eolas magazine issue 53

Page 1

Informing Ireland’s decision-makers...

Imagining a better way Bord Gáis Energy’s Teresa Purtill Agriculture Minister

EurEau President

NCSC Director



Richard Browne

McConalogue TD


reflects on

talks agri-food and

discusses European


climate action

water policy




issue 53 Sep 22

Special reports: Cybersecurity •. Water • Public affairs


In association with

4-5 October 2022 • Croke Park, Dublin The must-attend conference on Ireland’s environment ®

Environment Ireland is Ireland’s major environmental policy and management conference. Now in its 18th year, this two-day event features a range of focused sessions highlighting the pressing issues facing the environment in Ireland and further afield.

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Alastair McKinstry, Programme Manager for Environmental Sciences, Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) Niamh Moore-Cherry, Deputy Principal, College of Social Sciences and Law, UCD

Jo Pike, Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust Danielle Conaghan, Head of Environment and Planning Group, Arthur Cox Michael Cook, CEO, Circular Communities Scotland Séamus Clancy, Chief Executive, REPAK Senior representative, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland Bruce Harper, Environmental Consultant, Antaris Consulting

Diane Foster, Project Manager, Source to Tap Feargal Ó Coigligh, Assistant Secretary, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Professor Yvonne Buckley, Professor of Zoology, Trinity College Dublin Geoff Dooley, Head of Sustainability Services, Antaris Consulting Paddy Mahon, Chief Executive, Longford County Council

Dr Katharine Steentjes, Research Associate, Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), Cardiff University

Brian Carroll, Assistant Secretary, Environment, Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications

Sponsorship opportunities There are only a small number of opportunities remaining to get involved with Environment Ireland as a sponsor. Now in its 18th year, this is the major annual environment conference in Ireland attracting 300+ key stakeholders annually. For further information please contact Fiona McCarthy on 01 661 3755 or email fiona.mccarthy@environmentireland.ie



By email


By telephone

+353 (0) 1 661 3755



04 08



Matters arising Issues 08

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue TD discusses agri-food and climate action



Cover story: Bord Gáis Energy’s Teresa Purtill


Sectoral emissions ceilings plan


Roundtable discussion: Delivering effective services and interventions for tenants


Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD: Sustainable transport





Pre Budget 2023 analysis

Water 42

Minister Darragh O’Brien TD outlines priorities to improve water services


Ireland’s water and wastewater future


EurEau President Claudia Castell-Exner explores European water policy



Cybersecurity 68

Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD overviews the National Cyber Security Strategy


National Cyber Security Centre Director Richard Browne on risks and threats






Europe 92

The Oxford Institute’s Katja Yafimava on gas supply disruption


118 Roundtable discussion hosted by

Cybersecurity for the digital decade

Water report hosted by

Public affairs 94

People: Documentary photographer Martin Parr


Secretaries general in profile


Mol an óige: Jack Chambers TD


Ernie O'Malley: A Life


Meet the Media: Flor MacCarthy


Political platform: Josepha Madigan TD

Cybersecurity report sponsored by

Energy Markets and Security Conference 2022 Friday 30th September • The Marker Hotel • Dublin

The economic rebound after the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a price spike for multiple commodities, including energy. The war in Ukraine has led to further increases in energy prices and security of supply concerns. The surge in energy prices is against the backdrop of the continuing transition to a net zero carbon energy system and a growing economy. Additionally, electricity security has come under the spotlight due to increasing demand from data centres which are forecast to account for nearly one quarter of electricity demand by 2030. This conference will look at the drivers behind the rise in gas and electricity prices and examine the security of energy supply to the island and security of the electricity grid.

Speaker panel

Key issues discussed will include:

Paddy Fitzgerald Head of Power Trading Bord Gáis Energy Muireann Lynch Senior Research Officer Economic Analysis Division, ESRI Dr Paul Deane Research Fellow Environmental Research Institute, UCC

Neil Walker Head of Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Policy, Ibec

3 3 3 3

Gas market outlook Electricity price outlook What is the status of oil storage in Ireland? What are the opportunities to reduce energy demand [quickly]?

Colm O’Neill Partner KPMG Russell Smyth Partner KPMG


How do we accelerate renewable energy sources?

3 3 3

What role will interconnection play? Is there a future role for indigenous gas? Do we need gas storage and/or an LNG terminal?


Will nuclear have a long term role in securing Ireland’s energy supply?

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How to register Online www.energyireland.ie

By email registration@energyireland.ie

By telephone +353 (0)1 661 3755

eolas Issue 53 Sep 2022 Digital



Editorial Ciarán Galway, Editor ciaran.galway@eolasmagazine.ie Odrán Waldron, Deputy Editor odran.waldron@eolasmagazine.ie

Time for action…… As highlighted by the Climate Change Advisory Council, the agreed sectoral emissions ceilings are inconsistent with the Climate Act 2021 objective of a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, and “there remains considerable uncertainty around how the carbon budgets will be delivered”. In fact, 5.25 MtCO2eq of annual emissions reductions remain unallocated for the second carbon budget period. There is more than a hint of procrastination in the hope that technological advancements – rather than radical societal and economic change – will be enough to deliver national climate objectives. While acknowledged as “a useful starting point”, it is anticipated that Climate Action Plan 2023 will establish the precise steps required to align the sectoral emissions ceilings with the ambition of the carbon budgets. However, becoming embroiled in further debate is tantamount to climate obstruction. Rather than continue to luxuriate in comfortable inaction, now is the time for action. As French philosopher Montesquieu wrote in Mes Pensées: “Le mieux est le mortel ennemi du bien.” In a similar vein, our cover story interview explores Bord Gáis Energy’s pursuit of a “better way”, as it undertakes a transformative journey en route to a sustainable energy future. Ultimately, Teresa Purtill, Director, Services and Solutions Division predicts that “Bord Gáis Energy will be synonymous with supporting customers in their journey to net zero”. In addition, this issue of eolas Magazine incorporates special reports on water and cybersecurity, with notable contributions from ministers Darragh O’Brien TD and Ossian Smyth TD, EurEau President Claudia Castell-Exner, and NSCS Director Richard Browne. Elsewhere, comprehensive coverage is afforded to current and public affairs topics which include interviews with: Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue TD; the Oxford Institute’s Katja Yafimava; documentary photographer Martin Parr; Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers TD; and Ernie O’Malley biographers Harry F Martin and Cormac O’Malley.

David Whelan david.whelan@eolasmagazine.ie Fiona McCarthy fiona.mccarthy@eolasmagazine.ie Joshua Murray joshua.murray@eolasmagazine.ie Advertising Sam Tobin sam.tobin@eolasmagazine.ie Design Gareth Duffy, Head of Design gareth.duffy@eolasmagazine.ie Jamie Hogan jamie.hogan@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

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


Mulvany to become HSE acting CEO The Chief Financial Officer of the HSE, Stephen Mulvany, is set to become acting CEO, following the resignation of Paul Reid. Mulvany has worked for the HSE for over 17 years, having worked as Chief Financial Officer for eight years. Before that, he was the National Director of Mental Health, and has had roles including that of Regional Director of Operations for the Dublin NorthEast region and has worked as a hospital networking manager in Ardee, County Louth. He is a graduate of Griffith College Dublin, where he became a chartered accountant, and has completed postgraduate studies in Dublin City University and the Irish Management Institute. Reid, who will resign as CEO of the HSE on 3 October,

announced his intention on social media in June. He stated that he has now formally handed in his notice, where he said that he “will truly miss leading the most committed in the country in some of the toughest times”. Reid has described the decision to resign as the hardest decision he has ever made in his professional life, and one which had been made with “a heavy heart”. “No organisation will ever match the commitment, dedication, and relentless willingness to go beyond the call of duty that I have witnessed as we battled multiple waves of Covid, a criminal cyber-attack while driving a significant reform agenda. This has been truly inspirational for me to experience.”


100,000 premises to be connected via National Broadband Plan by year-end The Government is forecasting that over 100,000 homes and businesses will have “access to world class broadband infrastructure” by the end of 2022. The figure was included in the Government’s latest update on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which has seen 15,000 connections to the NBP network completed as of 8 July 2022. 2,000 first-time connections are being completed each month and “this is expected to increase”.

services installed – 186 within the first six months of 2022 – with National Broadband Ireland on track to meet its school connections target. 11,000km of fibre cable have been installed by NBI, with the fibre designs of 314,000 premises completed and 39,000 poles upgraded by Openeir or added by NBI. 200,000 premises have had pole and duct upgrades either commenced or completed

In total, over 70,000 premises are now able to preorder a connection to the NBP network and more than 260 broadband connection points, giving public access to broadband to rural communities, are now live. 369 schools have had their high-speed


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and 64,000 premises have been passed by the NBI Network with build works ongoing across the 26 counties of the State. The 70,000 premises available for order or pre-order cover 23 of the 26 counties.

matters arising


An Bord Pleanála allegations referred to Garda and DPP The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has referred a barrister’s report on An Bord Pleanála’s (ABP) former deputy chairman Paul Hyde to the Director of Public Persecutions (DPP) and An Garda Síochána. The report by senior counsel Remy Farrell investigated allegations of undeclared conflicts of interest in Hyde’s work with ABP, and the Minister is said to have acted on the advice of Attorney General Paul Gallagher in referring it to the DPP.

was being carried out. He then permanently stepped

Hyde, who was appointed to ABP in 2014 and became deputy chairman in 2019, denies any wrongdoing, but stood aside from his post in May 2022 on a temporary basis while the investigation

many planning applications… The public must have

down in July 2022. The developments have prompted Minister O’Brien to promise an overhaul in how appointments are made to ABP, pledging to bring plans to Cabinet in the near future for an appointments process that will be underpinned by new laws. The Minister said: “An Bord Pleanála stands at the apex of our planning system and plays a crucial role as the final arbiter of trust in the impartiality and integrity of our planning system if it is to function effectively in facilitating sustainable development.”


Government to develop a hydrogen strategy Following the announcement of the Climate Action Plan 2021, the Government opened submissions in July 2022 for the consultation process of the hydrogen strategy for Ireland. The development of the utilisation of hydrogen is one of the means that the Government hopes can help in its plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 7 per cent every year between 2021 and 2030, with the ultimate goal of reaching net zero CO2 emissions. The plan sets out action plans and details which include testing the technical feasibility of safely injecting green hydrogen blends in the gas grid, assessing the potential for system integration between the electricity and gas networks, which will

include the production, storage and use of green hydrogen, and progressing research and pilot studies regarding the use of hydrogen in the transport sector. There are also a number of other actions, such as those concerning renewable energy in the heat sector, where hydrogen is a relevant factor. The development of a hydrogen strategy is one of the key priorities in the plans outlined in the National Energy Security Framework, which aims to ensure the affordability and sustainability of Ireland’s energy supply. The deadline for submissions to the consultation process closed on 2 September 2022.

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matters arising


Bobby Aylward (1955-2022) The former Fianna Fáil TD Bobby Aylward died in July 2022 at the age of 67 following an illness. A member of the Kilkenny Aylward family political dynasty, he served as a Teachta Dála for the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency for nine years across two stints. Having first been elected in the 2007 general election, Aylward lost his seat in 2011 and regained it in 2015, only to lose it again in 2020. Having ascended to the Dáil after 15 years on Kilkenny County Council, Aylward followed the footsteps of his elder brother Liam, also a Fianna Fáil TD from 1977 to 2007 and the holder of three different Minister of State portfolios, who decided to remain in the European Parliament, which he did until 2014, when an end was brought to double-jobbing. Both Aylward brothers had followed their father into State-level politics; Bob Aylward, a two-time All-Ireland Senior Hurling champion with Kilkenny, served as a Senator from 1973 until his

own untimely death in 1974. A nephew, Eamon Aylward, currently sits on Kilkenny County Council. Bobby Aylward also worked as a farmer while a TD and continued the tradition of his family not only in Fianna Fáil politics, but in membership of the Ballyhale Shamrocks GAA Club, the most successful club in the history of the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship with eight titles, where he served as chairman until his death. He is survived by his wife Helena, their two sons Bob and Mark, and their daughter Tríona. Speaking on his death, Taoiseach Micheál Martin remarked that Aylward was “tireless” in his efforts for constituents and a “deeply committed public representative” who “continued the strong Aylward tradition of hard work, delivery and representation”. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


Majority of Active Travel Fund for rural areas unspent


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Figures released by the National Transport Authority (NTA) show that 56 per cent of the funding allocated to rural areas, as part of the Active Travel Fund, remained unspent in 2021.

The NTA stated that it was unsurprising that a vast

The State allocated €72.8 million in funding for 19 rural local authorities, with the aim of using the money on the development of 340 cycling and walking projects.


The fund has been allocated to urban regions previously, whilst the Government allocated the fund to rural areas for the first time in 2021.

authorities typically handle, whilst there are further

The rural fund is part of the Government’s project aiming to create a ‘15-minute strategy’ whereby town centres in rural areas are accessible, thus reducing the need for cars and aiding the reduction of CO2 emissions.


bulk of the money remains unspent and reiterated that this money can be spent in the future and that none of the active travel projects had been

They further explained that the spending was a significant expansion of the capacity that rural local challenges which can be explained by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the challenging economic

The Greater Dublin Area and the other city councils were allocated €240 million for the same period, of which 37 per cent remains unspent.

matters arising P U B L I C A F FA I R S

Complaints to An Coimisinéir Teanga up 20 per cent in 2021 I

The annual report of An Coimisinéir Teanga shows there were 727 complaints made to the language commissioner in 2021, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year’s total. More than 20 per cent of those complaints stemmed from a lack of Covid-19 services available through Irish. An Coimisinéir Rónán Ó Domhnaill expressed his frustration within the report that only 40 per cent of the complaints lodged could be fully investigated due to shortcomings in language legislation, which he said highlighted the importance of implementing all aspects of the Official Languages Act 2021. The full implementation of the Act, which aims to increase the number of civil and public servants with Irish language proficiency as well as the visibility of

the language itself across public sector logos and body names, would mean that people could expect to be able to access a broader range of services in the country’s native language, An Coimisinéir wrote. Ó Domhnaill also reiterated long-standing complaints from Gaeilgeoirí and non-Gaeilgeoirí alike regarding the inability to use the fada accent in both names and addresses when dealing with State bodies. His report states that a “substantial number of complaints in respect of the use of the acute accent in a person’s name” were among the complaints received by the office and that “a rectification of this basic neglect” was important in the process of ending “bad practice, which is insulting and detracts from a person’s identity”.


Taoiseach: ‘Collins one of the greatest Irishmen’ Credit: Merrion Street

Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD became the first ever Fianna Fáil leader to address the commemoration in Béal na Bláth on the centenary of the death of Michael Collins. The Taoiseach outlined the progress made in the State’s centenary of independence and praised the political system that has emerged .

showed deep compassion – openly weeping when

He stated that, contrary to the “lazy tendency” to describe the political system as ‘Civil War politics’, that the “centrist, democratic politics which emerged in our country has achieved far more than any other approach could possibly have achieved”.

the end of civil war politics. He stated that Collins’

The Taoiseach outlined his belief that Collins’ death robbed Ireland of its greatest chance of achieving reconciliation.

promise and the potential of Ireland. What made his

“He never celebrated deaths of opponents and

labels,” the Tánaiste said.

he heard of the deaths of former colleagues like Cathal Brugha.” Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar TD also addressed the commemoration, symbolically marking dynamism, ability to compromise and his ability to unite people were his defining qualities. “The genius of Michael Collins was that he saw the vision so radical and original was that it was prepared to go beyond narrow definitions and rigid

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Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue TD: Turning the tide in agriculture One day before the Government announced agreement on the sectoral emissions ceilings, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, sat down in his department’s Kildare Street headquarters with Ciarán Galway to discuss Ireland’s agrifood policy, climate action, and the future of agri-food.

