, following 29 students in the United States and in Brazil (two of the largest online higher education markets in the world), found that the most successful online higher education institutions place their focus on eight dimensions of the learning experience. These eight dimensions were then classified under three principles by McKinsey: create a seamless journey for students; adopt an engaging approach to teaching; and build a caring network. 1. Create a seamless journey for students: The first step towards building a seamless journey for students is the building of an education road map, due to McKinsey’s finding that online students “may need more direction, motivation, and discipline than students in in-person programmes”. The second step is enabling seamless connections, with it advised that courses and programme content “be structured so they can be accessed in low-bandwidth situations or downloaded for offline use”. 2. Adopt an engaging approach to teaching: The first step within this principle is that institutions should offer a range of learning formats, with examples given including Zhejiang University in China, where instructors use live videoconferencing and chat rooms, and the University of Michigan’s Center for Academic Innovation, which uses its custom ECoach platform to help students in large classes navigate content when one-on-one interaction with instructors and also “sends students reminders, motivational tips, performance reviews, and exam-preparation materials”. Ensuring the captivation of audiences and utilisation of adaptive learning tools such as AI and analytics used to address students’ needs and offer real-time feedback and support are mentioned as next steps. Inclusion of real-world application of skills is the final step within this principle recommended, with pioneers said to make use of virtual reality, laboratories, simulations, and games for students in this regard. 3. Create a caring network: The two steps listed within this principle are the provision of academic and non-academic support, such as Southern New Hampshire University’s system that detects low student engagements and offers alerts and nudges, and the fostering of a strong community, which again offers SNHU as an example due to their Connect social gateway, which offers an exclusive social network to over 15,000 members.


education and skills report

Supporting adults with literacy, numeracy and digital needs Over the last 18 months, the National Adult Literacy Agency saw a surge in calls to its freephone. They were from people who had just lost their jobs, parents who struggled with information from schools, and older people who wanted help using technology. NALA’s CEO, Colleen Dube, speaks about the critical importance of literacy, listening to callers and designing services that meet their needs. Listening to callers


A lot of callers during the lockdown rang us as they were reflecting on their own lives. They felt very different to their friends who could work from home. When the pandemic happened and they lost their jobs, they felt their lives had come to a sudden full stop. This happened to people in all age groups. Many were also very annoyed and dejected that they were being left behind. We spent a lot of time on these calls as they needed to know someone was listening. We took the time to talk to them and discuss what options they would have if they wanted to return to education. For some, this meant directing them to the Adult Literacy Service in their local Education and Training Board. ETBs provide a unique service that is completely free. They offer a range of learner-centred, unaccredited, and accredited courses, as well as guidance and progression to further education and training opportunities. For others, we offered tutoring over the phone to resolve a particular issue. For 116

example, there was a caller who had been out of work for five weeks during the pandemic. They decided they would like to do a Special Needs Assistant course but felt their spelling was holding them back, so they mightn’t be able for it. We set them up with one of our tutors who taught them over the phone for a few weeks until they had the confidence to do the course. Sometimes it’s that small intervention that gives people the confidence and courage to go on to learn and do new things.

much lower than the general population. In this pilot programme, six incarcerated men were supported to graduate as literacy tutors and are now qualified to support other men improve their literacy. The participants call themselves ‘The Peers’. They have normalised education and learning in the prison so now it is a good thing to have books under your arm. The positive impact of ‘The Peers’ is confirmed by teachers from the Education Unit who say that the numbers of people turning up for support has increased.

Pilot prison programme

This quote sums up the project best:

This year we were involved in an inspiring literacy project with Portlaoise Prison. We did it in partnership with the Prison’s Education Unit, Laois and Offaly Education Training Board, Dublin Adult Learning Centre and Waterford Institute of Technology.

“I took part in the training because I understood how difficult life could be for people without literacy skills. I discovered many prisoners wanted to write letters to their families, especially their children, and could not, due to literacy issues. I had the desire to help these people.

Not many people realise that over 40 per cent of incarcerated people in Ireland left school before the age of 14. As a result of educational and wider inequalities, the average literacy level of prisoners is

“People say we are doing the right thing using our time here like this, using it to be educated. Many see it as the best way to do time.”

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Training online Like many organisations we moved all our training online over the last two years, which has been a very positive experience for us. While we normally held about five events annually with 900 tutors attending, last year we organised a diverse programme of training and workshops online, supporting over 1,500 tutors’ professional development and knowledge sharing. While we hope to have some face-to-face events next year, there’s no doubt that we’ve been converted to online delivery. Literacy tutors are incredibly busy and it just suits more people not to have to travel.

Plain English In Ireland, one-in-six people has difficulty understanding written text, so a lot of our work involves helping organisations to be more accessible to people with literacy needs. There are huge benefits and cost savings of doing this, such as fewer customer complaints and mistakes.

There is a growing demand from the public for clear information and we

recommend that anyone producing public information write it in plain English. After all, both citizens and governments benefit from clear information. Citizens are more likely to understand their rights and governments are more likely to make better use of their resources.

expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they can value.

10-year strategy

So, have a look around you — one-insix people has a literacy need. They could be your customers or valued members of staff. Think about how you could support them through training or making your services more accessible.

In Ireland, the supposed land of saints and scholars, over 500,000 adults have low levels of literacy. Even more have low levels of numeracy and digital skills. This has a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. This year, after many years of advocating, we were heartened to see the Government’s commitment to develop a new 10-year strategy for adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills. Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by

Now, more than ever, it will be vital that we support people with literacy needs, so that they can understand information, make constructive choices, selfadvocate and ultimately respond to external pressures and change.


One step in the right direction is for organisations to use plain English and last year we trained a thousand employees in how to write in plain English. We also supported one hundred public and private sector organisations in editing their documents in plain English so that they are easier for all people, but especially people with literacy needs, to read and understand information.

“In Ireland, one-in-six people has difficulty understanding written text, so a lot of our work involves helping organisations to be more accessible to people with literacy needs. There are huge benefits and cost savings of doing this, such as fewer customer complaints and mistakes.”

We’re here to help in any way we can and would love to hear from you.

T: 1800 20 20 65 E: info@nala.ie W: www.nala.ie Twitter: @nalaireland



education and skills report

Irish Renewable Energy Summit 2022

Hybrid event!

Climate action and renewable energy: The decade of delivery W E D N E S D AY 1 6 F E B R U A R Y C R O K E PA R K , D U B L I N • O N L I N E The Renewable Energy Summit will once again provide a valuable opportunity to bring together the key stakeholders from across the energy sector, and those who interact with the energy sector to discuss how the contribution from renewable energy can be maximised and implemented most effectively. Key issues to be discussed at the 2022 summit: ➤ European renewable energy policy developments ➤ Pathways to 80% renewable electricity by 2030 ➤ Meeting Ireland’s offshore wind energy targets ➤ How do we get flexibility in the electricity system to deliver 80% renewables? ➤ Decarbonising Ireland’s gas network ➤ Renewable fuels in transport ➤ Power-to-X and energy storage ➤ Planning and community engagement

Confirmed speakers include:

Eamon Ryan TD Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications

Catharina SikowMagny

William Walsh

Director, Green Transition and Energy System Integration European Commission

Chief Executive Officer Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Sponsorship & exhibition opportunities There are a limited number of opportunities to become involved with this conference, an excellent way for organisations to showcase their expertise and raise their profile with a key audience of senior decision makers from across Ireland’s renewable energy sector. For further information on the remaining packages, contact us directly on +353 (0)1 661 3755 or email info@energyireland.ie.

Jim Gannon

Maria Ryan

David Kelly

Commissioner Commission for Regulation of Utilities

Director of Development SSE Renewables

Director of Customer and Business Development Gas Networks Ireland

Carolina Vereda Gorgé

Dr Claire Haggett

Dr James Carton

Senior Lecturer University of Edinburgh

Assistant Professor in Energy Sustainability & Hydrogen Dublin City University

More info: T: +353 (0)1 661 3755 W: www.irishrenewableenergysummit.ie E: info@energyireland.ie

In partnership with

Regulation Expert Endesa

Sponsored by

An Energy Ireland® event

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What is your vision for the future of Europe? Should we increase the EU competence in health? Should the EU be more assertive in its foreign policy? Should the EU have a common taxation policy? These are the type of questions being answered by EU citizens in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne TD, writes.


It is now some six months since the

Conference is taking place or of its

battling to emerge from an

Conference on the Future of Europe was


unprecedented global pandemic was

launched in Strasbourg on 9 May, or

In one way, this is not that surprising.