As negotiations on the sectoral emissions ceilings linger two weeks beyond the arrival of the Dáil summer recess, in late July 2022, Charlie McConalogue cuts an embattled figure as a government minister under pressure. For weeks, accounts of fraught cabinet meetings have been reported across the media spectrum. Ireland’s farming population and environmental activists are respectively wary of betrayal amid triparty coalition horse-trading.

Priorities As such, the role of the modern agriculture minister is defined by a fine balancing act. Alongside a Programme for Government pledge to support “farm families”, ensuring sustainable incomes across the food and fisheries sectors, McConalogue is cognisant of the challenge of reducing agricultural emissions. Simultaneously, he wants to ensure that Ireland retains its agrifood productivity.


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“We do not want to see a reduction in the amount that is being produced but we want to see a reduction in the emissions that come from agriculture, so it is about striking that appropriate balance and then working across the economy to seek to deliver that 51 per cent reduction [by 2030]. That is something that we are going to keep under review as the decade progresses,” he insists.

2021-27 as driving the agriculture vision in this decade.

Buoyed by intimate knowledge of his brief – informed, in part, by his experience on his own family’s farm – the Minister feels that he carries a deep appreciation of the role which has instilled a capacity to lead the sector. Charting the Government’s trajectory over the previous 18 months, the Minister identifies the new 10-year Food Vision 2030 strategy for the agri-food sector, preliminary agreement on Ireland’s Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan (CSP) for the period from 2023 to 2027, and the ongoing development of the Seafood Development Programme


“Overall, in terms of agriculture and food, it has been a time of challenge but also a time of progress. There is a very strong future for the sector given the growing importance of food, our capacity to produce it, and in a way that is really sustainable,” he reflects.

Having undertaken a tour of the country’s marts in 2021, addressing farmers in a “nationwide Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) consultation tour”, McConalogue sought to inform the development of the CAP which will be the key delivery vehicle for agricultural policy and funding from January 2023 until the end of 2027. “My key objective was to ensure that all farmers – regardless of the type of farming that they do or the part of the country they are from – have the opportunity to have their say, to feed into

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the draft proposals on the CAP,” he suggests, adding: “It definitely helped to ensure that the final CAP programme was balanced.” Following the announcement of the CSP package in October 2021, McConalogue gained much respect within the farming community, having continued his tour of the marts in the face of Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) protests. Reflecting on that time, the Minister asserts that the “robust discussions” that took place on the tour indicated that “farmers were engaging” and illustrated the high stakes for farmers in relation to CAP meaning that the “outcome of the policy was a lot stronger”.

National farming model Unlike other agricultural models across the world, which are typified by housed systems, Ireland’s national farming model is distinct in that it utilises a grass-based pasture production system. As such, much of Irish agriculture revolves around growing grass for grassbased livestock, and grass-based milk production. “The thing that distinguishes ours from other agricultural models is the fact that we do have a grazing-based, pasturebased agricultural system and that is quite unique. That gives a real differential to the type of product that we have. We have grass-fed beef and grass-fed dairy,” McConalogue explains. “That gives us a real advantage in terms of the quality of the produce, the taste of it, and the sustainability credentials as well, because it is a much more sustainable system when you are working off grass as opposed to a grainbased systems, which is what you see in other agricultural countries.” The Minister acknowledges that this model generates specific challenges in relation to applying emerging feed additive technologies. However, there is capacity, he suggests, to avail of the of new technologies – trialled and proven in house-based systems – to reduce methane without impacting on productivity during winter months. “We are conducting research into how that can be applied at pasture too. I think

“Irish farmers are very much aware of the fact that the marketability and attraction of Irish food is about how we produce it, the sustainability, and the environment in which we produce it.” Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD there is a real potential to adjust that particular method to actually work with grass,” he remarks.

to adopt multi-species swards and red clover silage swards into the grassgrowing and grazing process.

Emissions increases

“Both of those systems actually produce natural fertiliser and fix nitrogen into the soil directly using the plants, which reduces the need for chemical fertiliser and can be done in a way that is equally productive. So, you significantly reduce the chemical fertiliser use in the process.

Provisional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data for 2021 indicates that the agriculture sector was directly responsible for 37.5 per cent of national GHG emissions, retaining its position as the single largest emitter of all economic sectors. This represents a 3 per cent annual increase in GHG emissions in 2021 and a second successive increase. Agricultural emissions are now 15 per cent higher than in 1990. Primarily, the EPA attributes this increase to an uplift in synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use (+5.2 per cent), dairy cattle numbers (+2.8 per cent), and milk production (+5.5 per cent). While the Agriculture Minister concedes that overall GHG emissions must be reduced, he emphasises that GHG emissions 2021 are equal to 2018 (the baseline year), despite increased productivity in the same period.

Synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers That being said, McConalogue anticipates that there will be a decrease in 2022 in tandem with a reduced fertiliser usage. “I expect to see the 2022 emissions drop. That obviously has been influenced by the cost of fertiliser as well as the fact that we have had a better growing season this year than last year,” he observes. Through the Multi-Species Sward Scheme and Red Clover Silage Measure, the Government is encouraging farmers

“We have seen it dropping and I think we are going to see a lot more adoption of clover and multi-species swards over the next number of years, and that is something, from a policy point of view, that we will be backing strongly and putting streams in place for,” he says.

National herd In 2021, dairy cattle numbers increased for an 11th consecutive year, following a pattern that Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD described to RTÉ as “exponential growth”. In the face of rigid political resistance, a consensus has emerged within academic circles determining that significant emissions reductions will require reduced numbers of livestock. However, the Minister is resolute in opposing this narrative and echoes the Taoiseach’s sentiments that growth in the national herd has been determined by the elimination of milk quotas. “We are seeing the national herd stabilising now because quotas were in place between 1984 and 2015. So, we saw some expected increase in the dairy herd in advance of quotas being removed and we have seen that increase continue since then. I am not aware of any other sector of the economy that had its capacity to produce constrained

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to see new things that we would not have thought of before. At government level – and with Teagasc in particular, for example – we are investing in relation to research around this, and we are very open to any new initiatives that can help us to lower our footprint further.” One such research stream focuses on employing breeding regimes to genetically capture animals “which are performing well” in relation to emissions, mirroring the economic breeding index (EBI) utilised in the dairy industry.

and restricted in that way. That has led to an expansion. “We have seen a reduction in beef because some people have gone out of beef and into dairy. We have also seen some people go out of tillage and into dairy, particularly in the early years. But last year, 2020, 2019, and 2018, for example, were also years where we would have seen increasing capacity and production in the dairy herd. Yet, as of today, our emissions profile is the exact same as it was in 2018, which is the base year for emissions reductions for the wider economy. So, production has been going up but actually emissions are now where they were in 2018,” he argues, before adding: “But we do have to bring them down.”

Sectoral emissions ceilings Even prior to a final target, the agriculture sector was provided with a less radical reduction range than any other sector of the economy. Indeed, compared with an average maximum reduction in emissions by 2030 of 57 per cent, agriculture was afforded a maximum reduction of 30 per cent.


for the sector. The protection and enhancement of our sustainable food production system, while ensuring that agriculture plays its part in climate change mitigation, has been a priority for this government. I am confident that farmers will embrace this challenge and, as Minister, I will stand full square behind our farmers on this journey to support them at every step.”

“This very much informs farmers’ breeding decisions and has led to very significant productivity gains in terms of milk production and also in terms of things like fertility. Where we can capture the capacity of animals that have different emissions profiles and factor that into our breeding, we can also breed animals which have less emissions than their predecessors. Again, it is emerging, it is research that is ongoing, but again, it is something that has capacity to deliver improvements over the next number of years,” the Minister suggests.

Technological solution

Change narrative

Under the sectoral emissions ceilings, a total of 5.25 MtCO2eq of annual emissions reductions remain unallocated for the second carbon budget period, from 2026 to 2030. Following a mid-term review, these will be allocated on the basis that additional abatement measures or new technologies emerge later in this decade.

McConalogue maintains that having already embarked on a transformation journey, farmers are acutely aware of the challenge.

As such, the Government is exposed to the accusation that it is ultimately pinning its hopes for emissions reductions, including in the agriculture sector, on technologies which are not yet deployed at scale. It is an assertion the Agriculture Minister rejects.

Ultimately, the sectoral emissions ceilings for the agriculture sector in the period up until 2030 was set at 25 per cent reduction, from 23 MtCO2eq to 17.5 MtCO2eq, relative to 2018 emissions.

“I do not think so. There are some emissions reductions which will be set aside for the second five-year carbon budget… But the government commitment is to deliver that 51 per cent reduction by 2030. That is the objective we are working towards,” he responds.

Commenting on this agreement, the Minister indicates: “This target reflects a very challenging but achievable ambition

“As everyone turns their mind to the need to reduce emissions, we are going to see new developments, we are going

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“Irish farmers are very much aware of the fact that the marketability and attraction of Irish food is very much about how we produce it, the sustainability, and the environment in which we produce it,” he maintains. Adding: “From a government point of view, it is about how we support them on that journey in terms of their incomes. Changes away from chemical fertiliser, for example, are things which can deliver better profits for farmers. The initiatives that we are taking, such as the AgriClimate Rural Environment Scheme [ACRES], as well, are something that will deliver for the environment but also, and really importantly, provide income streams to farmers.”

Net importer While the Republic exports 90 per cent of its agricultural output, according to

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data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, since 2000, concurrently, it has been a net importer of food energy. In fact, net food energy imports exceed exports by the equivalent of the calorie intake of 2.5 million people. Indeed, while the Minister suggests that there are many foods “grown in other countries that we would not grow so easily here”, according to CSO data, the State annually imports almost onequarter of a million tonnes of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and apples; foods which are conducive to Ireland’s climate. “I think there is space for improvement in what we can grow domestically,” he concedes, adding: “We need to look at how we can grow our horticulture sector and our vegetable sector in particular, and also our fruits sector. It is a sector we want to grow because we at least need to be in a position to supply for our own needs in those spaces. “Outside of that, because we are grassbased and pasture-based, we are world leading in relation to the production of animal proteins, meat proteins, and other proteins. That is something that we do really well. It is something that it is not as possible to do in other countries. It is something that we would be seen as leading internationally in relation to the quality of what we produce and also in terms of the sustainability of what we produce too.”

Agricultural policy Traditionally prioritising economic output and productivity, and relegating the importance of environmental protection, agricultural policy in the State has been a driver of farming practices which have increased emissions. Yet, for many within the farming population, the current system fails to generate adequate income. However, the Minister rubbishes the suggestion that this represents a failure of policy. “When you compare Irish agriculture to any other agricultural model internationally, we have a very sustainable model. The way we produce meats and milk is very efficient, it is

“It is about enhancing value; focusing on value growth over the course of the next decade as opposed to volume growth and ensuring the quality nutrition in what we are doing.” pasture-based, and it is very different because of that,” he contends. While conceding that agricultural policy, in the past, did not take adequate account of its impact on the environment, the Minister acknowledges that this is now a central consideration of agricultural policy. “It is about producing food, but it is about doing it in a way that is in sync with the environment around it and also in a way that takes proactive measures to protect the environment and, indeed, reverse the biodiversity decline that recent decades have seen. That is very much part of the policy that we have in place. “Opportunities will be there for farmers to play a role in ecosystem services, tackling biodiversity, carbon trading, carbon capture, and forestry. I think there will be income streams that were not there before.”

Farm income In relation to incomes, the Minister highlights variations across the agriculture sector in relation to dairy, beef, tillage, and the size of farms. “We would undoubtedly have a lot of smaller farms that are part-time and therefore incomes are lower than farms that are larger and full-time,” he says, continuing: “It is also a reflection of the fact that over the last 40 years, internationally, food prices and the profitability associated with producing food has not risen in comparison with and in proportion to what has been going on in the rest of the economy. That has seen an erosion in

farm incomes and the financial wellbeing of farming enterprises compared with alternatives. In the years ahead, we are going to see that change.” In the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Minister believes that a newfound appreciation of the importance of and value of food will emerge. “The tide is turning on that and we are going to see food become more valuable and the other income streams make it improve incomes over the next while too,” he predicts.

Vision Looking into the coming decade, McConalogue defines Food Vision 2030 in terms of “a food systems approach to agriculture and food”. From his perspective, the plan aims to determine how sustainable food production interacts with climate and human health, ensuring that the food system is a healthy one with nutrition at its core. “It is about enhancing value; focusing on value growth over the course of the next decade as opposed to volume growth and ensuring the quality nutrition in what we are doing, and in so doing, having farm families’ incomes and wellbeing central to that. “I think farming and food production is going to be more central to people’s lives than it has been at any stage over the last few decades, and it will become more valued as well, and a more profitable profession,” he concludes.

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Imagining a better way Amid Bord Gáis Energy’s ongoing journey to transform its energy supply, services and solutions and support its colleagues and customers, Teresa Purtill, Director of the newly established Services and Solutions Division, discusses planet and people.

Having been established as a new

Imagining a better way

department at the close of 2021, Bord Gáis Energy’s Services and Solutions Division is designed to support the utility’s drive towards a sustainable energy future, with specific responsibility of rolling out innovative products to help its customers with their energy usage. “It has been a very busy year, against the backdrop of a lot of changes in the industry. We are on a journey of transformation in Bord Gáis Energy, no different from the broader energy industry, and indeed from society at large,” Purtill reflects.

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Imagining a better way: Our journey towards a sustainable future is Bord Gáis Energy’s strategy to provide energy services and solutions to empower customers to live sustainably, simply, and affordably. At its heart, the strategy establishes goals that Bord Gáis Energy has set to support Ireland’s decarbonisation ambitions, alongside its own journey of transformation, which includes its premises, its fleet, and its customers. “The national target of 80 per cent renewables on the grid by 2030 is one

which will involve all sectors of society. However, as a leading energy service provider, it is critical that Bord Gáis Energy takes a lead role in doing that. As we focus on investing more in renewable energy sources ourselves, we must take our customers on that journey. “Our brand has repositioned itself to imagine a better way. Our purpose is to help our customers to live more sustainably,” the Services and Solutions Director outlines. With its dual pillars of both planet and people, Bord Gáis Energy’s Imagining a better way is firmly aligned with parent group Centrica’s People and Planet Plan.

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“We are fully supportive of Centrica’s goals and, in fact, our goals in terms of decarbonising our own emissions and our customers’ emissions are completely aligned,” Purtill adds.

Affordability Emphasising the affordability element “at the heart of our strategy”, Purtill cites Bord Gáis Energy’s partnership with Energlaze Home Energy Upgrades, and the access to grants made available by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Cognisant that this is just one part of the solution, Bord Gáis Energy is also actively working on a suite of finance solutions which will launch in 2023 for both residential customers and businesses. “For instance, we are working closely with the Irish Farmers’ Association to develop solar propositions which increase the affordability of investing in solar panels for the Irish farming community, helping to decarbonise rural Ireland,” the Services and Solutions Director notes. However, Purtill acknowledges that, for many customers, “the journey to net zero will be long and one that can appear daunting”. As such, Bord Gáis Energy, as a trusted energy advisor, has undertaken a dual role in assisting customers to determine the best pathway for them, while also helping in terms of affordability. “Facing into winter 2022/2023, the first step, for many, will be replacing their existing gas boiler heating systems. If, for a customer, that means replacing it with a more efficient gas boiler, we have financial solutions we have put in place to facilitate ongoing regular payments. This is going to help customers to become more efficient,” she indicates.

“Our brand has repositioned itself to imagine a better way.” Teresa Purtill, Director, Services and Solutions Division, Bord Gáis Energy share information with its base. “We are also expanding our customer service centres to encourage our customers to engage with us, as they seek to understand how they can reduce the cost of their bills, how they can make their homes more efficient. We will be able to advise them what the best solution is for them,” Purtill says.

Reducing demand

Actively encouraging Bord Gáis Energy’s 700,000 customers, both household and business, to engage with its transformation journey is, the Services and Solutions Director attests, a challenge of education.

While reducing demand may seem like a counterintuitive principle for a leading supplier of gas and electricity in Ireland, alongside a commitment to double its renewable energy portfolio by the end of 2025, the single biggest impact Bord Gáis Energy can make to emissions between now and 2030 is reducing customer demand for gas itself. This will be achieved through the introduction of net zero energy solutions in homes, alongside a commitment to support the introduction of biomethane into the natural gas network in the short term and introduce hydrogen in the long term.

Conscious that media coverage of energy – its usage and its cost – can be challenging for customers, the utility seeks to actively communicate and

“In terms of introducing innovative products, one of our key pillars is introducing green solutions to our customer base and encouraging them to


use less gas and less energy,” Purtill explains. “First of all, we are introducing a range of innovative products, such as Hive Active Heating, and we are expanding the technologies that will be compatible with that ecosystem. They will be connectible with, for example, heat pumps, EV chargers, and smart hot water tanks so that customers can control their usage and spend less on energy. “Secondly, we are rolling out a range of smart tariffs for customers. Half of our electricity customer base now has smart electricity meters installed and so far, around 10 per cent of those customers have opted to avail of time of use tariffs. Helping and educating our customers about the various solutions that may be most appropriate for their needs is critical to the decarbonisation journey.”

Uniquely placed Equipped with its 45-year history as one of the largest energy providers in Ireland, Bord Gáis Energy is uniquely positioned, Purtill contends, as a result of the trust it has established through its services and solutions.

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the significant shortage of skilled tradespeople – including electricians and plumbers – needed to deliver this decarbonisation, Purtill asserts that Bord Gáis Energy will be a part of the solution. “We see ourselves as leaders in this space,” she insists, adding: “We have been actively expanding our workforce, building an apprenticeship programme, and upskilling our gas service engineer population, which, in mid-August, installed our first heat pump. That was a great milestone for us.”


“Bord Gáis Energy will be synonymous with supporting customers in their journey to net zero…” “The new Services and Solutions Division is the evolution of our existing gas boiler service and repair market. Through gas boiler repair, servicing, and installation, we complete up to 60,000 visits to customers’ homes annually. It is a logical evolution for us to move towards to the electrification of heating systems. As we expand into electrified heating systems, customers trust us and trust that we have their best interests at heart when we advise them on the best solutions as they move forward.”

People Looking to the future of Bord Gáis Energy, Purtill emphasises the need to bring both its customers and its employee base on that journey. “We are encouraging curiosity, we are encouraging agility, and we are


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encouraging innovation. We are putting emphasis on those traits as we test and learn. It is recognised that no one sector of society has all the answers, giving some indication as to how multifaceted the challenges are in terms of climate change and the need to reduce our gas emissions. “Applying a test and learn approach, we can ensure that we have a growth mindset. We are encouraging people to move roles, but we are also investing significantly in the upskilling of employees across the board, to ensure that we are ready to go on that journey for the future,” she says. Currently, Bord Gáis Energy’s focus is on enhancing its capability to provide the resources and skillsets to help facilitate the decarbonisation of homes and businesses across Ireland. Highlighting

Recognising the cultural change required, alongside its change in strategy, Bord Gáis Energy is also laying these foundations right across the organisation. “One of the things that we have made significant progress on in the last couple of years is our emphasis on diversity and inclusion,” Purtill explains. “I am the executive ambassador for our neurodiversity programme. At the heart of our network is the desire to create an environment where all people’s skillsets and unique perspectives and cognitive abilities are recognised. “As a mother of children who are neurodiverse, I can see first-hand the difference that accommodations can make to people. Adopting that philosophy and applying it to a work environment, we can observe that managing people in ways that are different or unique will allow them to achieve their full potential within our work environment. That is something that we are very proud of.”

Energy security Having embarked on a journey which will see it transition from being a traditional ‘passive’ utility, to becoming a one-stopshop for energy use, energy management, product advice, and product sourcing, Bord Gáis Energy is also cognisant of the security of supply challenge. “In the interim, there is no doubt that the role of our gas-fired power station at Whitegate, County Cork will be essential as we make the transition,” Purtill states, adding: “As we move towards 80 per cent renewables, flexibility and security of supply will be crucial. As we expand

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our own renewable energy sources, we are, at the same time, investing in two new power plants. “Set to come onstream in 2024, the two plants will be crucial to ensure there is a steady supply of power, which is particularly timely in the context of the energy challenge which has arisen in 2022. Equally, the technologies we are investing in will be compatible with conversion to hydrogen, meaning that we will be able to expand and use them for further decarbonisation.”

Challenges Inflationary pressures on wholesale natural gas prices, allied with geopolitical instability, has exacerbated the energy crisis. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Bord Gáis Energy absorbed the volatility in wholesale costs, committing to price pledges and keeping the cost of energy for its customers as stable and low as possible. “That kind of volatility is a challenging backdrop, and it is one which all customers are facing,” Purtill stresses, adding: “Our biggest challenge is to continue to communicate, share, and provide as much transparent information to our customer base about the drivers of those increases as we can, alongside our attempts to help offset that. We have also established funds to help our customers at this time.”

Action Simultaneously, there has never been a greater need to invest in enhancing the energy efficiency of homes. Given the prevailing cost of living pressures, this will be challenging for many people. As such, Bord Gáis Energy has implemented several initiatives to assist its customers. Firstly, in March 2022, it established a fund for those who are most challenged in meeting their bills. Initially, it had established a €1.25 million fund. Recently, that fund was increased from €1.25 million to €5 million “to cover what is undoubtedly going to be a challenging winter in 2022/2023”. Secondly, Bord Gáis Energy introduced an additional 100 members into its

contact centre teams to ensure that “we are there at the end of the phone or email to help our customers with their concerns or queries”. Thirdly, it has streamlined its collection processes to ensure that for customers who are struggling to pay their bills, the focus pivots to debt management rather than debt collection. “The nuance is important. It means that we are asking our customers to reach out and engage with us so we can put payment plans in place that will give them peace of mind as they progress through the coming winter,” Purtill observes.

Vision While Bord Gáis Energy is recognised and trusted as market leaders in gas boiler service and repair, Purtill says the future ambition is for the utility to be the market leader in energy services and heat pump installation. “Bord Gáis Energy will be synonymous with supporting customers in their journey to net zero; be it through the electrification of heating systems, energy reduction, or deep retrofits. We see ourselves as trusted partners in the broader community with our customers so we can help them on that journey,” she concludes.

Teresa Purtill, Director, Services and Solutions Division, Bord Gáis Energy Teresa Purtill is responsible for the growth of Bord Gáis Energy’s services and solutions business, driving the revenue and commercial strategies for the organisation. Having previously held the role of Customer and Field Operations Director within Bord Gáis Energy, Teresa was focused on driving the company’s customer experience strategy, business excellence and strategic programme delivery. Prior to joining Bord Gáis Energy, Teresa was Global VP for Customer Care for the Hertz Corporation leading an organisation of over 2,000 people across 15 sites globally. Teresa’s background is in driving change programmes and transformation in operating models, revenue generation and process efficiency through lean six sigma. Teresa holds an MA in European integration from the University of Limerick and is the Bord Gáis Energy ambassador for neurodiversity. Originally from Limerick city, Teresa is a proud fan of the Limerick hurling team and draws huge inspiration from its Munster and All-Ireland winning performances. Outside of work, Teresa enjoys hiking and outdoor pursuits, alongside playing camogie for Wild Geese GAA Club based in Oldtown, Fingal. She now lives in north County Dublin with her husband, Paddy, and three children ranging in ages from 10 to 26.

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Credit: Merrion Street

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Sectoral emissions ceilings fall short of 2030 target After months of political negotiation, the Government signed off on its sectoral emissions ceilings plan to 2030 in late July 2022. The plan increases targets for renewable energy generation, but has been criticised for not fully meeting the 51 per cent target for greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. The Government published its ceilings for seven economic sectors in July 2022 after months of negotiating and speculation, primarily regarding the greenhouse gas emission target that would be set for the agriculture sector. The targets set were said by government to be “challenging, appropriate and fair for all sectors”, but designed to “protect farm incomes, business and household living standards”. The Government, in its publication of the targets, which were mandated under the carbon budget programme, said that the overall target of 51 per cent reduction of CO2 emission by 2030 would “only be met if all sectors work together”, although as has been noted by figures such as Climate Change Advisory Council Chair, Marie Donnelly, the figures, if achieved, would only amount to a 43 per cent reduction. Donnelly also critiqued the lack of a “really detailed 16

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action plan”, while the Natural Environment Officer of An Taisce, Elaine McGoff, stated that the Government seemed to be “relying on technological solutions to address that [8 per cent] gap later in the decade”. The Government, however, states that 5.25 MtCO2eq of annual emissions are “currently unallocated on an economy-wide basis” for 2026-2030 and that these “will be allocated following a mid-term review and identification of additional abatement measures”.

Carbon budgets and targets by sector Mandated by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council proposed Ireland’s first carbon budget programme for the period between 2021 and 2035. This programme was published and submitted to the Minister in October 2021. Following

review by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action, the programme was subsequently adopted by government in February 2022 and approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas in April 2022. The first carbon budgets programme comprises three successive five-year budget periods: •

2021 to 2025: A maximum of 295 MtCO2eq equating to an average reduction of 4.8 per cent per annum.

2026 to 2030: A maximum of 200 MtCO2eq equating to an average reduction of 8.3 per cent per annum.

2031 to 2035 (provisional): A maximum of 151 MtCO2eq equating to an average reduction of 3.5 per cent per annum.

The sectoral ceilings set by the Government concern seven sectors:

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Reduction and rounded MtCO2eq targets by sector Sector


2018 emissions

2030 ceiling


75 per cent

10.5 MtCO2eq

3 MtCO2eq


50 per cent

12 MtCO2eq

6 MtCO2eq

Commercial and public buildings

45 per cent

2 MtCO2eq

1 MtCO2eq

Residential buildings

40 per cent

7 MtCO2eq

4 MtCO2eq


35 per cent

7 MtCO2eq

4 MtCO2eq


25 per cent

23 MtCO2eq

17.25 MtCO2eq

Other (F-gases, petroleum refining, and waste)

50 per cent

2 MtCO2eq

1 MtCO2eq

electricity; transport; commercial and public buildings; residential buildings; industry; agriculture; and others (F-gases, petroleum refining, and waste). The reduction targets set for these industries range from 75 per cent (electricity) to 25 per cent (agriculture), set against 2018 levels of emissions. As well as having to cut the most amount of its emissions by proportion, the electricity sector will be required to cut the most by overall million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2eq). The agriculture sector, crucial to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland given that it accounted for 37.3 per cent of all emissions in 2020, will be required to reduce its emissions by at least 5.75 MtCO2eq from 2018 levels in order to comply with the new government ceilings. “Crucially, the changes for agriculture will be voluntary and will allow farmers to play their part,” the Government said upon announcement of the ceilings. “There will be generous financial incentives in return with an additional financial package in Budget 2023.” Excluding energy-related emissions, agriculture’s emissions of greenhouse gases peaked in 2018, according to SEAI data, totalling 21,441 ktCO2. This figure fell to 20,551 ktCO2 in 2019, but rose again to 20,836 ktCO2 in 2020, the latest year on record. One sector closely linked to agriculture that has not had its sectoral emissions ceiling set is the land use, land use change, and forestry sector, which has had the setting of its ceiling deferred for 18 months in order to allow for the completion of the Land-Use Strategy. The sector’s emissions for 2018 stood at 4.8 MtCO2eq, and the Climate Action Plan 2021 has proposed a reduction of between 37 per cent and 58 per cent for the sector. The SEAI’s breakdown of Irish greenhouse gas emissions states that the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is the “non-ETS sector”, meaning companies and bodies not included in the

Emissions Trading System. This sector, which includes the burning of fossil fuels in home and by cars, accounted for 39 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, accounting for 49 per cent of all non-ETS emissions, with agriculture accounting for 47 per cent. The achievement of the overall reduction of 12 MtCO2eq in the electricity, transport, and domestic buildings sectors, all so heavily reliant on the burning of fossil fuels, will thus be central to the achievement of the reduction targets laid out by the Government.

Renewable energy Decarbonising the relevant sectors without significant drops in living standards will, of course, require the widespread provision of renewable energies as replacements for fossil fuels. As such, the agreement on sectoral emissions ceilings also contains within it agreements to increase Ireland’s renewable energy ambitions in the period until 2030. The plans have more than doubled the target for solar power to 5,500MW by 2030, increased the offshore wind capacity target from 5,000MW to 7,000MW by 2030, pledged an additional 2,000MW of green hydrogen by 2030, and up to 5.7 TWh of biomethane as part of additional resourcing of agro-forestry and anaerobic digestion. In March 2022, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD invited applications for the first batch of maritime area consents (MACs) under the Maritime Planning Act. The projects invited were those designated “relevant projects” in 2020: Oriel Wind Park, Bray and Kish Banks, Codling Wind Park I and II, Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta, and North Irish Sea Array. Relevant status projects are expected to deliver a capacity of circa 4.5GW by 2030, meaning that the State will now be looking to cultivate an extra 2.5GW in order to reach its newly set targets.

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roundtable discussion

More than ‘bricks and mortar’: Delivering effective services and interventions for tenants Respond, a leading Approved Housing Body and community services provider, hosted a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders across the housing and health sectors to look beyond the homes provided and discuss the holistic value of services for tenants. What role do social housing stakeholders play in cultivating inclusive and sustainable communities? Niamh Randall Our belief is that our relationship with our tenants starts when they move into their homes. We have a key role in ensuring that our communities are diverse and inclusive, and in ensuring that we are responsive to those who face challenges. We want to become a trauma-informed organisation, identifying issues and intervening at an early stage

to prevent issues from escalating. We see ourselves as a social justice organisation and we are focused on equality and equity in terms of outcomes. Quality homes are essential, but it is the delivery of a lifetime relationship with our tenants that is vital to our organisation. Andrew Bray When cultivating inclusive and diverse communities, they must integrate within existing communities as well. For example, there is a Respond community in Charlestown, but it is contextualised within a larger community. Within mixedtenure communities, it is necessary to determine the limits of Respond’s role

Round table discussion hosted by

and where other stakeholders and services take over when it comes to creating larger inclusive communities. We must be proactive in terms of planning ahead; that is where social justice, trauma-informed care, and brain health initiatives are relevant. This was a factor in the design of the tenant engagement service that CES recently completed with Respond. Declan Dunne Taking a large development we have been working on recently as an example, we built over car parks and next to a shopping centre. A huge amount of thought went into assessing what it would be like for people living there and we have a big responsibility not to let them down in terms of the quality and safety of their homes, to enable them to thrive. It is about being available to offer support when needed. Sharon Lambert It is about not revisiting mistakes we have made in the past. Our expectations for people in social housing communities should be the same as people in any other community. For example, if you go


anywhere in Cork city, you see symbols connected to educational and other community institutions; when you go to the Northside, however, these are absent. The stigma that is attached to social housing is where the other stakeholders assume relevance. The State and the media must not allow people to use expressions such as ‘free housing’. People should understand what social housing is. We must make sure that social housing tenants are part of the broader community rather than an appendage on the side of it.