Europe Day. I suspect that many EU

Launching a major reflection on the

But it is precisely because we are at such

citizens are still unaware that the

Future of Europe when we are still

a critical juncture, as we seek to rebuild

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always going to be a challenge.

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Credit: Linda De Volder

our societies and our economies and adjust to the new realities imposed by the pandemic, that such a reflection about where Europe is headed is warranted. The nature of this initiative is very significant. It is a citizen-centred exercise where citizens direct the conversation; it is for them, the people affected by the decisions of the EU, to outline what type of Union they want. At its core, the basic idea behind the Conference is to have a conversation with our citizens, and particularly our younger people, about where we see the EU progressing in the next five, 10 or 20 years. We in Ireland can take pride and some credit for the basic premise underlying and inspiring the Conference. Ireland has led the way in prioritising the issue of citizen engagement and trying to forge a more participative democracy. Our citizens’ assemblies have been a model which many others in Europe and indeed, across the world, have noted and admired. They have been the vehicle for major social change in our country. As the Minister with lead responsibility on this issue, I have been engaging in an extensive series of virtual consultations with groups and communities around the country, particularly reaching out to those whose voices may not normally be heard when we discuss the future of the EU. We really need to hear as many voices as possible in the coming months discussing what should be the future priorities for our union. This includes those who might regard themselves as eurosceptic or who would favour less, rather than more Europe. This cannot be an exercise in which the voices of member state governments or of politicians such as myself are loudest. Ordinary citizens want to have a real dialogue in which their ideas and suggestions matter. Ideas such as whether the EU should guarantee a basic right to housing. Or one suggestion put to me by a student is that there should be a pan-European central applications system for university entry. This is the clear intention in terms of how the Conference is being organised. Four citizens’ panels, each composed of 200 EU citizens randomly selected, are now

“We also need to have our say in Ireland and hear the ideas of our own people on what the EU is doing and where it can do better.” underway across Europe. I am very pleased that one of these panels will have its final, decisive session in Dublin in early December 2021. The proposals and recommendations emerging from these panels will be a critical element in determining what finally emerges from this conference. We also need to have our say in Ireland and hear the ideas of our own people on what the EU is doing and where it can do better. That is why I really want to urge as many people, including EU citizens in Northern Ireland, and community groups as possible to get involved and organise their own discussions on the future of Europe. Any ideas or proposals emerging from these conversations can be officially recorded for consideration on the Conference’s digital platform (www.futureu.europa.eu) which is available in all 24 EU languages. The

digital platform also has plenty of practical information and guidance on how to organise an event in connection with the Conference. There are no prescriptions for what will emerge from this conference. The only assurance, to which all member states, including Ireland, have committed is that whatever recommendations eventually emerge from this conference must be taken seriously and acted upon by the European institutions. The Conference is a really exciting and new departure for the European Union. It can be regarded as the first steps towards promoting more participative democracy and a stronger voice for ordinary citizens in determining the future directions and priorities within the Union. It is an opportunity which should not be missed.

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EU agrees regulation targeting Big Tech The EU has reached agreement on its Digital Markets and Digital Services act, twin tools in the Union’s effort to curb the power of Big Tech, which it hopes will bear fruit “as soon as possible”. The Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act make up the EU’s attempt to get to grips with the ever-increasing power of Big Tech platforms. Having unveiled the legislation package in December 2020, the European Commission has since been in negotiations with the European Parliament and member states to reach a deal on the package. Having stated in October 2021 that the Commission hoped to agree a legislative package “as soon as possible”, agreement was reached in the European Parliament for the Digital Markets Act in November 2021 and the Digital Services Act in December. The Commission states that the EU needs new rules governing the online behaviour of companies because the “rapid and widespread development of digital services has been at the heart of the digital changes that impact our lives” and the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act would “ensure that European legislation evolves with them”. Following lengthy negotiations, the Digital Markets Act was agreed in the European Parliament in mid-November, endorsed by the Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection a week later. The Act seeks to limit the anti-competitive behaviour of so-called gatekeepers such as Facebook, Apple,


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Alphabet and Google. Under the Act, gatekeeping companies would be defined as large online platforms who: •

have a strong economic position with significant impact on the EU market that are active in EU countries;

have a strong intermediation position, linking large user bases with large numbers of businesses; and

have or are about to have an entrenched and durable position in the market.

The passage of the Act would mean that these gatekeepers would have to allow their business users to access the data generate through use of the gatekeeper’s platform, provide companies advertising on the platform with the tools to carry out independent verification of advertisements hosted by the gatekeeper, and allow business users to promote themselves and conclude contracts outside of the platform. The gatekeepers would no longer be allowed to treat services and products that they offer more favourably than third-party services on the gatekeeper’s platform, prevent consumers from linking to businesses outside their platform, or prevent users from uninstalling preinstalled software or apps. The Act will imbue the Commission with

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the power to qualify companies as gatekeepers, update the obligations for gatekeepers “when necessary” and design solutions to systematic infringements of the Act’s rules. Noncompliance with the rules laid down in the Act could result in fines of up to 10 per cent of the gatekeeping company’s total worldwide annual turnover or periodic penalty payments of up to 5 per cent of the company’s average daily turnover. A major addition to the Act during negotiations was agreed, allowing the Parliament to restrict gatekeepers from making ‘killer acquisitions’ that further concentrate the market. Systematic infringements of the obligations under the Act by gatekeepers could also mean that “additional remedies may be imposed on the gatekeepers after a market investigation”, with the remedies to be “proportionate to the offence committed”. If necessary, the Commission says that it will impose nonfinancial, behavioural, and structural remedies such as the forced divestiture of parts of a business as a last resort option. The Commission’s impact assessment of the Digital Markets Act states that it will “increase the contestability of digital markets and help business overcome the barriers stemming from market failures or from gatekeepers’ unfair business practices”. The Act passed through the European Parliament with 642 votes for, eight against and 46 abstentions. One major amendment added during negotiations was the amendment on default settings, which will allow users to choose their default settings the first time but also to change them any time, including on pre-installed apps. The Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act’s companion piece, seeks to “foster innovation, growth and competitiveness” while encouraging the scaling up of SMEs and start-ups via new rules to better protect consumers and the establishment of a transparency and accountability framework for online platforms. Its terms were approved by the internal market committee in December. The Act includes: measures to counter illegal goods, services, or content online; new obligations on the traceability of business users in online market places;

effective safeguarding for users such as the possibility to challenge a platform’s moderation decisions; transparency measures for platforms on issues such as recommendation algorithms; obligations for very large platforms to prevent the misuse of their systems; access for researchers to key data of the largest platforms; and oversight structure to address the complexity of the online space. The Commission’s impact assessment of the proposed plans states that “a positive effect can be expected on the single market and on competition”, with an estimated increase of between 1 per cent and 1.8 per cent in cross-border digital trade, helping SMEs operate and significantly decreasing the costs “brought about by the inefficiencies of the existing set-up for the cooperation of authorities”. One of the key aspects of the Digital Services Act from an Irish point of view is its reiteration of the country of origin principle contained in the eCommerce Directive, which states that the service providers are subject to the jurisdiction of their country of establishment, a principle that the French Government in particular are attempting to have changed to the country of their destination. Ireland, as a state containing the European headquarters of many Big Tech juggernauts, has opposed this move by the French during the Digital Services Act negotiations and has deemed the issue a ‘red line’, gathering a coalition of countries in support including Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Sweden. With the vote on the Digital Services Act due to take place in January, Irish voices are sure to be prominent in the debate given the frequency with which the Irish Government has clashed with the Brussels establishment over the regulation of Big Tech companies that have made a European home in Dublin and elsewhere. The message from Europe, however, remains clear, as the Commission’s initial publication of the acts in 2020 indicates: “The business and political interests of a handful of companies should not dictate our future. Europe has to set its own terms and conditions.”

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European Chips Act forthcoming

The European Commission is preparing to put forward a European Chips Act aimed at vastly increasing the EU’s manufacturing of semiconductors and weaning the continent off of its digital reliance on China and the US. The European Chips Act, if passed, would plan for the EU to account for at least one-fifth of the world market value of cutting-edge and sustainable semiconductors by 2030. The Act would make up just part of a number of initiatives in the so-called Digital Decade for the EU in which the Union is looking to strengthen its hand in the digital market, with funds from a centrally managed programme to boost research, deployment and the manufacturing of these microprocessors being matched by an ambition to have built the EU’s first quantum computer by 2025. “We need to link together world class research, design and testing capacities,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her State of the Union address. “The aim is to jointly create a state-of-theart European chip ecosystem, including production, that ensures our security of supply and will develop new markets for ground-breaking European tech.” The Commission had in the past created an industrial alliance on microprocessor and semiconductors in an attempt to support companies manufacturing the next generation of


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microchips and to return offshored manufacturing to Europe. Microprocessors are now ubiquitous in the digital world, to be found in smartphones and watches, cars, trains and smart factories, and Europe’s plans to increase its manufacturing of the technology are central to its plans to expand digitally and lessen reliance on Asia in particular. Indeed, von der Leyen commented that Europe’s digital plans would be impossible without these chips. As von der Leyen noted in her speech, Europe’s share in the semiconductor market has shrunk; microchips made in Europe currently account for 9 per cent of the European microchip market today, a steep fall from the 40 per cent rate 30 years ago. 90 per cent of the EU’s data is managed by US companies, many of whom have European headquarters in Ireland, and under 4 per cent of the top performing online platforms are European. Semiconductor sales by European companies totalled €3.2 billion in May 2021, a 31.2 per cent increase on the sales level of May 2020, but the Commission estimates that the EU

Credit: European Commission

“The aim is to jointly create a state-of-the-art European chip ecosystem, including production, that ensures our security of supply and will develop new markets for ground-breaking European tech.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

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would have to multiply its annual sales of microprocessors by five in order to reach a 20 per cent share of the world market by 2030. In its attempt to do this, the Commission estimates that the EU will need to fill an investment hole of €125 billion every year, with €42 billion, €17 billion, and €11 billion estimated to be needed annually in communication networks, semiconductors, and cloud technologies respectively. The US Government, in comparison, plans to spend $52 billion aiding semiconductor manufacturing and research in a country that already accounts for 48 per cent of world computer chip sales. Plans are afoot for the US chipmaker Intel, whose European headquarters are in Ireland, to construct a $20 billion semiconductor factory within the EU, a project that it says could be spread across the continent into multiple EU states. The company is currently said to be looking for a site of circa 1,000 acres that could support up to eight chip fabrication facilities. The plan is to initially establish two fabrication facilities with costs of $20 billion over the first 10 years, but the company has predicted total investment if up to $100 billion. Intel’s fabrication facility in Ireland is something of a leader in the manufacturing of chips in the European context.

Semiconductor design and manufacturing shares of 2018 sales based on company headquarters 0%










Materials (nonwafer)


Materials (wafer)


1% 14%


Pure-play foundry


Semiconductor assembly, testing, services


United States



Source: McKinsey and Company


18% 2%

10% 1%







17% 4%








Integrated device manufacturers










IP/electronic design automation





Rest of world

Few facilities in Europe currently produce nodes smaller than 22 nanometres, but the Irish Intel site is currently producing 14 nanometres chips and is seeking to incorporate 7 nanometres chips as soon as possible. However, this still leaves Europe behind the capabilities evident in Asia, with TSMC in Taiwan currently building a factory for the manufacturing of 3 nanometres chips, which are expected to be up to 15 per cent faster than the 5 nanometres chips it currently manufactures and use up to 30 per cent less power. While the presence of global chipmakers such as Intel will be one of the planks of the European efforts to ramp up chip production, the EU also has plans for boosting its indigenous chipmakers such as Infineon, Bosch, STMicroelectronics, and Dutch company ASML, the only supplier of advanced lithography machines used in semiconductor manufacturing in the world. The head start companies such as TSMC have enjoyed is sure to be felt in Europe, where the manufacture of the 2 nanometres chips set to increase in prevalence due to smart cars remains a distant possibility. Such is the lead that TSMC enjoys in operating capacity that Intel has begun to outsource some of its production to its Taiwanese rival. However, there is reason for optimism, such as the German Government briefing European officials that it was willing to invest €3 billion of its own capital funding to reclaim production sites along the entire chain of semiconductor production. “While global demand has exploded, Europe's share across the entire value chain, from design to manufacturing capacity has shrunk,” von der Leyen said in her State of the Union address. “We depend on state-of-the-art chips manufactured in Asia. This is not just a matter of our competitiveness; this is also a matter of tech sovereignty. So, let's put all of our focus on it.”

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Credit: Social Deomcrats

Mol an óige Holly Cairns TD

Ciarán Galway speaks with the Social Democrat TD for Cork SouthWest, Holly Cairns, exploring her political origins and policy priorities, as well as her initial experiences as an elected representative and optimism for political change. Holly Cairns is the only female TD in Cork. Just one out of 18. In fact, there are five-times as many Michaels representing the county of Cork in Dáil Éireann than there are women. Whilst not considering her family to be political per se, the Cork South-West TD first became politically engaged in 2011 when she canvassed for Senator David Norris in the presidential election. “I remember, at the time, being outraged about the injustice of the absence of marriage equality and thinking that he would be the president most likely to change it,” she remarks.


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Several years later, during the marriage equality referendum Cairns reignited her interest, before joining the Repeal the Eighth movement and deciding to enter politics. “I realised that knocking on doors and asking for votes really works. It was a moment of realisation, particularly with Repeal,” she says. Having watched successive governments “dragged along by change that is happening around it; like marriage equality and Repeal”, Cairns suggests that “we really are ready for a government that leads that change”. The winds of change did not arrive sooner, she believes, because a real alternative to the Civil War dichotomy did not exist.

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People are ready for a more progressive style of governance.

“Historically, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would have taken up 80 per cent of the vote. Now we are at a real change point where they need each other go into government. This is the time when change is happening. People are ready for a more progressive style of governance,” the Social Democrat TD contends. Joining the Social Democrats While initially considering the Green Party as a “natural home”, upon exploring other policies, Cairns joined the Social Democrats, asserting: “I do not think that climate action will work without social democracy.” Paying tribute to her party leaders, Róisín Shortall TD and Catherine Murphy TD, whom she describes as “two of the most hardworking and honest parliamentarians in the country”, the west Cork native insists that policy documents are subordinate to party ethos and approach to government. “The approach you take is so important. It strikes me as well that you cannot govern a society that promotes equality if that does not even exist in your own party,” she says. While two-thirds of the Social Democrats’ representatives are female, Cairns believes that “older parties” are hindered by a degree of institutionalism. Electoral success After deciding to enter politics, Cairns helped establish a three-member Cork South-West branch of the Social Democrats with two female allies from the Repeal the Eighth campaign. By the time of the local

elections in May 2019, the branch had developed to the extent that Cairns successfully secured the final seat in the Bantry-West Cork Local Electoral Area during the Cork County Council election, winning by one single vote. Outlining her rationale for then establishing the Inside the Chamber podcast, through which she chronicled her experiences as a new public representative and the machinations of local government in Ireland, Cairns asserts: “You just have no idea how things like local authorities work until you are in there.” Just eight months separated the locals and the general election in February 2020 in which she attracted sufficient transfers to secure Cork SouthWest’s third and final Dáil seat on the eighth count, completing her journey from prospective councillor to Teachta Dála in less than one year. Conceding that her entry into the Dáil has been “such a steep learning curve”, Cairns identifies the development of an understanding of the workings of the House as a challenge. “I have learnt so much in the past 20 months,” she reflects, adding: “I am lucky to have an amazing team who learn a lot of it and teach it to me. It has been a real team effort.” Barriers to women While Cairns maintains that there are no barriers to female participation in the Social Democrats, there are several obvious barriers in seeking elevation to Dáil Éireann. “Often, during the day in Leinster House, you may feel like the minority or the only woman in the room, but it is nice when you go into your

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mol an óige eolas

Mol an óige

Holly Cairns TD

parliamentary meetings and that is not the case. Even down to our party structures, we have a chair and a vice-chair who are both women and both from Cork,” she relays. One specific barrier identified by Cork’s solitary female TD is the lack of maternity provisions for any public representatives, including councillors, senators, TDs, and ministers. However, ultimately, she characterises the older, established parties as the most significant barriers to female participation.

away from “asking whether we should or should not reduce emissions in the agriculture sector”. “There is no point,” she says, “in arguing with the science and facts in relation to this. We have to reduce emissions in all sectors, including agriculture. “Ultimately, what we should be talking about at this point is how we do this in a way that is fair for farming communities. In my lifetime, the way that we farm has completely transformed and never did we have a national discussion around [this transformation] and the knock-on effect that it has had on rural communities.” Criticising successive governments for having made “policy decisions which have really helped big business and big multinational agrifood companies”, rather than farmers and food producers, Cairns decries the narrative that the intensification of the industry is good for farmers and that a more sustainable model is somehow anti-farmer.