Roundtable participants Andrew Bray Andrew is a project specialist in the Centre for Effective Services (CES), with a focus on implementation, practice, and service development. CES works with government departments and service providers to design, develop, implement, and evaluate public policies and services. CES is a not for profit all island organisation. He has worked with both statutory and voluntary sector organisations to build capacity in implementation practice and improve service outcomes. His background is in youth justice. Andrew has a BSc in social sciences and social policy, an MSc in restorative practice and is in the last year of a PhD in criminology.

Brian Lawlor A framework is important. Selfactualisation and wellbeing are at the top of a pyramid of needs, but the bottom of that pyramid are the basic needs such as shelter, a home, and support. We need to cultivate that sense of safety and security. Using the lens of brain health to create sustainable and inclusive communities is useful because what we are trying to do is connect people across a vibrant community in a way that will be stimulating and promote their brain health. The framework should be built on a concept of ‘home first’ and connecting that home to the community so people can flourish.

Sharon Lambert Sharon joined the teaching staff in the School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork in 2014 following several years working within community-based settings that provided supports to marginalised groups. Sharon conducts research with communitybased partners such as addiction, homelessness, criminal justice, and education organisations. Sharon is a member of the Psychological Society of Ireland, Silent Voices Advisory Group and was appointed to the statutory Parole Board by the Minister for Justice.

Bob Jordan Under Housing for All, 40 per cent of new social homes provided by 2026 will be delivered by the approved housing body [AHB] sector. AHBs are central to delivering government targets. Tenants need security of tenure and affordability, but they also need to feel confident that their landlord is interested in them individually. The AHB sector has been to the forefront of providing housing that meets the needs of disabled people, people exiting homelessness, older people, and others. An exciting prospect is the sector getting involved in cost rental housing; by being involved in both cost rental and social housing, AHBs can help deliver mixed tenure communities.

Brian Lawlor Brian is a professor of old age psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, and Deputy Executive Director of the Global Brain Health Institute. He is a geriatric psychiatrist with an interest in dementia, late-life depression, loneliness, and brain health. Brian has worked for over 30 years on developing services and delivering care to people with dementia. His research interests range from early detection and prevention to evaluating new treatments for dementia. Bob Jordan Bob was appointed CEO of The Housing Agency in 2021. From 2018 to 2021, he was the National Director of the Government's Housing First programme, working with local authorities, approved housing bodies, health services and homeless charities to extend the programme nationwide. Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of the housing charity Threshold for nearly a decade. He was Special Adviser to the Minister for Housing from 2016 to 2017.

What are the most significant challenges in relation to the needs of social housing tenants?

Niamh Randall Niamh joined Respond as Head of Advocacy and Communications in 2019. An experienced policy, advocacy, and strategic communications professional, she has over 20 years’ experience working in the areas of housing, homelessness, and inclusion. Niamh is a member of the Board and Council of the Irish Council for Social Housing and The Housing Agency’s Research and Insights Panel. She was a member of the Government’s National Homeless Consultative Committee (NHCC) and the NHCC Data Subgroup from 2008 to 2018. Niamh holds an MSc from Trinity College Dublin with qualifications in housing; sociology and social policy; human rights and equality; drug policy; community studies; and finance and is a Chartered Institute of Housing certified practitioner.

Bob Jordan Supply is the key challenge and output must be increased to ensure we deliver 90,000 new social homes by 2030. We need to have affordable housing options; social housing is means tested and there are many people who do not qualify for it but who also cannot afford to rent or buy in the private market. Dealing with that affordability gap is important. We also need to provide right-sizing opportunities

roundtable discussion

Declan Dunne Declan joined Respond as Chief Executive Officer in August 2016. Established 40 years ago, Respond is an approved housing body (AHB) with approximately 10,000 tenants, and a service provider with a range of services including day-care for older people, early childhood care and education, homeless services for families, family support and refugee resettlement services. Declan was Chair of the Housing Alliance, which is a collaboration of six of Ireland’s largest approved housing bodies, from 2018 until 2020. He was also a nonexecutive director of the Ballymun Regeneration Board for 10 years, and chair of the audit committee which oversaw the Ballymun Regeneration Masterplan.

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Sharon Lambert It is about financial and social capital. Low-income workers are less likely to have enough money to survive, but they also lack opportunities. One of the ways to address that challenge is to cultivate mixed-income communities. Andrew Bray

“We cannot have sustainable communities without tenant engagement and promoting the benefits of this approach should be a shared goal of AHBs and

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local authorities.” Bob Jordan for older people. In doing all these things, we must ensure we do not forget communities. There is a risk when we focus on ramping up supply and addressing affordability that we do not focus enough on creating sustainable communities. This can store up problems for the future. Brian Lawlor There is an important challenge around training and education of staff so that they understand the complex needs of their tenants or clients. It is also not just about how you apply the brain health approach to support tenants, but how you apply it to staff as well and how staff look to build their own resilience. This is tough work, and we want to retain highquality staff, so we need to support and enable staff to look after their own brain health as well as that of their clients.

means they are particularly exposed to the cost of living crisis. This will become even more challenging as winter approaches and people will be under pressure to heat their homes. As well as mixed-tenure communities, we need to strive for mixed-income communities; people should be living side-by-side and it should not be obvious who is and is not living in social housing.

We must think about the needs of social housing tenants on a personal level. Many social housing tenants have other complex needs including mental and physical ill health and the challenge is to meet those needs and to support individuals to meet their own needs. However, if an individual is worried about having shelter over their head, all other priorities go out the window. The significant challenge for AHBs is ensuring those needs are met holistically and that requires agility and flexibility on the ground. AHBs cannot do everything; they undertake housing delivery and engagement well, but they need support to provide the right services to people as and when they need them. Declan Dunne It is important to consider applying a tailored universalism approach to ensure universal outcomes. Cognisant that rural Ireland is different to urban Ireland, for example, alongside variations in people’s expectations, we are trying to tailor our work while ensuring consistent outcomes. At the same time, cost of

Niamh Randall A challenge facing everyone in Ireland is housing affordability. The challenge is delivering the right type of supply in the right places. Cost rental is one of the solutions in terms of the affordable housing model and it is a gamechanger. There is significant pressure on our rate of delivery and there are people working hard to improve that. What sets social housing tenants apart is income. This

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“There are far too many negative stereotypes associated with homeless people and our society does not appear to have much empathy for people that are experiencing homelessness.” Brian Lawlor

living pressures and the available resources from the State are also a challenge. We have been through similar experiences before and historically they end with expenditure being cut, particularly in community services. By nature, a lot of the families we accommodate include children and as such, youth work is a significant area of work that needs some focus.

How significant is the relationship between health and housing? Sharon Lambert

Niamh Randall Health is a key determinant of housing; the poorer the quality of housing the poorer one’s health will be. Those in emergency accommodation or rough sleeping often have the poorest health. There is also intergenerational trauma; families who have faced constant crises often have cumulative trauma. Resilience can often be based on the depth of social capital, stability, and a strong support network. We need a traumainformed response to ensure that nobody feels alienated in our society. Housing security and stability is good for the tenant, but it is also good for staff working with them too.

“Our belief is that our relationship with our tenants starts when they move into their homes.” Niamh Randall Bob Jordan During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a joint health and housing response to homelessness deliver incredible results. Rough sleeping was reduced to a minimum and people were given the health supports they needed. Housing First provides people with a history of rough sleeping and long-term homelessness with a permanent home, as well as intensive supports for mental health and addiction. People who have been rough sleeping for many years have remained permanently out of homelessness in up to 90 per cent of cases. Brian Lawlor

Alongside social capital and economic capital, there is also cultural capital. There needs to be an understanding of the necessity of the transferability of these. If there is a strong level of social and cultural capital, then there will invariably be a strong level of economic capital which in turn can lead to improved health.

There are far too many negative stereotypes associated with homeless people and our society does not appear to have much empathy for people that are experiencing homelessness. There is a lack of appreciation of how easy it is to fall into homelessness. The current ‘rent generation’ are increasingly vulnerable to experiencing homelessness as they get older. We need to remove the stigma of homelessness so that people receive greater empathy and understanding.

Health needs to be explored beyond its normalised understanding; we need to look at the bigger picture and understand the impact that housing instability has on people’s health. Having a well-trained staff who can deal with people’s traumatic incidents is crucial in reducing stress.

Housing instability is a major determinant of health and health outcomes. We know that 80 per cent of health is socially determined and housing instability is one of these social determinants. Investing in affordable housing will really improve health outcomes and ease some of the burden on the health service. There is a

Andrew Bray

roundtable discussion

When we think about psychological trauma, we tend to think of abuse and neglect, but we know that poverty and discrimination have a similar impact on development. Stress impacts on behaviour and thinking, so we need housing services to be able to account for support mechanisms. Stability helps to set up a child for life at school, with friendships, and other important aspects of their mental and physical health and will propel them to achieve their educational goals as adults.

bi-directional aspect to all of this; housing instability causes poor brain health, but people with poor physical or mental health are also more likely to fall into homelessness. The first 10 years of a child’s life is so important for brain development and brain plasticity; access to stable housing and education are crucial to determining their brain health. In adolescence, housing instability affects social relationships, mental maturation, and the ability to self-regulate. In adulthood, housing instability results in stress and poor lifestyle choices, which can lead to an increased risk of dementia in later life. Housing is a health issue, and how we message this is crucial to reducing the stigma associated with housing instability and homelessness. Sharon Lambert We need more participation and representation from working class communities in all sectors and decisionmaking spaces of society. Working class people need to be enabled to build communities from the ground up. Having mixed types of social housing is a crucial part of this, so that social housing areas are not seen as ‘poor areas’ with ‘people who are not able to function’. If we do that, we will have much more social cohesion and a path to eroding the stigma which exists towards homeless people.


21 21

Declan Dunne Ultimately, a beautiful home to which a child will be proud to bring their friends is what we must aspire to. A child needs to be supported and not be judged based on class in their engagements with the justice system, the health system or housing. As for housing itself, we are not repeating mistakes of the past whereby social houses are tiny and cramped and where they have minimal light, and a small or no garden, as though ‘this is all they deserve’. People deserve the best and that is what we are doing in Ireland. Having support networks which go beyond the traditional understanding of the nuclear family is also crucial to ensuring that people are not left behind. There are a lot of things to be hopeful about with housing in Ireland, and we are moving in the right direction.

roundtable discussion

“The right to housing should be a priority. Underneath that, common purpose is important and so too is evidence-based solutions and services.” Andrew Bray

Brian Lawlor There is a stigma attached to the term ‘social housing’ and the notion of ‘free housing’ is unhelpful. Many people automatically associate ‘social housing’ with low socio-economic status but, going forward, this will not be the case. We should consider revising the terminology and use the term ‘equitable housing’.

How significant is an evidence-based approach to working with and engaging social housing tenants? Brian Lawlor Data and evidence are important to developing policy and practice and in working with tenants and clients. Having an evidence-based approach is helpful for staff and can improve their understanding of the perspective of the person they are working with and why they are delivering care in a particular way. Andrew Bray

“The stigma that is attached to social housing is where the other stakeholders assume relevance. The State and the media must not allow people to use expressions such as ‘free housing’.” Sharon Lambert

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At CES, we translate evidence into services and implementation across a wide range of sectors including health, education, justice, and housing. Evidence is more than just the findings of academic research; it is about the lived experience of people across social housing and a vast range of other sectors. Engaging with people from different backgrounds is important. We must be imaginative in how we engage with groups who are hard to reach and getting evidence from lived experience is critical in informing staff. CES’s responsibility is to determine why some schemes work and what the context is which allows them to flourish; it is a national service with a local response, and every context is different.

Bob Jordan The most important thing is gathering the evidence from the people who are affected by the problem. The Housing Agency has a role in supporting research as we did with NUI Galway and Community Action Network in a study of tenant participation in local authority housing. We cannot have sustainable communities without tenant engagement and promoting the benefits of this approach should be a shared goal of AHBs and local authorities. Declan Dunne The participation ladder distinguishes what is meaningful and what is tokenistic engagement. It is not always straightforward to establish an engagement process. Getting the right statistics about, for example, parents or people with disabilities, makes all the difference when to comes to this. Polling and inviting people to engage can be very effective.

Sharon Lambert Evidence-based means that it is developmentally appropriate, taking brain health, neuroscience, and psychology into account. We know a lot about the differentiation of needs of people of different age groups. Having an evidence-based approach to housing requires layers; it should be developmentally informed. We know a lot about the differentiation of needs of people of different age groups. For instance, children hanging around in large groups, especially as adolescents, is developmentally appropriate. Therefore, how do we design where they live, rather than complain about them doing what they are supposed to be doing? Simultaneously, we should have key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensure that they are framed in the interests of the people they are concerning. We need to ensure that KPIs target quality rather than quantity. Niamh Randall There is an obligation to act upon what the evidence tells us. Research is only good if there is a dissemination strategy to ensure that the message reaches the people who need to hear it. As for implementation, we all see fantastic research reports, but they sometimes do very little to change anything on the ground. We need rigorous

Declan Dunne

What is the single most important factor informing the future of social housing?

successful concept, building in services to support the individual around housing. If every single public body had the same common purpose and the same understanding of the impact of stress on thinking and behaviour, services would be available equally and we would build a much better future.

Declan Dunne

Andrew Bray

I think it is common purpose. I think we are in a good place and there is some great collaboration driven by the fact that there is a crisis, and it requires urgent response. It is a significant responsibility but also a great privilege and the challenge for all of us is to find new solutions, new actions and to move quicker. If I had to identify a single challenge, it would be planning and the time it takes to deliver housing.

The right to housing should be a priority. Underneath that, common purpose is important and so too is evidence-based solutions and services. We need to ensure that we are using evidenceinformed practices to enable agility and flexibility to meet the changing needs of tenants and other service users.

implementation and that means having an implementation plan.

Bob Jordan That social housing be recognised as the central component of successful mixedtenure and mixed-income communities. Additionally, Housing for All has a focus in moving AHBs towards direct construction. Planning and the availability of land are seen as barriers to that currently, but I would like to see the AHB sector taking control of all aspects of housing provision including direct construction.

roundtable discussion

Tenant engagement is a strategic goal of Respond. There is a mix of methodology, and we have a long way to go but the process is underway, and the strategy gives us the means to go forward.

“Ultimately, a beautiful home to which a child will be proud to bring their friends is what we must aspire to.”

Niamh Randall The right to housing is one of our guiding principles in Respond. Ireland has strong private property rights within the Constitution, but we need to find a balance so that decisions being made on a constitutional basis are balancing the right to private property with the right to housing.

Sharon Lambert I believe it is trauma-sensitive interagency collaboration across all public bodies. Housing First is an incredibly 23 23

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Minister Eamon Ryan TD: Four pillars of sustainable transport With the transport sector accounting for 20 per cent of CO2 emissions in Ireland, it is vital to ensure that the sector experiences fundamental change if Ireland is to reach its net zero commitments, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD highlights, calling it an “unprecedented challenge but one we cannot ignore”.