“It is a very male dominated environment in those parties and difficult for women to break in, be taken seriously and be put on the ticket. They are not really considered for it in the same way and that ultimately, is the biggest problem.” In her own county, much of Cairns’ workload is determined by the fact that she is a woman. Challenges that predominantly impact women, such as maternity restrictions in hospitals, refuge spaces for domestic violence, rent supplements and access to housing for people fleeing domestic violence, and the Repeal Review, consume much of her time.

While she regards it as an honour and a privilege to work on these policy issues, she maintains: “If we had more women, I think I would be able to spread my work over more issues… Often, I am asked to talk about female participation, women in politics, or female leadership. It would be nice to talk about things like agriculture as well.” Priorities As Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural Development; Social Justice; and Disability, Cairns has a broad remit within the Social Democrats. Alongside disability support services and social justice, it is perhaps unsurprising that, having grown up on a farm, Cairns’ deepest policy knowledge is rooted in agriculture. With her family forced to abandon dairying, and subsequently cattle farming, due to economic unviability, she now applies her MSc in organic horticulture to a vegetable seed production company, Brown Envelope Seeds. For the west Cork woman, the most significant agricultural priority is reframing the conversation


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People are sick of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They want a change and from just chatting to people, they do not necessarily want that change to be Sinn Féin.

“When you hear people spinning that narrative, you would swear that farmers have nothing at stake when it comes to climate change. The [agri] sector will be the first and the hardest hit. The landscapes that the industry depends on are constantly being damaged. There is no such thing as cheap food. It is costing somewhere and at the moment it is costing the environment which is very unfair on the next generation of farmers,” she analyses. Greenwashing Rejecting the Organic Farming Scheme, the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme, and the new Results-Based Environment-Agri Pilot Project as inadequate and, ultimately, as “greenwashing”, Cairns believes: “We need to change national policy because it gets away from us-versus-them or the segregation within the sector. Actual policy for the entire sector needs to change and that is the only we are going to protect the soil, maybe reverse some of the damage, stop polluting waters and the air “The approach that [the Social Democrats] would take is an overall policy one, not more little schemes. I see the purpose of them in terms of greenwashing and convincing the public that [the Government] is making an effort, but I do not see the purpose of them when you look at the science of what we need to do to make changes.” Herd numbers Suggesting that Irish farmers do not want increasingly large herds of cattle, particularly in the absence of sufficient space, feed, and grass, Cairns argues that agricultural policy has funnelled them into this course of action. “Policy must change – like the law around low-cost selling, to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their product, so they do not have to overstock in order to make ends meet,” she explains. “We always hear this conversation around the culling of the herd. It is so interesting when you think about what was happening with COP26 and saying that we are going to reduce emissions but not reduce the national herd. The reality is the herd has to reduce over time or we are not going to meet our targets. We have to be realistic.

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“What we need to do if we are going to reduce the herd rather than cull it is reduce the amount of cattle that are inseminated this year and ensure that farmers are still getting a fair price for what they have. That increases per livestock unit as the livestock units decrease. We start to reduce the herd now so that there is no culling, there is a reduction. That has not been done. Ultimately, what the Government is doing is kicking the can down the road for another government to have to do that and take a really horrible, cruel approach.” Cognisant that articulating such policies may be a unpopular among farming communities, Cairns insists that farmers are underestimated. “Farmers understand science, facts, and the environment more than most.

“I think what people want is something more focused on the future rather than the past, particularly when we are talking about the biggest challenge being climate change. I am sick of politics about the past and people really would like an alternative. We see our biggest job as providing that alternative.” Acknowledging the importance of an effective and diligent opposition, the Cork TD also expresses her frustration with being outside the executive. “I realise how important it is, but it is incredibly frustrating. I do not think that any one goes into politics to go into opposition,” she remarks. Optimism


Having personally experienced how quickly change

Now is the time for change. We have seen time and time again, when people are voting outside of party politics, such as in referendums, they are voting really for more socially democratic policies. There is a loud minority shouting, ‘this is anti-farmer’ and ‘we want more cattle’. That is not the majority of people.” Challenges of opposition While recent polls suggest that the electorate may be more disposed to change, an obvious challenge for the Social Democrats is ensuring a high calibre of candidates in each constituency and developing greater awareness of the party, which currently has six TDs and 19 councillors, as a viable option. “People are sick of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They want a change and from just chatting to people, they do not necessarily want that change to be Sinn Féin,” Cairns observes.

Credit: Social Democrats

can happen in terms of her own political journey, Cairns is optimistic about the future. Though that is not to say that she is patient about the pace of change. “I remember after the general election [in 2020], realising that we were going to end up with another Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael government and thinking that change is so slow,” she says, before qualifying: “But I remember Catherine Murphy talking to me at that time and saying, ‘you don’t know how monumental this is’. It is not one or the other. The two of them together — almost for a second time, but properly for the first time — is actually a sea change, and it is all happening very quickly now. Reiterating her desire to reframe agricultural policy and ratify the CRPD optional protocol, Cairns concludes: “When you zoom out, you have to feel optimistic. Now is the time for change. We have seen time and time again, when people are voting outside of party politics, such as in referendums, they are really voting for more socially democratic policies.”

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COMMITTEES OF THE OIREACHTAS Oireachtas committees comprise members of one or both Houses of the Oireachtas, chosen to consider particular subjects. There are two broad categories of Oireachtas committee: departmental and thematic. eolas examines the committees most active of late, the consultations currently open and the reports issued recently.

Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight Chair: Neasa Hourigan TD, Green Party


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Michael Healy-Rae TD, Independent

Richard Boyd-Barrett TD, Solidarity-People Before Profit

John Lahart TD, Fianna Fáil

Seán Canney TD, Independent

Aindrias Moynihan TD, Fianna Fáil

Ciarán Cannon TD, Fine Gael

Ged Nash TD, Labour

Pearse Doherty TD, Sinn Féin

Willie O’Dea TD, Fianna Fáil

Bernard Durkan TD, Fine Gael

Kieran O’Donnell TD, Fine Gael

Mairéad Farrell TD, Sinn Féin

Patricia Ryan TD, Sinn Féin

Brian Leddin TD, Green Party

Latest debate: 17 November, 2021 on inflation. Latest publication: Post-Budget 2022 Report, 11 November 2021.

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Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth Chair: Kathleen Funchion TD, Sinn Féin Members:

John Paul Phelan TD, Fine Gael

Ivana Bacik TD, Labour

Mark Ward TD, Sinn Féin

Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats

Senator Sharon Keogan, Independent

Patrick Costello TD, Green Party

Senator Erin McGreehan, Fianna Fáil

Cathal Crowe TD, Fianna Fáil

Senator Ned O'Sullivan, Fianna Fáil

Alan Dillon TD, Fine Gael

Senator Lynn Ruane, Independent

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor TD, Fianna Fáil

Senator Mary Seery Kearney, Fine Gael

Latest debate: Experiences of migrant communities engaging with State bodies and the healthcare system.

Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government, and Heritage Chair: Steven Matthews TD, Green Party Members:

Senator John Cummins, Fine Gael

Francis Noel Duffy TD, Green Party

Senator Mary Fitzpatrick, Fianna Fáil

Joe Flaherty TD. Fianna Fáil

Senator Rebecca Moynihan, Labour

Thomas Gould TD, Sinn Féín

Senator Mary Seery Kearney, Fine Gael

Emer Higgins TD, Fine Gael

Latest debate: 1 December 2021 on Committee Stage consideration of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021.

Paul McAuliffe TD, Fianna Fáil Cian O’Callaghan TD, Social Democrats Richard O’Donoghue TD, Independent Eoin Ó Broin TD, Sinn Féin Senator Victor Boyhan, Independent

Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Local Government (Directly Elected Mayor with Executive Functions in Limerick City and County) Bill 2021, Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021, and Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Water Services Separation Bill 2021, all 11 November 2021.