Transitioning Ireland’s transport system comes with the advantage of reducing the country’s dependence on imported oil and gas, the Minister outlines, adding: “Ireland, as one of the most import-dependent countries in the world of fossil fuels, has to make that key switch towards renewable-powered vehicles.”

“Compact development is something that is going to require the leadership of the Department of Transport, in what we are calling ‘transport-led development’, where you provide the public with transport infrastructure, particularly in advance of any new housing development,” he asserts.

The Government’s plan to solve the housing crisis is a significant factor in reimagining Ireland’s transport network. He explains that the plan to do this requires more balanced regional development, guided by the National Planning Framework, which will lead to further investment in the greater Dublin area, as well as a sharp increase in investment in Cork, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick, with compact development in the smaller cities, as well as rural areas, key to achieving this.

This will require the Government to give “key indicators to local authorities” to ensure the sustainability of the transport modes around any new housing developments, whilst advocating that new housing should be built “closely to the centre of existing settlements” in order to reduce costs in electricity, water treatments, and reliance on private cars as a mode of transport.

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“If we can reverse volume of travel, and adopt remote working patterns in a way that works for everyone, then we can make transport more sustainable.” Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD

Changing Ireland’s transport network Advocating a “radical change” in the transport network, Minister Ryan outlines four pillars.

First pillar The first change is a switch away from petroleum products, and towards electricity and biofuels for private vehicles, as well as for the haulage and freight system. “Whether it is through hydrogen, electric, biofuels, compressed air, or any other means which may evolve and develop, one thing is clear, we need to switch away from combustible fuels. “It is increasingly clear that the European Union is likely to put a deadline, probably around 2035, where there will be no new combustion engine vehicles produced. We will switch to electric; it is happening,” he says. With it being “clear” that “electric vehicles are going to be the dominant mode”, Minister Ryan promotes this prospect as a means of ensuring Ireland’s energy security, and points to his department’s order of 120 electric-powered buses as a beacon for the future.

Second pillar Shifting reliance away from private car-based transport modes, and towards increased use of public transport and active travel are a crucial component of Minister Ryan’s radical plan for the transport system. Whilst acknowledging that “it will be a difficult switch to make”, the Minister explains that it is necessary as “the development patterns that we have allowed to take place over the last four or five decades very much tends towards a private car dominated system”. As part of this shift, Minister Ryan says that there will be “significant ramping up” of rail-based solutions like the Metro in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford, as well as an increase in the “similarly critical” BusConnects projects in each of the cities.

As a model for increasing the use of active travel, the Minister points to the Netherlands and Denmark as “countries with similar climates, economies, and of similar size”, which can be emulated. “If we can follow the path that they have taken in terms of safer spaces for people to walk and cycle, we will see a response in Ireland with similar levels of active travel participation.”

Third pillar Minister Ryan cites the need to reduce the volume of transport as the most important switch to be made as, in spite of any switch in fuel or infrastructure which may take place, Ireland will not meet its climate targets without a reduction in the volume of transport, thus necessitating a “more economical and efficient system”. To achieve this, the Minister reiterates the 15-minute city and town concept, whereby all housing is situated within 15 minutes walking distance from the centre of a settlement, with the intention of reducing commutes. The Minister further outlines that remote working should become a more regular feature for Irish workers. “If we can reverse volume of travel, and adopt remote working patterns in a way that works for everyone, then we can make transport more sustainable,” he insists.

Fourth pillar Increasing shared transport is the fourth and final prong to Ryan’s plan, with the Minister explaining: “If we can develop alternate systems; car sharing, scooters or bicycles, I think there are new opportunities with the rising viability of electric transport alternatives to meet our transport needs.” Concluding with reference to the National Climate Stakeholders Forum, the Minister says: “We present work in an open and transparent way, and hopefully to inspire others to go for it, particularly in the local authorities, which is where I think the transport revolution is going to have to take place.”

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ESRI: Up to 15,000 healthcare staff needed by 2035 A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has projected that the HSE may need to recruit a further 15,000 staff by 2035 in acute hospitals in order to cope with population growth, an increasing elderly population, and the implementation of the Government’s Sláintecare programme. The report, entitled Projections of Workforce Requirements for Public Acute Hospitals in Ireland, 2019–2035, further explains that the HSE will require the recruitment of minimum 12,418 extra staff, 3,236 extra medical staff, 8,868 nursing and midwifery staff and 3,277 healthcare assistants. The population of the State is expected to increase to around 5.4 million by 2035, with the over-85 population expected to almost double in that timeframe. The study has taken into account factors such as the Government’s Sláintecare programme, as well as changing age demographics and an ever-increasing population as the main factors which mean that more jobs and increased and sustained investments will be necessary in order to provide an adequate healthcare system in Ireland. It has further outlined the challenges based


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on demographics, and has outlined different workforce models that could be utilised by the HSE, who funded the report.

Keeping healthcare staff in Ireland The report emphasises the challenges of ensuring a properly resourced health service, citing an OECD report from 2019 which stated that Ireland’s number of doctors per head of the population was the sixth lowest in the European Union. Additionally, the number of nurses per head of population, whilst above the EU average, has been decreasing consistently over the last 10 years. Despite having the highest number of medical graduates per capita in the EU, Ireland’s healthcare system remains increasingly reliant on foreign staff to adequately staff the HSE. Incentivising

qualified medical professionals to stay and work in Ireland is outlined at one of the key challenges to be overcome in order to meet the sharp increase in demand of healthcare staff. Furthermore, almost half, 44 per cent, of foreign healthcare staff are based in Dublin, thus furthering the squeeze on healthcare staff throughout the State. The report continues: “Internationally, workforce demand modelling can vary significantly in terms of its sophistication, ranging from models that consider how population growth alone may affect workforce demand to models that explicitly account for changing workforce delivery and care utilisation patterns.”

Changing demographics The Republic’s population is expected to increase by around 500,000 people by

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“Internationally, workforce demand modelling can vary significantly in terms of its sophistication, ranging from models that consider how population growth alone may affect workforce demand to models that explicitly account for changing workforce delivery and care utilisation patterns.” 2035. The report makes upper and lower scale estimates that the State’s population by 2035 could be anywhere between 5.3 million and 5.8 million people. The report further states: “The projections show the importance of international migration in determining the future path of the population figures.” The population is becoming increasingly concentrated around Dublin and, as a consequence, the surrounding counties of Kildare, Meath, and Wicklow. In accommodating these demands, the report recommends a higher level of sustained investment and for a large bulk of the necessary job creation to happen in this part of the country. The report projects that the population density of the western rural counties, such as Roscommon, Donegal, and Leitrim, are expected to remain relatively low compared with the eastern counties. It does not state how this will be accommodated.

Changing workforce model The report outlines that the ‘silo’ workforce model relies on a traditional and potentially outdated model that relies on the consistency of differing healthcare needs based on age- and gender-specific requirements which cannot be relied upon as consistently going forward. As one of the options, the report outlines the adoption of a multi-professional integrated approach which has been

pursued in most of the world throughout the last decade. “The National Strategic Framework for Health and Social Care Workforce Planning identifies the need for workforce planning to be aligned to current and future population health needs, but there is also clear recognition that workforce planning needs to also capture advances in strategy and policy.”

Immediate challenges The report concludes by reiterating that population growth and a growing elderly demographic will be the key drivers in how health policy is formulated in the short to medium term, and that the implementation of Sláintecare will require these factors to be taken into account. “The whole time equivalent requirements for all workforce categories considered are projected to increase substantially by 2035. These increases are largely driven by increases in the underlying population and, in particular, changes in the age structure. Percentage increases are projected to be relatively higher for HSCPs [health and social care professions], given the concentration of activity in the older age categories.” Regional variation in projected requirements is also observed, with relatively higher increases in Eastern regions again largely driven by population change. Projected workforce requirements can be sensitive to assumptions in relation to grade- and skill-mix.

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Credit: Merrion Street

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Pre-Budget 2023: An economic snapshot Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD pictured presenting Budget 2022 in October 2021.

Budget 2023 will deliver an overall package of €6.7 billion and a 6.5 per cent increase in core spending as the Irish economy continues to grow, driven largely by the strong performance of the export sector. However, significant challenges lie ahead, with inflationary pressures, tight labour markets, and rising interest rates all having an impact. Budget 2023 will deliver an overall package of €6.7 billion – €5.65 billion of additional public spending and €1.05 billion of taxation measures – with a “focus on cost of living”, the Government announced in Summer Economic Statement 2022. Within the statement, the Government pledged to increase core spending by 6.5 per cent in 2023 as figures show an Exchequer surplus of €4.2 billion for the first six months of 2022 and a €2.1 billion surplus on a rolling 12-month basis ending June 2022. A 3.5 per cent decrease of €1.4 billion was recorded in total gross voted expenditure for the first half of 2022, leaving the half-year total at €38.5 billion. While the pledged increase in spending will more than account for the surplus of the last year, the Government still considers the possibility of running a “very modest” surplus in 2022 and 2023 possible though highly uncertain due to its reliance on corporation tax receipts. Such tax receipts drove strong growth in Exchequer tax revenues to end-June 2022, which stood at €36.9 billion, a 25


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per cent increase that is caveated by the stringent lockdown measures in place during the same period in 2021.

year. The OECD, in its June 2022 Economic Forecast Summary, predicts a slowing to 2.7 per cent growth.

Growth slowdown

Such revisions in the forecasts reflect the constrictive impact of inflationary pressures currently being experienced globally, with the economic commentary forecasting that inflation will average 7.1 per cent in Ireland for the year 2022 in light of the war in Ukraine and the disruption of food and energy markets.

The Irish economy is predicted to continue its growth, although this is set to be at a slower rate than previously forecast. The Economic and Social Research Institute’s (ESRI) Quarterly Economic Commentary for the end of Q2 2022, revised its prediction for the growth of modified domestic demand (MDD); having predicted a growth of 5 per cent in 2022 and 4.5 per cent in 2023, the projected growth in MDD is now set at 4.4 per cent for 2022 and 3.7 for 2023. GDP is expected to grow by 6.8 per cent in 2022 according to the ESRI and by 4.8 per cent according to the OECD. Overall, however, this would represent a significant slowing in the pace of growth, from a 13.5 per cent rise in GDP in 2021, and while the ESRI projects inflation to stabilise in 2023 and average at 4 per cent for the year, it predicts a further fall in GDP growth to 4.8 per cent for next

There is also, however, the precedent set by states who routinely run budgetary surpluses, such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan, often criticised by notable economists such as Thomas Piketty, whereby profits are retained, meaning that they are not divested into the economy through increased wages to the work force. This results in weak private consumption demand and a slackening of growth. With the European Central Bank (ECB) signalling that monetary policy rates will increase in the coming yearly quarters, the ESRI predicts that this will dampen

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5 0

Retail sales









Retail sales

investment sentiment and consumer spending, perhaps most notably in a predicted 2 per cent fall in Irish house prices relative to where they would have otherwise been expected to be, although it is noted that lack of supply will continue to exert upward pressure on these prices.

Exports and imports Fuelling the strong if simultaneously slackening performance of the Irish economy is the export sector, with Irish net exports standing at €53.3 billion in Q1 2022, having grown by 5.2 per cent on a quarterly, seasonally adjusted basis, and increasing by 14.4 per cent year-onyear. Goods exports grew in Q1 2022 on an annual basis across all major groupings, with the chemicals and related products group recording the largest growth rate, 61.8 per cent. Service exports also increased significantly; computer services, which account for almost 60 per cent of total service exports, grew by 24.7 per cent on an annual basis, although they did decrease by 8.5 per cent from Q4 2021. While business services exports grew on both an annual and quarterly basis, exports of financial services fell after a successful 2021, declining by 4.9 per cent on a quarterly basis and 9.3 per cent annually.

Consumer confidence

20 22



20 22

ar y

nu Ja




be r2 02 1

20 21



20 21 ar y

nu Ja




be r2 02 0

20 20 ay


ar y

nu Ja




ay M

20 20


be r2 01 9


20 19


20 19


ar y nu Ja (Source: OECD)

Consumer confidence

Retail sales and consumer confidence index, 2019–2022 (100 = January 2019)

Consumer confidence, long-term average

Inflation and the cost of living Global food prices rose by nearly 30 per cent in 2021 amidst a two-year surge that has only been exacerbated by the Russian ongoing invasion of Ukraine; the World Bank’s Food Commodity Price Index reached a record high in nominal terms during March/April 2022 and showed a 15 per cent increase over two months, along with an increase of over 80 per cent over two months. Similarly, the already-rising costs of energy were worsened by the Russian invasion, leaving Ireland exposed. As a member of the European Union, the State is vulnerable to any jeopardisation of Russian fuel supplies, although the Corrib gas field and interconnection with Britain mean that this is reliance is not as great as the reliance in central and eastern Europe. That being said, with 70 per cent of natural gas – which accounts for around 35 per cent of Ireland’s energy requirements – imported from Britain, the island is severely exposed to the British Government’s energy policy decisions in winter 2022/2023. Overall, the ESRI projects that domestic inflation will average 7.1 per cent for 2022 and 4 per cent for 2023 but warns that if “global pressures contributing to price

increases were to intensify, this is likely to pass through to domestic inflation in a sustained manner”. Inflation in the eurozone stood at 8.9 per cent in July 2022, representing an alltime high. Despite this inflation largely being a result of the surges in energy and food costs, the ESRI notes that increases are “being observed more broadly in the economy”. In an attempt to tackle inflation, the ECB has announced that it will end its Asset Purchase Programme and likely increase the policy rate from -0.5 per cent, by a minimum of 50 basis points. Rising interest rates will likely see an increase in the servicing costs of debt domestically, along with a lower credit demand, which may, the ESRI says, “offset some of the recent demand-side pressures, in particular in the housing market”.

The labour market and private consumption demand May 2022 marked the first month in which the unemployment rate (4.7 per cent) fell below February 2020’s prepandemic rate of 4.8 per cent and the ESRI predicts that the economy is “likely to be operating to or at full employment over the coming period”, with unemployment forecast to fall as low as 4.2 per cent by Q4 2022.

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issues eolas Irish economy projected real annual growth 20.00% 10.00% 0.00% -10.00%

Private Public net consumer current expenditure expenditure






Domestic demand excluding stocks

-30.00% -40.00%

Modified Unemployment General Inflation domestic Rate government demand balance as % of GDP


-50.00% Source: ESRI

The labour market showed strength with employment growth in high-wage and high-tech sectors, but the annual average wage growth forecasts of 3.5 per cent in 2022 and 4.5 per cent in 2023 do not keep pace with inflation rates, meaning that wage rates are set to decline on a real basis. One metric that suggests that wages could increase further is a notable vacancy rate in the labour market, with an 80 per cent increase in vacancies from Q4 2019 to Q1 2022, an overall increase to 32,900 vacancies from 18,100 across all sectors. With these vacancies typically concentrated in high-wage, high-skill sectors, wages are forecast to continue to rise through 2023 and while this will lead to hopes that take-home pay could keep pace with inflation, it will also lead to fears of a wage-price spiral. A fall in wages in real terms will inevitably impact private consumption demand, which in turn will limit the growth of the domestic economy. The ESRI predicts private consumer expenditure for 2023 to continue to grow, but for that growth rate to slow to 3.8 per cent in comparison with the 2022 forecast of 4.6 per cent. Meanwhile, the OECD has noted a “marked deterioration in consumer sentiment” due to “steadily rising consumer prices, combined with uncertainties around the war in Ukraine”, which have “fuelled uncertainty”.