Latest publications: Report on Pre-

Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, and the Islands Chair: Denis Naughten TD, Independent Members:

Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Fianna Fáil

Jackie Cahill TD, Fianna Fáil

Senator Paddy Burke, Fine Gael

Joe Carey TD, Fine Gael

Senator Róisín Garvey, Green Party

Joan Collins TD, Independents 4 Change

Senator Paul Gavan, Sinn Féin

Paul Donnelly TD, Sinn Féin

Senator Eugene Murphy, Fianna Fáil

Charles Flanagan TD, Fine Gael

Senator Mark Wall, Labour

Claire Kerrane TD, Sinn Féin Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD, Green Party

Latest consultation: Discussion of the report on the Commission on Pensions with Pensions Commission Josephine Feehily on 17 November 2021. Latest debate: 17 November 2021 on the Report on the Commission on Pensions. Latest publication: Report of the Joint Committee on Examination of Employment Services, 9 November 2021.

Committee on Environment and Climate Action Chair: Brian Leddin TD, Green Party Members:

Senator Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin

Richard Bruton TD, Fine Gael

Senator Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil

Réada Cronin TD, Sinn Féin

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Independent

Cormac Devlin TD, Fianna Fáil

Senator John McGahon, Fine Gael

Alan Farrell TD, Fine Gael

Senator Pauline O’Reilly, Green Party

Darren O’Rourke TD, Sinn Féin

Latest consultation: Discussion with Minister for Environment, Climate Action, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan TD on carbon budgets and the Climate Action Plan on 15 November 2021.

Christopher O’Sullivan TD, Fianna Fáil Bríd Smith TD, People Before Profit-Solidarity Jennifer Whitmore TD, Social Democrats

Latest debate: 16 November 2021 on carbon budgets and the Climate Action Plan with Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD. Latest publication: Report under Dáil Standing Order 133 and Seanad Standing Order 116 on COM (2021) 551, 554, 555, 557, 558 and 568 [the legislative proposals of the EU’s Fit for 55 package], 7 October 2021.

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Clerk of the Seanad: Martin Groves Seanad Clerk and Returning Officer Martin Groves sits down with Ciarán Galway to discuss Seanad Office functions and priorities, alongside Covid mitigation and plans for the future. Increasing broadly in line with the expansion of digitalisation since the midto late-1990s and the establishment of the independent Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in 2004, the Oireachtas has experienced a significant uptick in activity in recent times. Amid this proliferation of activity, the Seanad Office is tasked with supporting sittings of Seanad Éireann as well as providing secretariats to three in-house committees: the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight; the Seanad Public Consultation Committee; and the Committee of Selection. While the weekly schedule of business is


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set by the Leader of the Seanad, currently Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty, the Seanad Office subsequently produces the Order Paper for the Seanad, reflecting the sequencing in the schedule. The Seanad Office adds new business, or new bills tabled by members, motions, and amendments to motions, to the Order Paper. “An Order Paper must be produced each day and the procedural materials coming into the Seanad Office and motions tabled by members must be edited and reviewed for compliance with the Standing Orders, issued to members, and placed on the Order Paper,” Groves explains.

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“Commencement matters which raise issues of topical interest are accepted daily and between 15 and 20 members might submit a matter which they are hoping to have selected by the Cathaoirleach and taken in the course of debate the following day. These are processed, communicated to departments, and occasionally, there may be questions of standing order compliance which must be dealt with. On a day-to-day basis, that is a significant workload of the Seanad Office.”

Structure The Houses of the Oireachtas Service is statutorily obliged to provide services to both houses of the Oireachtas. As such, HR services, financial services, and even some procedural services, are provided jointly to both houses. Meanwhile, the core procedural work of the Seanad is serviced by the Seanad Office and its relatively small staffing cohort. Since 2017, it has been headed by Groves as Clerk, assisted by the Clerk Assistant and a support staff of four people, at grades ranging from assistant principal to clerical officer. “Bridget Doody, the Clerk Assistant is the most important administrative relationship that I have,” Groves asserts, adding: “The Clerk Assistant supports me by managing the Seanad Office staff, while also taking the lead on the day-today organisation of the business of the House and the preparation for sittings of the Seanad.”

Advice Providing a fundamental basis for the procedural advice imparted to the Cathaoirleach and seanadóirí by the Seanad Office, the Standing Orders of Seanad Éireann are the rules which govern how the business of the Seanad, and its committees is conducted. “My job as Clerk, and the job of the Seanad Office, is to advise the Cathaoirleach and senators on how the Standing Orders should be applied to the business of the House,” Groves outlines. “The Standing Orders have been interpreted and applied over time. That has resulted in an evolution of their application. We monitor the way they

“My job as Clerk, and the job of the Seanad Office, is to advise the Cathaoirleach and senators on how the Standing Orders should be applied to the business of the House...” have developed and consult precedent carefully before making any recommendation.”

Priorities In his own role as Clerk and Seanad Returning Officer, Groves has three main priorities. The first, in the context of the pandemic, is ensuring that sittings of the Seanad continue to take place and that they are well run, notwithstanding the obstacles that the pandemic has thrown up. The second priority is securing adequate resourcing of the Seanad Office. “The resourcing here needs to be appropriate to the job at hand,” the Clerk says, noting: “Managing the day-to-day activity is one element, but I must also secure a good systems development capacity, to help us develop the electoral systems, my part of the Oireachtas Digital Transformation Programme and the Seanad Office’s procedural capacity and skills.” The third component of Groves’ priorities, as Seanad Returning Officer for the 43 vocational panel seats, is modernisation of the electoral system. “The current electoral systems have been in place for many years and have served us well for a very long time, however, they need to be updated. We have software for the recording and output of results at election counts, for instance, that is approaching the end of its life. “The Seanad electoral process is quite complex and anything I can do to make that process a little bit easier for all the people who are involved is something that I am interested in.”

Another significant element of the role of Clerk is membership of three statutory commissions. These are: the Standards in Public Office Commission; the Referendum Commission; and the Constituency Commission. In the modern era, the Clerk remains the chief procedural advisor to the Cathaoirleach and the chief recorder of the decisions of the House. Fundamentally, the core role is unchanged, even if some of the broader systems have developed or moved on. At the same time, Groves acknowledges that, as a member of the Management Board of a statutorily independent organisation, “the range and depth of corporate work has increased and because of that, the amount of time that the Clerk must devote to that work has certainly grown”.

Covid crisis Across the public service, the Covid crisis has had a major impact, forcing the adoption of new ways of working that had never been considered before. It had several specific impacts on Seanad Office. At the beginning of 2020, while the Covid crisis was developing, the Seanad Office was beginning the process of preparing for the Seanad general election; a complex process involving postal votes over a period of several months. “We ran the process as we normally would, but there were several imponderables along the way. For instance, a voter must go to

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“While staff worked from home as much as possible, it is necessary during sittings to have most of our core staff in the office. Managing social distancing and interactions, while still delivering the job to a high standard, is an ongoing challenge,” Groves observes.

Centenary Looking ahead to the centenary of the establishment of the Free State Senate in December 2022, the Seanad envisages a programme of events comprising lectures and exhibitions, culminating in a special sitting to coincide with the centenary on 11 December.

“The Seanad electoral process is quite complex and anything I can do to make that process a little bit easier for all the people who are involved is something that I am interested in.” an authorised person and vote in their presence, so how was that going to be affected? Thankfully, through social distancing and other measures, the system worked successfully. The counting of votes, a five-day process overseen by Groves as Returning Officer, in line with Covid restrictions, was a big logistical challenge. “Once the election was over, we had to hold the first meeting of the Seanad and we were very restricted in how we could do that. The first two meetings, during which the Cathaoirleach and the LeasChathaoirleach were elected, were held in the Convention Centre. Subsequently,

we infrequently met in the Convention Centre and Seanad chamber, primarily using the Dáil chamber instead. As such, we had to adapt our sitting schedule to avoid clashes with Dáil sittings,” Groves recalls. Usual voting arrangements could not operate during the crisis and instead, rollcall votes took place with members socially distanced. This arrangement is still in place, with the intention of returning to electronic voting once the crisis abates. Meanwhile, a challenge faced by both houses is that servicing sittings is an inherently hands-on, in-person operation.

Profile A native of Coolock, Dublin, Martin Groves has been a civil servant for almost 40 years. Having started in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in 1983, Groves remained with the newly established Telecom Éireann for several years before moving to the Department of Defence in the mid-1980s. In 1992, he joined the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas and has been there since, working in a wide range of areas including several parliamentary committees, all of the main procedural offices, as well as finance officer, before becoming Clerk Assistant of the Seanad in 2014 and Clerk in 2017.


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“One of the themes we will examine is the rationale for establishing the original Seanad and the subsequent retention of the Seanad in its current form under the 1937 Constitution. Part of this rationale was to ensure representation for the Protestant or unionist minority and to provide it with assurance at the foundation of the State that its voices would be heard at the centre. “Over the years, one particular strength of the Seanad has been the involvement of women and the proportion of women – currently around 40 per cent – who are members of the Seanad. In broader terms, the Seanad has often been a place where minority voices could be represented and where minority issues could be raised, sometimes with successful results.”

Vision Outlining his vision for a better resourced Seanad Office, with the capacity to not only service the sittings of the House and the committees, but also to take full advantage of technology to improve systems, Groves concludes: “There is an ongoing discussion between the Secretary General of the Houses and myself in terms of reviewing the Seanad Office staffing cohort. “I would certainly hope to increase the resources available to the Office and to restructure it in a way that allows it to be divided into one group – focused on the day-to-day business of the House and its committees – alongside a project development group. I think we need that capacity and there is an ongoing and positive discussion about that.”

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Senior Public Service appointments Published in November 2021, the Report on the Processes and Procedures Applying to the Appointment of Senior Executives in the Public Service made 14 specific recommendations.

The 288-page report is the culmination of work undertaken by the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, as well as members of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC). Launching the report, Cathaoirleach of the Joint Committee, John McGuinness TD, outlines the rationale for this work as being an attempt to “unravel how the decision to appoint Mr Robert Watt as interim Secretary General of the Department of Health was arrived at and how the recruitment process which ended with his appointment was conducted”. After government formation in early 2020, a vacancy emerged in the post of Secretary General of the Department of Health. While this was filled on an acting basis, formal recruitment did not occur until January 2021. The then Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), Robert Watt, was requested to move to the Department of Health on an interim basis, pending open competition. Simultaneously, the Minister for Public Expenditure and reform sanctioned an €81,000 salary increase, bringing the total salary for the permanent post to €292,000. Following open competition, Watt was successful in his application for the permanent post and was appointed in April 2021, agreeing to waive the salary increase “until the economy begins to recover and unemployment falls”. However, the report concludes that “no formal procedures or benchmarking processes were followed in either making the interim appointment or agreeing to a salary increase of 40 per cent for the permanent appointee”. The formal recruitment

Inset, left: John McGuinness TD, Cathaoirleach of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach Inset, right: Catherine Murphy TD, Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Committee of Public Accounts

process, it suggests, should have begun in October 2020, removing the requirement for an interim appointment and “much of the difficulty that arose in this regard”. Remarking on the insufficient recordkeeping for such a significant appointment and associated salary increase, the report also criticises “the lack of engagement by the majority of those who were requested either to provide information and/or attend a meeting of the Committee”. In total, the report makes 14 recommendations to “ensure sufficient transparency, openness, and accountability” by establishing “robust processes and procedures in the appointment and setting salaries for senior civil and public servants”. Significantly, these include a formal appointment process for all senior public service posts (interim and permanent); the re-establishment of the Top-Level Appointments Commission (TLAC) as a wholly independent body, distinct and separate from DPER; and the proposed creation of a formal Head of the Civil Service role be established “to ensure adequate oversight of secretaries general and so that disciplinary matters can be dealt with, should they arise”. Leas-Chathaoirleach of the PAC, Catherine Murphy TD outlines: “Members of the Committee of Public Accounts were very concerned at the manner of the interim appointment to the post of Secretary General of the Department of Health and the €81,000 pay increase for the post. The complete absence of the use of normal procedures and the 40 per cent pay increase for the post required examination. The failure to benchmark the new salary to a similar position in the public service only added to that concern.”

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Around the ard fheiseanna Three of the Dáil’s five largest parties recently held ard fheiseanna, with Sinn Féin signalling its intent to take power in Leinster House, the Green Party defending its record in government and Labour laying out its conditions for returning to government.

Sinn Féin: Is the South next? With the party topping polls north and south of the border, the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD told the party’s 2021 ard fheis that a Sinn Féin government in Dublin would put workers and families first. “The pandemic exposed the broken system in a partitioned Ireland, politics for the few at the expense of the many that brought a housing crisis, rip-off rents, overcrowded hospitals, record waiting lists, and a crushing cost of living,” the Sinn Féin President said in her speech. “The writing is on the wall for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They have been in government for far too long. Things were bad enough when these parties pretended to oppose each other, but by god things have gone to the dogs since the boys clubbed together.” McDonald also took aim at the DUP, dubbing their recent refusal to attend meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council and their anti-Protocol movements and rhetoric “electioneering and showboating” and “attempts to block the change so many people from all communities demand”. Pointing to Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA’s “biggest transformational housing plan in a generation”, McDonald pledged that a Sinn Féin government will “build public and affordable housing on a massive scale”, expand Magee University in Derry to supply more healthcare workers in Ireland, restore the right to retire at 65, and tackle “large corporate polluters”. With Sinn Féin simultaneously topping the polls on both sides of the border, the possibility of the party having both the Taoiseach in Dublin and the First Minister in Stormont now seems real. On political unionism’s threats to withdraw from Stormont in the event of a Sinn Féin First Minister, both McDonald and party Vice President and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA utilised similar rhetoric. “If Sinn Féin emerges as the largest party, we will nominate Michelle O’Neill as First Minister,” McDonald said. “The days of ‘Fenians need not apply’ are over.” O’Neill said: “The DUP has declared that a Sinn Féin First Minister after the next election would give unionism a real problem. Well, let me be crystal clear: the days of nationalists need not apply are gone. The days of denying abortion rights to women, to LGBT citizens, and Irish language speakers are gone. It is for the people to decide the next First Minister, not the DUP. Sinn Féin is aiming to return as the biggest party, not for the sake of it, but to deliver change.”

Credit: Sinn Féin 136

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Green Party: Transition to green economy ‘inevitable’ Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan TD told his party’s national conference in November that the transition to a green economy is now “inevitable” and that the Government commitment to the halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is non-negotiable. “That is what the science says we must do, if we are to avoid runaway climate change,” Ryan said. “It is the ambition at the centre of our Programme for Government. The risk isn't from taking action; the real risk is from standing back and doing nothing at all. “It is an inevitable transition because under business as usual, the world will simply burn. The only question is: Do we want to change now, or do we want to wait to try and catch up later when it will cost us much, much more?” The Green Party received 7.1 per cent of the vote in the 2020 general election, a 4.4 per cent increase that delivered a nine-seat increase that allowed the party to re-enter government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with the Programme for Government agreed in June 2020. Since the agreement of the Government formation, the Green Party’s polling figures have suffered; of the 41 recognised polls between July 2020 and the end of November 2021, only one, the Ipsos MRBI/Irish Times poll published on 5 October 2021, has shown it returning as high as 7 per cent. Party deputy leader and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD defended the decision to go into coalition: “Together we are a green team that understands the hard graft and activism it takes to make change happen, not to just talk about what might or could be some time in the future, nor to stay politically safer on opposition benches. “We are exactly where we need to be in this green decade of change. Our time is now.” Credit: Merrion Street

Labour: A fairer and kinder Ireland Labour Party leader Alan Kelly TD used his first address as party leader to take aim at parties who are ‘telling lies’ and to call for the making of a “fairer, kinder, better” Ireland at Labour’s national conference. Stating that the party is “passionate about delivering a real alternative for our people”, Kelly stated that they would only enter government under two conditions: “Firstly, will our core policies be implemented? And secondly, can we trust the moral compass of those who aspire to govern with us?” Without naming names, Kelly made it clear that his trust of other parties is circumspect at best when discussing taxation and public spending: “At every Budget, Labour puts forward our alternative fully costed proposals and we’re upfront about how we would pay for it: by taxing wealth, not work, and by closing loopholes. Too many parties are peddling the myth that we can have both tax cuts and public spending. “It’s a con job. It’s total lies. They are lying to the Irish people, pure and simple. Populist nonsense that all Labour Party representatives will always call out.”

Credit: Labour

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Perpetuating the pension crisis: Inconvenient truths

We need a government prepared to create a new social contract, one that puts workers, tenants, and pensioners ahead of the 1 per cent, asserts Unite’s Brendan Ogle. There is currently much justified political commentary about our current, and growing, pension crisis. I say ‘political commentary’ because, while the matter is political in every respect, the discussion avoids the political hot potato issues that underpin the crisis in the same way that Irish political commentary generally ignores most inconvenient truths. The inconvenient truth this time? The labour and housing markets are both deliberately designed and constructed in a manner that can only perpetuate and grow a pension crisis. The easy elements that make up the crisis are routinely discussed in a circular fashion that takes the issue nowhere. For example, many people quite rationally expect their state pension at age 65 and righteously oppose the age increases that have taken place. Moreover, the full pension (which not everyone gets) of €12,912 may be ‘generous’ by international standards, but it is not that much over half of what a full-time worker gets on the minimum wage (€20,685). How comfortable are the lives of our massive band of minimum-waged workers? Not very.