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Having recovered from the worst of the Covid pandemic and recorded growth rates between 5.9 per cent and 16.2 per cent in the four quarters of 2022, MDD is now forecast to have its growth rate slowed down to 3.3 per cent on an annual basis for Q2 2022. Due to the upward pressure in inflation and downward revision in its consumption forecast, the ESRI now predicts the growth rate to decline for the remainder of 2022 and average 4.4 per cent in 2022 relative to 2021.

Budgetary actions It is expected that Budget 2023 will include the introduction of a new tax bracket, with two options – 30 per cent rates for those earning €36,800-€41,800, costing the Exchequer €525 million a year, or for those earning between €36,800 and €46,800, which would cost €945 million per year – estimated to save taxpayers between €500-€1,000 per year per person. Boosts to social and child welfare payments are also said to be being mooted, but, as with tax breaks, it is difficult to see how these boosts in take-home pay would not be immediately swallowed by an inflating market unless their rates are tagged to inflation. Simultaneously, it is important to consider that Ireland’s surplus, large enough to handle the cost of these new tax brackets, is largely dependent upon the receipts of the notoriously volatile

corporation tax and taking such money from the Exchequer requires a stability of income elsewhere. The OECD states that measures such as untargeted electricity credits have thus far provided “only limited protections to poorer households” and suggests that future supports should “focus on temporary assistance to the most vulnerable and productivity-enhancing public investment”. Despite wage growth, it predicts that “high inflation will cut real household disposable income and weigh on firms’ investment decisions, especially in 2023, as the embargo on Russian oil takes effect” as of 5 February 2023. To protect against this, the Government pledged a 6.5 per cent increase in public spending, which will exceed its previously pledged limit of 5 per cent rises from 2023 to 2025. With that increase totalling €6.7 billion, attention will now turn to how the Government distributes that increase and how it mitigates the coming pressures of global inflation. Having pledged to put more take-home pay in the pockets of citizens, it remains to be seen how effective the Government’s approach will be amidst rising costs, but with the projected wage loss in real terms, it appears unlikely that this will be the last Budget defined by cost of living in the coalition’s mandated tenure.

conference report

eolas Magazine Editor Ciarán Galway, with speakers Marco Foley, Oracle; Anne Graham, National Transport Authority; Derval Cummins, AECOM, and Peter Walsh, Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

Transport Ireland 2022 The annual Transport Ireland® Conference took place recently in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin on Thursday 16th June. Delegates heard from a number of local and visiting speakers including Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Transport, Aleksandra Klenke, European Commission, Peter Walsh, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Stuart Greig, Transport Scotland. The 2022 conference brought together all the key players from across Ireland to discuss the important issues facing transport policy-makers and senior managers in the sector. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors NTA, AECOM, Abtran and, Oracle, speakers, delegates and exhibitors who joined us and made the conference a huge success.

Sam Waide, Road Safety Authority with Elizabeth Headon, Bus Éireann.

Nick Andrews and Walter French, Compass Informatics Ltd speaking with Paul Curry, Kerry County Council and Damian McDermott, Donegal County Council at the Compass Informatics Ltd exhibition stand.

Panel discussion: Aoife O’Grady, Department of Transport, Jim Meade, Irish Rail and Kevin McPartlan, Fuels for Ireland, discussing decarbonising Ireland’s transport system.

Anne Graham, National Transport Authority with Christopher Manzira and Colm Ennis, Dublin City Council.

Keith Eccles and Marco Foley from Oracle, greeting delegates at their exhibition stand.

Lorraine D’Arcy, TU Dublin, addressing the conference.


Digital solutions for the public sector our innovation without the expense and effort of having to do it all themselves. “When you consider the innovation we have seen in private sector organisations across the world, it has ushered in a new era of customer service. We now order so many products online via our phones or other devices, and status updates are transparent and quick; people now expect the same from the public sector. Sometimes the information is even realtime. Covid-19 has accelerated this process in the public sector, and citizens now demand greater connection and more digital services from government.


John Stobie, Regional Vice President of Public Sector Sales for Salesforce Ireland, and Paul Aley, Vice President of Solution Engineering for Salesforce EMEA, speak to eolas about how digital technology solutions can assist the implementation of Ireland’s digital strategy. Specifically, in Ireland, the public sector is acclimatising to the Connecting Government 2030 strategy, announced in March 2022 with a goal of digitising 90 per cent of public services by 2030. Stobie interprets the goals laid out in the strategy as perfectly aligned with Salesforce’s capabilities. “Connecting Government 2030 emphasises a human-driven digital experience and we are talking about enabling people to interact with the public sector and be taken on a journey through a service;

Public Sector Solutions provide the ability to do that,” he says. “The 2030 strategy also advocates harnessing data effectively and government as a platform, whereby you are building once, reusing data and not having to replicate effort; these are principles enabled by the Salesforce 360 platform. Similarly, in relation to strengthening digital skills and evolving through innovation; with Salesforce’s updates three times each year, public sector organisations can benefit from

Stobie adds: “Salesforce’s Public Sector Solutions, therefore, sought to modernise the citizen experience, to centralise it, and make it easier for public sector organisations to support their communities. Our solutions which are unique in the market relate to license and permit management, grant management, inspection management, employee experience, contact centre management, and emergency programme management. “We have assembled a powerful set of capabilities, including the OmniStudio solution, with low-code/no-code and drag and drop features that allow public sector organisations to improve service delivery and offer assistance to citizens faster than ever before. It is powered by the Customer 360 Salesforce platform and Salesforce utilises purpose-built data models, pre-built public sector processes, again allowing public sector organisations to innovate and deliver projects faster.” Building on Salesforce’s core values of trust, customer success, innovation, equality, and sustainability, Stobie says the genesis of Salesforce’s public sector solutions lies in its commitment to customer success and innovation. Public Sector Solutions are a suite of pre-built applications and purpose-built

“The vision we have is to provide digital-first, modern solutions to help public sector organisations transform how they engage with citizens and employees – by providing modern, fast, and seamless experiences at scale.” John Stobie, Salesforce Ireland tools for government and public services built on the Salesforce platform. “The vision we have is to provide digital-first, modern solutions to help public sector organisations transform how they engage with citizens and employees – by providing modern, fast, and seamless experiences at scale,” he says.

“The fact is that no public organisation should be in

Aley adds that what Salesforce is delivering across European public sector organisations is something that has been a target objective for roughly 25 years. “Things got too big, too complicated, too costly, and the technology was moving faster than organisations could,” he explains, adding: “What we are doing now with our platform, and our public sector solutions allied to that, is answering a question that has been challenging the government for a long time.”

that you do not have to update your applications,

Accentuating the collaborative function of these tools and the ease with which they facilitate citizen interactions with public sector bodies, Stobie asserts: “It empowers staff, providing them with a 360o view of the citizen so their interactions are more seamless, and it makes their job easier.”

with more features such as action plans, document

observes, remarking: “Why would governments want to keep building more and more data centres when they can outsource operation and maintenance costs? Software as a service means nor your underlying infrastructure but rather they get updated for you. All Salesforce customers get the benefit of continuous feedback to enhance our solutions for the benefit of all.” Concluding on the same confident note, Stobie explains: “While we have the fantastic apps as part of Public Sector Solutions, we also include our public sector toolkit. Included in this is OmniStudio generation, and a business rules engine. They are low-code/no-code tools that help you to rapidly deploy modern solutions and services to the citizen. “It is very easy to implement a Salesforce solution and have it adding value rather than spending days and weeks coding. The Salesforce platform remains evergreen with our three updates each year, and public sector bodies can innovate easily on the back of these updates and drive improved experiences for citizens.”

W: salesforce.com/eu/publicsector


International examples of the work Salesforce has undertaken to integrate public sector functions abound and include, for example, the 59 per cent reduction in licensing deficiencies experienced in Arizona, USA using Salesforce’s licences, permits and inspections app, the reduction of the licensing process from four hours to 15 minutes in New Mexico, USA using the same app, and ongoing work while in the UK, Rutland County Council have used Salesforce’s grant management and call centre platforms.

the business of building data centres,” Aley

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Covid-19: Five lessons for public policy Irish public policy can learn from the experiences of the pandemic to inform Ireland’s policy response to crises in such areas as climate change and biodiversity loss, housing, responding to the war in Ukraine, and dealing with the current cost of living crisis, according to a report from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). The NESC report, entitled The Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Irish Public Policy, outlines five key lessons which should be taken into account with future policy formulation, arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic. The lessons are that: 1. Vulnerability is complex and context specific; 2. Stakeholder networks and experts shape outcomes; 3. Real time evidence transforms policymaking; 4. Adapting the policy world to the data world takes great effort; and 5. Communication and trust are critical.


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Vulnerability is complex and context specific NESC asserts that local or sectoral work to pinpoint vulnerability, with national coordination and resourcing, can enhance policy making, allow more targeting of supports to ensure that the most vulnerable receive them, and maximise the value of public investment. The report states that “pinpointing and managing vulnerability” is the key means of taking on board the vulnerability which faces public policy in emergency situations. It hopes to achieve this by taking a bottom-up,

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community-based approach which will focus on the most adaptable measures available for local areas, and involve the engagement of stakeholders at a local level. Furthermore, the report recommends being as clear and concise as possible when communicating directives.

Stakeholder networks and experts shape outcomes Increasing the means of connectivity between stakeholders and experts is key to maximising efficiency and ensuring that policy can be implemented quickly, NESC states. The report outlines the importance of expanding the tripartite policy interaction which was effective in dealing with labour market issues during the crisis. The level of engagement with and input from experts is seen as a crucial lesson which can be implemented in other aspects of public policy, as the legislation and government policy to deal with the pandemic was created with an unprecedented level of input from experts. “The shift to intense collaboration was also evident in relation to labour market supports. Senior figures from both the worker and employer representative organisations were directly involved in the policy dialogue around the development of measures to protect vulnerable enterprises and employees,” the report states.

Real time evidence transforms policymaking The Covid-19 pandemic taught public policy makers the true value of real-time evidence, which the Council states should be taken on board for future public policy. “The data gathering, analysis and application which proved so necessary and useful to policymakers during the pandemic should be carefully evaluated to ascertain what should be modified and continued, what systems should be ‘mothballed’, and what activity can be ended entirely.” The report continues: “There are reasons for cautious optimism about the medium-term course of the pandemic in Ireland in light of our high vaccination rates, medical progress and reducing pressure on the health system. As restrictions are removed, the ‘value’ of Covid data and related behavioural analytics activity to

the public policy system falls. Monitoring aggregate mobility, footfall, and close contacts etc is less crucial as increased activity is permissible, necessary, encouraged and expected.”

Adapting the policy world to the data world takes great effort Ensuring that the data world and policy world are in sync is identified as the fourth lesson to learn from the policy process throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The Council outlines “being data ready” is the key means to realise this objective. The report acknowledges concerns around “governance, privacy, access, confidentiality and data sharing issues which must be prioritised and addressed with urgency”. Ensuring transparency throughout the process is seen as the key to alleviating these concerns. Furthermore, the report lists the importance of ensuring that Ireland’s public policy procedure has fully adapted to the concept of ‘two worlds at different speeds’, which is crucial to ensuring as streamlined and efficient a process as possible which facilitates the cooperation of data and policy, thus ensuring the quick creation of policy by experts with the maximisation of data analysis.

Communication and trust are critical Maximising the trust in public policy is the fifth and final lesson learned from the experience of public policy during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report recommends a course of action driven by reaching out and maximising trust in order to build up relations between the various stakeholders in public policy. “It is difficult to ‘switch on’ good levels of trust during a crisis. This shows the importance of ensuring that policy decisions work, and are seen to work, to generate, foster, and promote trust in government and institutions,” the report says. It continues: “Consideration [should] be given to a dedicated programme to ensure policy decisions are seen to work, and sensitising citizens and organisations to the fact that policy shifts are inevitable along the way, as situations develop and the State learns.”

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We need a Limit Less generation However, there are approaches that if adopted can have a significant impact. The IOP worked with six schools on the Whole School Equity Planning approach on how subjects and careers are represented and discussed with significant positive impacts upon the choices schoolchildren made. This work impacted across all subjects, not just physics, and is best embedded by designating a school governor responsible for inclusion. What it did demonstrate was that when the conversation is different so are the choices.

Credit: Dominic Martin

We live in a world facing a changing climate and a growing population with the need to decarbonise economies, improve healthcare and ensure water, food, and energy supplies. In Ireland, we need to create and develop the next generation of industries to provide high value jobs and improve productivity to safeguard citizens’ futures, writes Lee Reynolds, Head of Ireland


and Northern Ireland at the Institute of Physics. The science of physics will be crucial to all this work. However, on present trends these goals and opportunities are going to be missed. This is why the Institute of Physics (IOP) is campaigning to build a new Limit Less generation. The number of people studying physics has seen long-term decline and falls far below what we know is needed now and in the future. The available data also tells us that physics has an inclusion problem. Limits and barriers are turning away talent that we need and must be removed if we

are to secure the inclusive future we want and need. Available data identifies that physics has under-representations of women, people from deprived communities, LGBT+, people with disabilities and some minority ethnic communities (especially Black Caribbean). The reasons for these are many – legacy of past exclusion, lack of role models, poorer quality teaching and perceptions of physics amongst teachers and parents impacting subject and career advice.

Third-level institutions can also help change the conversation. The University of Limerick physics department was the first to receive the Athena Swan Silver Award in Ireland. This is a quality charter mark framework and accreditation scheme that recognises and celebrates good practices in higher education and research institutions towards the advancement of gender equality. They launched a series of initiatives including extensive outreach activity to encourage female students to take physics as a Leaving Cert subject and study the subject at undergraduate level with now more than half of their under-graduates being female. The IOP Limit Less campaign has been engaging with government and policy makers, delivering events, the new Eureka awards, working with education at all levels, partnering with social media influencers and developing Limit Less ambassadors all to reach underrepresented groups. It has produced an Irish careers booklet that shows the breadth and depth of opportunities and the diverse nature of people who study physics. Medicine, manufacturing, engineering, finance, IT, media, optics, construction, meteorology, and the arts is where physics led the role models it features. It aims to help students, teachers and careers advisers understand the Limit Less opportunities a choice of physics can unlock.

The demand and value are clear. Despite preconceptions, the demand for physics spans all skills levels. High-skilllevel roles are seeing the fastest growth – with the number of jobs for physical scientists, for example, growing by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2020 – more than half (53 per cent) of physics-demanding jobs do not require a degree. Already there is significant unmet demand for physics skills, with a substantial number of physics-demanding roles at any one time – nearly 9,000 high-duration vacancies in mid-2021 – seeming to persist in being hard to fill. There is strong, sustained growth in demand for physics skills, particularly outside of the scientific sector, with a significant proportion of hard-to-fill vacancies being for digital, and business and finance roles reflecting their importance, but is likely to exacerbate existing skills shortages in the coming years. The role of physics-based industries (PBIs) is underappreciated as it comes under so many different names but includes advanced manufacturing, science and technology services, medical equipment servicing, energy sector, and telecoms. Whatever the enterprises are called, PBIs are a major and key contributor to Ireland and have the potential to do much more. The IOP’s research into the impact of PBIs in Ireland shows they account for nearly 200,000 full-time employees. They contribute €29 billion to Ireland’s Gross Value Added (GVA) three times that of construction and represents 9 per cent of Ireland’s GDP. The annual turnover is worth £80 billion making it double the size of retail.

In the past decade, Irish PBIs achieved 33 per cent in GVA growth, 41 per cent employment growth and 26 per cent turnover growth. With 92 per cent of the 19,994 physics-based companies being micro-sized (less than 10 employees) the opportunities for more growth, better jobs and higher productivity are there to be taken.

Despite preconceptions, the demand for physics spans all skills levels. High-skilllevel roles are seeing the fastest growth – with the number of jobs for physical scientists, for example, growing by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2020 – more than half (53 per cent) of physicsdemanding jobs do not require a degree. There is a clear base of high value and track record of success to be built upon.

barriers and tap into the talents of all

There is no time in human history where rapid scientific innovation was needed more to deliver the future we need and want.

Limit Less generation.

To do all that we need to break down outdated stereotypes, remove the

parts of our society. We need to build the

E: lee.reynolds@iop.org W: www.iop.org


Despite contributing just under 9 per cent of national GVA, PBI investment in research and development (R&D) comprises more than 40 per cent of total R&D in Ireland. As many economies wrestle with a productivity challenge, the Physics sector is above the Irish average. As a sector, it provides high value jobs with average employee compensation of €59,000.

Credit: Dominic Martin

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Irish energy poverty reaches highest recorded rate Irish energy poverty has reached its highest recorded rate amid energy price inflation, with the estimated share of households experiencing energy poverty now standing at 29 per cent. Operating under the definition of energy poverty as a household spending more than one-tenth of its net income on energy (including electricity but excluding motor fuel), an ESRI report published in June 2022 found that an estimated 29 per cent of households in the Republic now qualify as experiencing energy poverty. The previously recorded high for this stat was 23 per cent, recorded in 1994/95. This estimate was arrived at via observation of energy inflation from January 2021 to April 2022, a period in which household consumption costs increased by €21.27 per week on average, rising to €38.63 per week when motor fuels are included; these figures


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equate to 2.3 per cent and 4.2 per cent of disposable income across all households respectively. The ESRI estimates that a further 25 per cent rise in energy prices would result in the share of households in energy poverty rising to 43 per cent. The figures bring into stark focus the recent and extreme nature in the inflation of energy prices; as noted in the Oireachtas Library and Research Service’s March 2022 report Energy Poverty in Ireland. The ESRI itself had estimated the share of households in household poverty to be 17.5 per cent in 2020, while the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications estimated 28 per cent of households to be “in or at risk” of

energy poverty in 2016, and the Survey on Income and Living Conditions reported that 4.9 per cent of people were unable to afford to adequately warm their homes in 2019. The ESRI research found there to be a “strong income gradient in the impact of energy price increases”, with it estimated that recent increases in energy costs, including motor fuels, amount to 5.9 per cent of after-tax and transfer income for households in the lowest 20 per cent of income, while it accounts for 3.1 per cent of the same income for households in the highest 20 per cent. This is deemed to be “because a larger share of lower-income households’ spending is on energy, particularly home heating and electricity”.

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Simulated impact of recent energy price increases by household type 4.50%

€ 30.00


€ 25.00

3.50% 3.00%

€ 20.00


€ 15.00

2.00% 1.50%

€ 10.00


€ 5.00 € 0.00

0.50% Total

Lowest income quintile

Highest income quintile



Heating and electricity (per week)



At risk of poverty

Not at risk of poverty


Heating and electricity (% of income)

Source: ESRI

Energy Poverty in Ireland states: “It is well established that certain groups are more vulnerable to energy poverty and its consequences. This may be because they are poorer and have limited capacity to meet their energy costs, particularly in a fluctuating market reliant on imported fuels, or because they have increased energy needs, or both of these factors combined. Groups that are most frequently identified as vulnerable are low-income households (particularly larger households), lone parents, older people, children, and people with disabilities.” The ESRI report, Energy poverty and deprivation in Ireland, also found the cutting of taxes such as fuel tax, VAT, and carbon tax to be a “poorly targeted response” if the aim is “to protect those most affected by rising energy prices”. This conclusion was reached due to the ESRI’s research showing that roughly half of the aggregate gain from such tax cuts go to top two quintiles of income, with less than one-third of the gain to the bottom two income quintiles. Increases to welfare payments, the fuel allowance, and “even lump-sum payments like the household electricity credit” are instead cited as better targeted mechanisms to target those suffering from energy poverty according to the ESRI, which gives the example of a “Christmas Bonus-style double welfare payment” that “would result in gains that are larger in both cash terms and as

percentage of income for lower- than for higher-income households, while avoiding blunting the incentive to invest in energy-saving technology”. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service report notes that there are three broad approaches to combatting energy poverty: reducing demand for energy by improving efficiency through measures such as retrofitting; income supports in the form of transfer payments and subsidisation of bills such as the lumpsum recommended by the ESRI; and price regulation to control energy costs. As the report notes, various European directives contained within the 2019 Clean Energy for all Europeans package placed requirements upon member states to clearly define energy poverty, establish long-term renovation strategies for national stock, focus a share of their energy efficiencies measures on energy poverty, and to have “due regard” for energy poverty in their national energy and climate plans. Domestically, the Climate Action Plan 2021 includes within it a pledge to tackle energy poverty via the ringfencing of revenue to refund national retrofitting with an emphasis on low-income households. Under the National Development Plan, exchequer funding for retrofitting is expected to reach €2 billion by 2030. The plan also restates a commitment to review the 2016-2019 Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty ahead of the publication of a new study, and to publish

the findings of the Warmth and Wellbeing Study. In 2020, the Fuel Allowance was paid to 22 per cent of households and 27 per cent received either the electricity or gas allowances provided under the Household Benefits Package, with exchequer expenditure in both reaching €290.45 million and €193.33 million respectively for the year. In 2022, payments under the Fuel Allowance total €33 per week for 28 weeks or two lumpsum payments, and payments under the Household Benefits Package total €35 per month in the form of credit to a utility bill or a cash payment. Assuming a fourweek month, a recipient of both of these programmes would receive €167 per month, just about accounting for the €154.42 monthly increases (including motor fuel) incurred via the inflation from January 2021 to April 2022, leaving just over €12 in allowances to pay towards the rest of the costs. As the Oireachtas report notes, liberalisation in the energy markets under EU rules mean that “price regulation is no longer a consumer protection measure since suppliers compete on price and set their own prices accordingly”; in studying the figures provided by both the ESRI and the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, it is clear that either this is a policy that will need to be revisited or the amounts paid out through schemes such as the Fuel Allowance will need to be vastly increased.

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Census 2022: Vacant homes could house the homeless The latest homelessness bulletin (June 2022) shows that there are currently 10,492 people accessing emergency accommodation throughout the State. This is in spite of the Census 2022 figures which show that there are currently 166,792 vacant homes and apartments.


The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show that there are 2,124,590 permanent dwellings throughout the State, which marks a 6 per cent increase in housing stock from 2016. The total number of vacant houses has declined by roughly 27.5 per cent between 2011 and 2022, but, as the figures show, the numbers remain high.

Vacancy rates are notably higher in the western counties and rural areas than in the cities. In Leitrim, the percentage of vacant homes was as high as 15.5 per cent, whilst Roscommon was 13.4 per cent and Mayo was 13.3 per cent. The CSO figures do, however, show that the number of vacant homes in all these counties have declined since 2016.

As houses in Dublin continue to become unaffordable for many middle- and low-income earners, there has been a notable increase in housing stock in neighbouring counties surrounding Dublin, with both Kildare and Meath having recorded an increase in housing stock of 12 per cent, alongside a 9 per cent increase in Wicklow and a 7 per cent increase in Louth.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Homeless Quarterly Progress Report showed that, in the second quarter of 2022, 346 families presented as homeless in Dublin, bringing the total number in 2022 to 759. The CSO figures show that, in Dublin City, there are currently 17,468 vacant properties. The Government’s Housing First 2022-26 plan, intended to help end long-term

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homelessness, commits the Government to targeting an additional 1,319 supported tenancies over the next five years. It will involve an average of 264 new tenancies per annum. Notably, there were over 48,000 homes which were vacant in 2016 and remain vacant in 2022. A staggering 23,483 of these houses were also vacant in 2011. Similar to the trends on vacancy rates, the proportion of homes which have been vacant between 2016 and 2022 is higher in the western rural counties and less in Dublin. Less than 1 per cent of houses in Dublin remained vacant between 2016 and 2022, whereas in Leitrim and Roscommon, over 6 per cent of houses have been vacant over the past six years.

Water report




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Minister Darragh O’Brien TD: Improving water services “Substantial and sustained investment” from the Government and accommodating population growth are vital to ensure that Ireland’s water infrastructure deficits are addressed, according to Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD. Many infrastructure projects throughout the State are dependent upon the transformation of water services, Minister O’Brien highlights. With plans to build over 300,000 new homes by the year 2030, the Minister outlines spending commitments which will transform the quality of water in Ireland: “We have seen a very significant period of reform in the water sector in recent years, and we have also seen, through our National Development Plan, record investment in water services in the Republic. “Our National Development Plan actually commits €6 billion between now and 2025. It is [Irish Water CEO] Niall Gleeson’s job to make sure that that is spent well, and we are getting the services and improvements we need. Importantly that capital is agreed, it is there on a


multiannual basis and it ensures that we are able to plan projects into the future.” Of that €6 billion, €4.5 billion is a commitment of exchequer funding for domestic water services in 2022. In the same period, Irish Water will spend close to €2 billion in operational and capital investment in water services. Acknowledging that that the transformation has “been happening slowly,” but that it is “gathering pace”, the Minister points to the Programme for Government, which includes a commitment to retain Irish Water in public ownership, and to ensure that it is a “national, stand-alone utility, whilst ensuring that its sufficiently funded to fulfil its role”.

Transformation of water services Minister O’Brien says that the goal of the Government is to ensure that Irish Water brings “greater coherence to how water services delivery is managed in an environmentally sustainable manner right across the country”.

The Minister acknowledged that the programme had been slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic but added that he was “confident going forward that we will be able to agree on arrangements required and ensuring that any anxieties and concerns are allayed as we go through the process”.

Rural water services Highlighting a “real problem in relation in rural growth” of water infrastructure, the Minister asserts that there is “a big challenge as we continue to improve and enhance water services right across the country”. As a result, the Minister announced a new €50 million targeted fund with the aim of, “targeting wastewater collection and treatment needs in villages and settlements without access to a public water services network”. “What I really want to see with this is that some of our rural towns and villages who have not been able to

“The schemes that I want to see brought forward are the ones that are ready to go, where the local authorities have done the work, where the land is acquired, where the permissions are there, and the designs are done. After this, we will assess the applications which come through in September 2022 and move very quickly to approving them so that the local authorities will then tender for that work.”

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Discussing the 2021 Water Sector Transformation Policy Paper, which “charts the course for completing the institutional reform programme by fully integrating water operations within the organisational structure of Irish Water,” the Minister also emphasises the goal of transformation of Irish Water into the single water utility as having the potential to create new jobs and training programmes.

access the capital programme who are longer down the road for that to happen but will use this as a pilot scheme,” he explains.

The Minister indicated his frustration at the slow progress of updating water services for local communities in Ireland: “We have had a situation where we have had untreated wastewater going straight into the Avoca River. We have a €134 million plant that has been started that is being built and that is happening across the country.” He continues: “All government departments are pointed towards that direction but the good thing, I suppose, is that it is centralised within my department and working, because local government is within my department as well.” Considering the challenges, including planning permission, which have hindered efforts to improve rural water infrastructure, the Minister outlines that he plans to publish a “consolidated planning bill in the autumn,” with the aim of “positively impacting upon infrastructure developments, whilst also respecting the right for the public to make observations”. “Communities are asking me why there is a situation that wastewater plants in towns and villages have not been upgraded or not been replaced. The place for



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planning is not in the courts in my view. People can have recourse now where we have had cases go on further into Europe,” he says.

Protecting Ireland’s water resources Meanwhile, states that his planned River Basin Management Plan, due to be published later in 2022, as the key framework to reversing the deterioration of water quality. “The continued deterioration in the quality of our rivers and streams in Ireland is of real concern to us and we have to reverse that trend,” he insists. Discussing the plan, the Minister provides an update on its progress: “Right now, we are reviewing over 1,400 submissions right across the 26 counties that were received during the public consultation. “When that review happens, that will strengthen the plan and it will help us then to support and protect water. We are going to publish that later this year. What I want to see is a management plan, but it is going to be very action focused. “It will require a lot more work for us to deliver but one of the concerns that I have is we are seeing a continued deterioration in our water, particularly in our inland water courses and in our rivers for many reasons.” “We have got to start reversing that trend


“Clean water is vital to protecting public health, supporting economic growth and preserving our environment for future generations.” and seeing improvements in that. That will happen through the addition of the provisional infrastructure that I have just discussed but also in relation to change of practices that we need to ensure happens.” Emphasising the importance of clean water in developing Ireland’s overall infrastructure, he adds: “Clean water is vital to protecting public health, supporting economic growth and preserving our environment for future generations.” Measures which he believes are essential to protecting Ireland’s water resources include reducing the loss of fertilisers and soil from farmland into inland water, reducing the physical impact on water caused by drainage activity, increasing the number of water barriers as well as investment from his department in urban and rural wastewater services.

Going forward Looking to the future, Minister O’Brien outlines that “we need to proceed with enhanced investment in our water services, which our multi-annual investment provides for €6 billion”. The Minister adds that the main challenge to ensuring progress for Irish Water is consolidating trust between all stakeholders. Acknowledging this challenge, he states that the Government will “be there to support change and to ensure that any commitments which are required by government are met in that space”. He further states that the Government will monitor the progress on a weekly basis. “We have an environment subcommittee within cabinet where the commitments in the Programme for Government are tracked as to how we are moving,” he concludes.

Sewage treatment in a circular economy Wastewater treatment plants equipped with disinfection, 2018 - 40°

- 30°

- 10° Svalbard 0° (NO) 10

- 20°

20 °

30 °

40 °

50 °

60 °

60 ° 6

Waste water treatment plants equipped with disinfection, 2018

80 ° - 60° 60 °

30 °

10 °

Chlorination UV disinfection Chlorination and ultraviolet (UV) radiation disinfection Ozonation or ozonation and other type of treatment

20 °

French Guiana (FR)

No data Outside coverage Mayotte Island (FR) 50 °

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Guadeloupe and - 50° Martinique Islands (FR)

20 °

ways to become more energy efficient and reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions. Some urban wastewater treatment plants (UWWTPs) including one in Aarhus, Denmark, generate more energy than they use, through biogas generation and wastewater heat recovery. Some towns, operators and even countries have ambitious plans for net zero greenhouse gas emissions from the water sector, intensively reviewing their infrastructure and operations.

50 °

Reunion Island (FR)

Azores Islands (PT)

40 ° 40 ° 40 ° - 30°

Madeira Island (PT) - 20° 30°

While large UWWTPs can deliver considerable efficiencies of scale, effective sewage treatment can also be achieved through local, decentralised facilities, ranging in scale from individual buildings up to small towns, such as the sewage treatment plant in Arklow, County Wicklow currently under construction.

Canary Islands (ES) 30 °

30 °



10 °


20 °


30 °


30 °

1,500 km 40 °

Reference data: ©ESRI | ©EuroGeographics

Note: UV. ultravoilet treatment Source: EEA (2022a).

Achieving the transition to a circular economy requires change not only in regulatory and institutional approaches, but also in how citizens appreciate their individual and collective responsibilities towards sewage management, according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). The report, entitled Beyond water quality — Sewage treatment in a circular economy further outlines that: “A major barrier to achieving circularity lies in the persistent pollutants that can be discharged to or run off into urban wastewater, which then need to be removed and which may contaminate sewage sludge.”