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As we listen to the daily news cycle, we learn that 20 per cent of householders are now renters, a figure that has doubled in a decade, and that 58,000 people aged in their 50s are renting. When we then consider that one-fifth of private sector renters pay over 40 per cent of their income on their rent, we can see the problem shining a big flashing light (Rory Hearne is doing herculean work in this regard): “Low pay and high rents, both of which are not alone deliberate government policies but ideological holy grails, are intrinsic to the pension crisis and it will not be possible to solve it without addressing both.” Consider pay. There are two things medium- and well-paid people can do that low-paid people simply cannot do, and both are in the nation’s long-term interests. The first thing they do is contribute more tax to the central exchequer to enable the payment of the state pension. This seems so obvious that it should hardly need to be stated at all, but it is never stated in the pension debates I hear. You cannot have a pension fund, public or private, without contributions to that fund. The money must come from somewhere and, in the case of the state pension, ‘somewhere’ is taxes paid by workers and consumers.

The labour and housing markets are both deliberately designed and constructed in a manner that can only perpetuate and grow a pension crisis. The more we earn the more tax we pay, and the better we as a nation can afford both our increased longevity and a lower proportion of us being in work to pay ‘contributions’ (taxes) too. The second thing that low-paid workers generally cannot do is to make their own private pension provision. Private pensions, and their attached costs and fees, are routinely presented by the avaricious private financial sector as a panacea for our pension crisis and, with the destruction of occupational schemes continuing apace, for all their flaws and greed they have a vital role to play. But how many workers on the minimum wage paying 40 per cent of their income on rent (I know a low-paid worker who pays 65 per cent of her income on rent) are paying into private pensions? Employers who cannot – or the many who simply will not – breach what they consider the effective ‘pay ceiling’ of the National Minimum Wage are certainly not going to provide even minimal pension schemes, and no minimum wage worker can realistically afford to do it themselves. In fact, even moderately paid workers cannot. Low pay, sustained and encouraged by the Government’s open-door policy to lobbyists for retail, hospitality and tourism and many other sectors, is a massive contributor to the pension crisis and will eventually lead to not only homelessness, but hunger and possibly social breakdown itself, if even the state pension cannot be sustained and paid to all. In the discussion of the pension crisis, it is necessary to join the dots. Circular half-baked discussions which deliberately avoid all the issues that sustain the crisis achieve nothing and let those who can act politically to address the issue off the hook. For as long as encouraging low pay and high rents are ideological goals of Government, the crisis will continue, will deepen, and will become economically and socially disruptive.

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Meet the

Daniel McConnell Daniel McConnell is an award-winning broadcast journalist and Political Editor of the Irish Examiner. A graduate of UCD and DCU, he regularly contributes to broadcast outlets, including RTÉ, Virgin Media, Newstalk, TodayFM and the BBC.

How did you get into journalism? I got involved with the two college papers in UCD which was a fantastic entry into the world of print journalism. The thrill of seeing your name on the front page for the first time is one I remember still to this day. I went on to become Editor of the University Observer where I worked with some of the very best journalists like Alan Torney (RTÉ), Richard Oakley (Business Post), Enda Curran (Dow Jones, Hong


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Kong), Steve Cummins (Sunday Times), Samantha Libreri (RTÉ), Niamh Lyons (RTÉ) and many, many more. From there I went on to do the DCU journalism master’s where I won a placement with the Sunday Times. I have since worked with the Irish Times, Sunday Independent and am five years in my post as Political Editor of the Irish Examiner.

challenging industry and the internet has upped the ante in terms of copy expectations and never-ending deadlines. Every day, my team and I mark ourselves against the best of the best in the other outlets so competition is fierce.

How do you think the profession is evolving?

The use of social media platforms too has changed the game fundamentally. We use Twitter as a means of marking your opponents and watching politicians, but we use WhatsApp for internal communications within the team.

It is certainly becoming a more

But, the highly restrictive libel laws

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There are plenty of people who are more than happy to be lickspittles for the powerful in our industry and take joy in having their bellies tickled by government ministers.

continue to make our job of holding the powerful to account very challenging, more so when social media platforms are rarely held to the same standard.

What are the challenges of working in print media? Obviously, with declining circulations, the pressure on resources is immense. We in the Irish Examiner have also gone behind a paywall in the past few months and while that has been successful, the transition from print to solely online will take a long time. Balancing those two strands of the business is challenging and encouraging people to pay for content online, which they have gotten for free for so long, is also not easy. On the plus side, the print media still very much sets the agenda in this country and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Who do you admire most within the industry and why? There are plenty of people who are more than happy to be lickspittles for the powerful in our industry and take joy in having their bellies tickled by government ministers.

Vincent Browne has, in my view, led the way on this during his career and I am a big admirer of him.

while Fiach Kelly, who sadly left our profession to work for government, was a superb hack and story getter.

Eamon Dunphy is another who has been like a rottweiler to the powerful at times, even if I vehemently disagree with him on many issues.

What has been your most significant story or project to date?

The late Alan Ruddock was another who I greatly admired from my days with the Sunday Independent. I have worked under a number of fantastic editors, and I would highlight three who have been fantastic to me. Aengus Fanning my former editor in the Sunday Independent who hired me and launched me as a young buck in the largest and most powerful paper in the country. Tim Vaughan who hired me as his political editor in the Irish Examiner and my current editor Tom Fitzpatrick who has had my back from day one. I also admire brilliant journalists like Jerome Reilly, Liam Collins, Ciaran Byrne, Maeve Sheehan, John Burns, and Miriam Donohoe with whom I have been lucky enough to soldier with at various stages.

I have always admired those who have been prepared to stand out from the crowd and be the pesky stone in the shoe of those on high.

It is a joy to work alongside my Irish Examiner colleagues Elaine Loughlin, Paul Hosford, and Aoife Moore every day as well as the great Mick Clifford who is simply one of Ireland’s greatest.

In an international context, Christopher Hitchens has been a significant influence on me.

Closer to Leinster House, I have always admired John Lee’s courage and tenacity, Senan Molony’s wit and skill

I have been lucky to have worked on some very big and important stories in my career from revealing U2’s plan to leave Ireland for tax reasons in 2006 to my work with whistle-blowers in UCC, the Red Cross and the charity Goal. But without question the story I am proudest of is the work I have done on the case of ‘Grace’ and ‘Sarah’ – two of 47 intellectually disabled young people who went through a foster home in Waterford where savage abuse took place.

How do you spend your time outside of work? With three small kids, there is little to do outside of a busy work life that doesn’t involve them. While it is very busy, it is fantastic as they are at a great age, so it is a lot of football training, swimming lessons and the like. When they are asleep, I enjoy sitting down with she who must be obeyed and relaxing over a glass of wine and some food. I am an avid reader and music fan so I would love nothing more than to be going back to gigs again. Also, nothing beats meeting up with friends when possible.

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How did your political career begin? I have always had an interest in politics. I became conscious of the fact that I was a feminist at a young age because my mother was and remains such a strong feminist role model to me. An event early on in my life that stands out as having politicised me took place when I was in primary school in west Cork. All the girls were made to stay inside and sew, while the boys played soccer outside. I didn’t like sewing and it struck me as being very unfair that keeping the boys and girls in my class in such arbitrary gender roles was the norm.

Political Platform Ivana Bacik TD An Oireachtas fixture since she was first elected to Seanad Éireann in 2007, Ivana Bacik was elected to the Dáil to serve as the Labour Party’s TD for Dublin Bay South following the July 2021 byelection. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, she is now Labour Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate, Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.


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Then, in 1989, as President of the Students Union in Trinity College Dublin, I, and others, were taken to court by an organisation called the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) for providing information on abortion, which was forbidden at the time. SPUC had started to take legal cases against student’s unions and women’s counselling centres to stop us from providing phone numbers and addresses of abortion clinics in England. Irish women had been travelling in large numbers to England over many years since abortion was legalised in England in 1967, so student unions helped them by providing information. That protracted case paved the way for legal change in favour of women’s rights and that prompted a long campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment – a campaign that finally succeeded with a 66.4 per cent vote in favour of Repeal in May 2018. I have been involved in campaigning for women’s rights and human rights since my university days, and as a Senator in the Oireachtas since 2007. Some years later, I was elected to the Seanad to represent Dublin University in 2007, and was re-elected in 2011, 2016 and 2020. I was honoured and delighted to be elected to represent Dublin Bay South in the Dáil following the byelection this year.

What are your most notable achievements in the Oireachtas to date? I am proud of my track record as a legislator. During my time in the Seanad, I worked with many colleagues

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throughout my career as to progress legislation in many different areas. Indeed, as a Senator, I had more bills passed into law than any other Senator, on issues such as workers’ conditions, women’s health rights, and LGBT equality. In fact, I have sponsored more than 30 bills and acts since I was first elected in 2007. My most memorable campaign in the Oireachtas was the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. As a longstanding advocate for free, safe, legal, and accessible abortion services in Ireland, it was an honour to be able to work with Oireachtas colleagues from all parties and none on that campaign. It is extraordinary to think that for 35 years, the Eighth Amendment created

crisis affects people across the country, and that is no different in Dublin Bay South. However, renting is uniquely prevalent in the area. It is vitally important, therefore, that we see a radical change in local and national policy to ensure that this matter is resolved. I have brought forward legislation, alongside my colleague Senator Rebecca Moynihan, seeking to drastically redress the power imbalance which makes renting (particularly in the long-term) so unsustainable for people in Ireland.

What are your priorities going forward? As the Labour Party Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth and for Climate and

in Ireland to non-national parents.

How can the Labour Party maximise its impact in the lifetime of the 33rd Dáil? We in Labour have a strong team of TDs and Senators, led by Alan Kelly TD. Labour has always sought to advance equality issues, whether they pertain to women’s rights, workers’ rights, LGBT rights or general socioeconomic rights; that is no different in this session of the Dáil. Labour is committed to providing constructive opposition to make a real impact on people’s lives. That has enabled us to pass important legislation from opposition, such as Brendan Howlin’s Private Member’s Bill to criminalise image-based sexual abuse and cyberbullying towards the end of

“Labour has always sought to advance equality issues, whether they pertain to women’s rights, workers’ rights, LGBT rights or general socioeconomic rights.” Ivana Bacik TD, Labour Party

such an obstacle for women seeking basic reproductive healthcare. Although there are many remaining issues relating to access, harassment outside medical facilities and other matters, I will never forget that brilliant campaign which resulted in the repeal of the Eighth Amendment with such a resounding majority – 66.4 per cent – voting yes.

What is unique about representing Dublin Bay South? I am thrilled to be representing Dublin Bay South, which has been my home for many years. Dublin Bay South is in many ways a microcosm of many of the national issues that the country faces today. For example, as many as 44 per cent of properties in the constituency are in the private rented sector. The housing

Environment, I speak on behalf of the Labour Party in the Dáil on legislation in these areas. At a local level, I am on seeking to improve the provision of housing and care, the protection of the climate and the introduction of better community amenities in Dublin Bay South. In terms of current legislative projects, I am currently liaising with the Government to see provisions contained in the Renters Rights Bill 2021, the Reproductive Health Related Leave Bill 2021, and the Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland Bill 2021. These pieces of legislation would give greater protection to renters; would give an entitlement to paid leave for workers who have suffered an early miscarriage or who are undergoing reproductive healthcare treatments; and would provide a pathway to citizenship for children born

last year (Coco’s Law). It is our intention to continue this work, and to use the mandate given to us by voters to make Ireland a better place for everyone living here.

What are your interests outside of the political sphere? I am a keen swimmer and lifelong cyclist. In my spare time, I love to enjoy the valuable amenity of Dublin Bay. We are very lucky to have it and must take stronger action to conserve and develop its recreational use. I have brought forward legislation – the Dublin Bay Bill 2021 – which would establish a taskforce to develop the Bay and to protect local biodiversity. I would love to see the installation of baths along the Bay for the enjoyment of all who visit it.

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COP26: Youth activists ‘disillusioned, frustrated, and angry’ After attending COP26 in Glasgow, Irish youth climate activist, and former delegate to the RTÉ Youth Assembly on Climate, Beth Doherty, reacts to its conclusion. It’s now been a month since COP26 concluded and activists from all over the world headed home. We had been outnumbered by the fossil fuel industry. ‘Observers’ had not been allowed to observe negotiations, and there had been little to no transparency. Many of the other young Irish activists I spoke to in Glasgow felt disillusioned, frustrated, and angry throughout the conference.

Lack of transparency COP26 has received criticism across the board. Activists were kept far from the key decision-making spaces at the heart of the conference. The ‘Action Hub’ in the Blue Zone (the conference space) was far from the negotiation rooms, and even an observer badge didn’t enable us to get close to the decisions being made. This lack of transparency is not exclusive to COP26. Solutions made behind closed doors with vested interests will not deliver the change we need. Full and open transparent engagement of all people is essential for delivering climate justice.

Greenwashing Greenwashing was rife across the conference, with some organisations painting unsustainable practices with a rosy brush to hide their true activities. This furthered the sense of disillusionment and anger for myself and others that I spoke to.

Justice and representation We will not stop the climate crisis without climate justice, yet COP26 lacked a justice-centric approach. MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) activists were excluded and underrepresented, women made up just 16 per cent of the COP26 core team. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry had the largest delegation. The global north did not take on an equitable burden for the loss and damage it has caused to the global south, and as mentioned the conference continued to be funded by those complicit in this crisis.


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Going forward Inside, the conference neglected transparency, justice, and energy. Outside, however, collective power brought hope for the future. We saw hundreds of thousands of people coming together on the streets of Glasgow and beyond demanding change. The closed spaces inside COP26 may not have delivered the change we need, but I am hopeful that we will, together. In writing this article, I asked two friends who attended COP26 with me to summarise their experiences. Toto Daly, 18, observed: “Those two weeks in Glasgow left me confused as to what is considered a crisis. What about the truth? Where are our leaders?” This lack of faith was echoed by Jessica Dunne, 17, who said: “COP26 for me was a blessing and a curse, I was able to form connections with activists from all over the world, but the event solidified my lack of faith in world leaders to take the actions needed to achieve climate justice.” Most of the hope and inspiration in Glasgow came from fellow activists. Another world is, in fact, possible, even if those inside the Blue Zone were not imagining it. We can deliver change beyond COP26, but only by coming together as a collective force, pushing for change as a movement and demanding that better world, which delivers for us all.

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Articles inside

Back page: Youth climate activist Beth Doherty article cover image

Back page: Youth climate activist Beth Doherty

pages 146-148
Mol an óige: Holly Cairns TD article cover image

Mol an óige: Holly Cairns TD

pages 128-133
Thomas Byrne TD emphasises the importance of the article cover image

Thomas Byrne TD emphasises the importance of the

pages 122-127
NESC’s Anne-Marie McGauran discusses digital inclusion in article cover image

NESC’s Anne-Marie McGauran discusses digital inclusion in

pages 112-121
Seanad Clerk Martin Groves discusses his role and priorities article cover image

Seanad Clerk Martin Groves discusses his role and priorities

pages 134-145
Irish education at a crossroads article cover image

Irish education at a crossroads

pages 104-111
Government CIO Barry Lowry discusses building on digital article cover image

Government CIO Barry Lowry discusses building on digital

pages 78-85
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris TD on article cover image

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris TD on

pages 100-103
Gar Mac Críosta reflects on HSE digital transformation during article cover image

Gar Mac Críosta reflects on HSE digital transformation during

pages 42-49
Irish health system under pressure article cover image

Irish health system under pressure

pages 38-41
Minister of State Robert Troy TD on harnessing the potential article cover image

Minister of State Robert Troy TD on harnessing the potential

pages 74-77
Mairéad Farrell TD on eurozone fiscal rules article cover image

Mairéad Farrell TD on eurozone fiscal rules

pages 30-37
Budget 2022 and health priorities article cover image

Budget 2022 and health priorities

pages 50-73
Cover story: HPE Ireland’s Enda Cusack discusses digital article cover image

Cover story: HPE Ireland’s Enda Cusack discusses digital

pages 14-23
DPER’s Philip McGrath outlines innovation delivery in the article cover image

DPER’s Philip McGrath outlines innovation delivery in the

pages 10-13
Round table discussion: Security of supply Powering Ireland’s infrastructure plans article cover image

Round table discussion: Security of supply Powering Ireland’s infrastructure plans

pages 24-29