It further states that upstream measures are needed to keep pollutants out of wastewater, through restrictions, controls at source, and development of sustainable alternatives to the harmful substances currently in use, such as the recycling of sludge.

Technologies such as separated wastewater systems enable sewage to be safely treated while recovering both energy and nutrients. Wastewater from washing and cooking can be reused for applications where lower quality water will suffice, such as irrigation of parks and gardens. Alternative approaches to energyintensive treatment include the effective control of pollution at source and decentralised approaches that treat and dispose of relatively small volumes of wastewater. Furthermore, nature-based solutions such as constructed wetlands and reedbeds can provide flood resilience and green space for citizens in a cost-effective manner. Achieving a circular economy in sewage treatment requires multiple stakeholders to participate, both in contributing solutions and in accepting change. At the infrastructure level of UWWTPs, towns and industry sectors, transition to more sustainable approaches may take time to become widespread, but already innovative towns, cities and utilities are finding solutions.

The report acknowledges that some water managers have already identified


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Ambitious vision for the future delivery of Ireland’s water services


For Irish Water and its CEO Niall Gleeson, the coming years are set to bring significant change and exciting opportunities as the organisation progresses to become a national, standalone, regulated utility with full responsibility for the delivery of public water services in Ireland. The recently published Water Services Amendment Bill creates the framework which will enable the legal separation of Irish Water from the Ervia group and follows the

publication of the Framework for the Future Delivery of Water Services which provides for the voluntary transfer of local authority water services staff to Irish Water.

These two developments represent a generational shift in how public water services in Ireland are delivered, creating a national water services authority with the vision,

resources and expertise to meet Ireland’s water and wastewater needs now and into the future. 46

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While such an unprecedented organisational restructuring may seem daunting to many, for Gleeson managing change has been the one constant since he joined Irish Water in 2019, initially as Managing Director before being appointed CEO late in 2021. In his career as an engineer, he has worked on major infrastructure projects all over the world, from building power plants in Alaska to helping develop the Luas project in Dublin. He is relishing the opportunity to apply this expertise as he leads Irish Water into the next phase of its development. “Irish Water is still a relatively young organisation, but it has undergone major changes and made huge progress, delivering significant benefits for Ireland,” he says.

“Fast forward to 2022 and we have made huge progress in addressing

“I am confident that this track record, combined with the strong relationships we have built up with all of our stakeholders, will enable us to move forward successfully to the next stage on our journey to a single integrated public water services authority.”


“When Irish Water was set up there was a myriad of issues to be addressed as a result of decades of underinvestment in the water infrastructure: we had 50 towns and villages around Ireland where raw sewage was being discharged into the sea; there were thousands of people on long-term boil water notices; there were vastly differing procedures and charges for connecting to the water and wastewater network; and half of all treated water was being lost to leaks.

many of those legacy issues. We have eliminated 60 per cent of all raw sewage discharges and are on track to end almost all the remainder by 2025; we have removed two million people from boil water notices, particularly long-term notices; working with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) we have implemented standardised national charging regimes for connecting to the network and for non-domestic tariffs; and we are on track to reduce leakage to under 20 per cent in Dublin and 25 per cent nationally by 2030.

Strong, strategic vision for the future With plans in place to address these urgent legacy issues, Gleeson’s focus now is on the future and realising the vision of becoming a world class public water service focussed on customer needs, efficient water services, and supporting housing, economic development and job creation across the country.

4 47

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“For the first time in Ireland, there is a coherent and ambitious vision for the delivery of water services at a national level. There is a place in Irish Water for all water services staff currently working in the local authorities, and we are ready to welcome everyone who chooses to join us.” Niall Gleeson, Irish water

“We all know that good water infrastructure underpins economic growth and development. Our priority now is to build an organisation and an infrastructure that is fit for purpose to meet the country’s needs, while also enhancing the environment and safeguarding our precious water resources,” he says. “Housing is a key priority for everyone and we recognise that we have an important role to play in enabling the delivery of new homes around the country. We have already delivered huge improvements in supporting water and wastewater connections by establishing a single national connections process that is fair and equitable for all applicants, irrespective of where they are in the country. We have grown our connection and developer services team to enable us to deliver a high-quality service to home builders and developers and we have also published water and wastewater capacity registers on https://www.water.ie/connections/developerservices/capacity-registers/. These registers provide guidance to developers and planners on which areas have capacity for growth. “We recently launched new initiatives such as the self-lay in public roads and the experience-based contractor accreditation schemes to facilitate the development of water services infrastructure by contractors and to streamline the delivery of connections. All these initiatives are having a real impact; last year alone Irish Water approved connections for over 32,000 houses.


“We recognise that there is even further scope for improvement and we are constantly engaging with government, and with the construction sector and industry bodies such as the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to find solutions to enable more efficient delivery of housing, while also making sure that the water services infrastructure meets the appropriate levels of quality and standards to avoid future issues for customers.”

Planning for a sustainable future Ireland’s population is growing, and Irish Water 48

must keep pace while also meeting the expectations of the public and its stakeholders. Gleeson points out that while water quality overall has improved, many supplies remain vulnerable due to the age and fragmented nature of the existing infrastructure. “The most recent Census and forecasting on population growth tells us we will need 40 per cent more water by 2050 than we supply today. We have developed the first National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) to enable us to strategically and proactively plan for the country’s needs over the next 25 years and beyond. It will enable us to develop safe, secure, reliable, and sustainable public water supplies for all of our customers and communities, whilst safeguarding public health and the environment.”

An integrated national framework for the delivery of water services The Framework for the Future Delivery of Water Services published by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, in June 2022, established the conditions by which over 3,000 local authority workers will be offered the option of becoming Irish Water staff. The CEO is confident that the agreement provides a strong incentive for staff choosing to join Irish Water. “I believe Irish Water is a great place to work, where staff can make a real contribution to the development and improvement of communities all over Ireland. We have a great story to tell, and I believe that all water services workers in local authorities can become an integral part of our future. “For the first time in Ireland, there is a coherent and ambitious vision for the delivery of water services at a national level. There is a place in Irish Water for all water services staff currently working in the local authorities, and we are ready to welcome everyone who chooses to join us.”

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The challenge of delivering infrastructure Gleeson acknowledges that, in the past, Irish Water has been overly optimistic in its projected timelines for some of its projects and that issues in getting planning permission, land acquisition, and other statutory consents have led to delays. “Generally, once we break ground on projects we have a very good track record in delivering on time and within budget. However, lengthy decision-making timelines, and the uncertainty around when decisions will be made, make it very difficult to deliver strategic projects and provide certainty for the delivery of our investment plan and National Development Plan objectives,” he explains. The lengthy process of acquiring land for developments can also add to delays in project delivery timelines. “It is very unsatisfactory for us and our stakeholders, particularly land-owners, decision makers, and everyone relying on our investment programme to deliver national objectives, such as Housing for All.”

“We have proven that, with the right levels of funding, we can deliver for the benefit of everyone in Ireland. We have identified our priorities for capital investment in line with the Government’s Water Services Policy Statement and Project Ireland 2040. We have also made an updated submission for the recast National Development Plan 2021-2030 which includes a nearly €6 billion commitment to public water services to 2025. “While we are focusing on delivering our current investment plan, we are also preparing for the next five-year plan and working on the development of a revised Water Services Strategic Plan in line with the new River Basin Management Plan and with Housing for All. There is no doubt that there are challenges ahead – construction inflation, and supply chain issues in particular – but we are determined to work with our expert staff, government, our regulators and our suppliers to continue to deliver the high level of investment and infrastructure delivery that will be essential to Ireland’s future.”


These processes need to be streamlined and aligned, he says, adding that he welcomed the reforms to the planning process currently being proposed as part of the Planning and Development Bill.

include the Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project, the Vartry Water Supply Scheme, and the covered reservoir in Stillorgan.

W: water.ie S: linkedin.com/in/niallgleeson

Continued high levels of investment Planning challenges notwithstanding, Irish Water has made significant strides in the delivery of critical infrastructure nationwide. Major projects completed in the last year alone 49

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Ireland’s water and wastewater future Key stakeholders in Ireland's water and wastewater future discuss some of the future challenges and opportunities across the sector. What is the biggest challenge facing the water sector at present, from your organisation’s perspective? Neil Walker: The planning, appeals and consent systems are not fit for purpose; it takes far too long to get through and it is far too easy for people who want to block it to do so. More than anything else, we are trying to undo 100 years of underinvestment. The amount of investment that Irish Water requires is going to double. In a regime where contractors are worried about rising prices it is difficult enough. Where a project can be in years in delay before you can even go out to procurement, it is imposing huge costs. Brían Munnelly: One of the biggest and immediate issues is inflation and the impact on the delivery of capital programmes. Another area would be the compliance versus economic development dichotomy whereby the level of underinvestment and the fragmented nature of the water service over a long number of years has left us in a serious compliance deficit. The challenge is that we cannot have economic development at the expense of compliance. 50

Michelle Minihan: There are a couple of big challenges right now facing the water services sector. Firstly, there is the delivery of improvements to ensure drinking water quality is protected. The EPA has a remedial action list. We have highlighted those in our annual reports and how those improvements must be delivered. There is a similar priority action list for wastewater compliance. The second thing I would point to is the need for resilience. It is really important that, whether from climate impact or water quantity perspective, we need resilient water supplies that are not vulnerable to interruptions, that are not vulnerable to boil water notices or water restrictions. Overall, I think they can meet the challenges ahead. Karen Kavanagh: The implementation of the delivery of the capital investment plan is the key thing that will deliver benefits to customers in terms of improved water quality, reducing boil water notices and reducing the amount of raw sewage. The overall expenditure envelope for the current investment period was nearly €8 million when you include operational allowances, which is the biggest revenue control that the CRU has ever approved in its almost 20 years of regulation. The scale and complexity of the challenge is huge, including

ensuring that Irish Water continues to grow and develop as an organisation to deliver that capacity. Eamon Gallen: I think Irish Water has come an awful long way since being established, but that does not mean we can get complacent. On one hand, we want to get things done and, on the other hand, we must ensure good procurement practices and competition in the market, as well as growing a supply chain which will deliver a huge amount of investment over the next number of years. Those organisations which provide the investment want Irish Water to prove itself all the time, and rightly so. It is now about taking that to the next stage. It is a challenge, but I do not think it is an obstacle and, more importantly, it is a fantastic opportunity. We really have a chance now to transform the water sector in Ireland.

What are the challenges for large water users in business and manufacturing? Neil Walker: I think there are two parts to this. For new users, whether they are a data centre or a factory, they will need energy, broadband, and water. Finding places where all three are available is difficult. There is going to be a period where it is very difficult to build houses in and around Dublin unless we can get more sustainable water supplies. Ibec is 100 per cent behind the water supply project, but it could take a decade and that is something we cannot afford. There will be a period where, if someone wants to build a large factory, it will have to be done somewhere outside of Dublin. For existing users, it is a different question. They will have to be much

more aware of water conservation because there is going to be a pattern of drier summers, and wetter winters. They will have to think about water scarcity and rising costs.

Eamon Gallen: We will come to a point, between the next five and seven years, where water will be constrained in Dublin. It is hard to see the developments at the scale of which some people talk. We will also have one million extra people by 2040. Even in the short-term, we are looking at 200,000 people coming in from Ukraine. It will add a huge amount of demand, even though this will be spread throughout the country.

Eamon Gallen

is the Chief Operating Officer of Irish Water.

Karen Kavanagh

is the Director of Networks and Economic Regulation at the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).

There are areas in the country where there is plenty of water, but unfortunately the water is in the west and the people are in the east. We need to find a way to maximise the benefits because we are not a water stressed country, but we do have places which are heading towards trouble and the GDA would be a prime example of that.

Michelle Minihan is the Senior Inspector, Drinking Water, Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What are the challenges and opportunities that you see arising from the new Drinking Water Directive? Michelle Minihan: The new directive will enter into force on 12 January 2023. There is an expert group tasked by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage which is involved in determining how the Directive will be transposed. We really need to be cognisant that limits are going to become more stringent, standards are going to become tighter, and drinking water quality will increase. So there are huge challenges ahead, potentially for the addition of new substances that we are not monitoring for now. We also have to look at how we are going to be tasked with leakage and put action plans in place around that. There is the risk assessment and risk management for the source, the catchment all the way through the treatment process system in the network.

you can end up in another prioritisation discussion as to which one you tackle first or where you focus your investment. It will require a holistic approach and it will not be easy, but you cannot be against raising standards. It is the right thing to do.

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Brían Munnelly: It ties into the concerns around the environment and ensuring the ecoefficiency of using water. This can include reusing water and more general challenges in relation to the circular economy, so these are things which I would encourage.

Eamon Gallen: It is very hard to oppose increased water standards. Irish Water is in favour of improving the quality of the water we produce and the standard of the wastewater which we release back into the environment. Increasing standards bring associated costs and

Brían Munnelly is the Principal Officer of the Water Division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Neil Walker is the Head of Infrastructure, Energy and Planning at Ibec, the largest representative organisation in Ireland.


Aiming higher with catchment partnerships water report

Water is one natural resource we all share. Within and across catchment and community boundaries, there are many interconnected challenges to managing this precious resource, and these are exacerbated by multiple factors: increasing population, growing urban areas, impacts from a changing climate, equity, and affordability, writes Jillian Bolton, Ireland and Scotland Regional Lead, Water - UK and Europe, Jacobs. This requires catchment-specific integrated solutions to benefit local communities, which are rooted in the context of the water cycle. At Jacobs, we call this approach OneWater1, with three foundational elements:


All water has value: We understand what makes each catchment, community, and waterrelated challenge unique. Given the demands on our water systems, there can be no ‘wastewater’.

Water challenges are interconnected: We recognise the interconnections among elements of the water cycle and, perhaps most importantly, synergies with all economy sectors. Collaboration outside of the water sector is essential to deliver solutions that provide environmental, economic, and social benefits, and unlock funding and finance opportunities.

Water solutions must be sustainable, inclusive, and equitable: We understand that in developing water solutions, all voices are important. We work to develop and strengthen partnerships, and a shared vision across the many parties responsible for, and impacted by, water.

In Ireland, significant steps have been taken to support integrated approaches, through the development of the River Basin Management Plan2, delivering on the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive (2000)3. Consultation on the third cycle of the Plan4 concluded earlier this year, setting out the updated strategy and actions, including the development of integrated catchment management plans for the 46

The development of integrated catchment management plans presents a great opportunity for Ireland to lay the foundation for addressing the many challenges faced, not only in meeting the needs of the water environment, but to leverage the importance of water to deliver wider social, climate and environmental objectives. Catchments are complex systems comprising of many interacting parts. A change within one part of the catchment may result in both direct and indirect impacts which propagate through the system. Mitigation measures can be implemented to reduce negative impacts within the catchment, but due to the complexity of the system, providing the “right measures in the right place” requires collaboration and partnering. Typical catchment (or river basin) plans

Figure 1: Catchments provide an opportunity to consider traditional water management challenges and topics (e.g. equity, communities, energy), which for many years were excluded from conversations on water.

1. https://www.jacobs.com/solutions/markets/infrastructure/water/one-water 2.https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/429a79-river-basin-management-plan-2018-2021/


catchments in Ireland. Development of these plans will be co-ordinated by local authority regional committees and supported by the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO)5. Individual local authorities will also develop county level implementation plans.

3. https://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2003/si/722/made/en/print

4.https://www.gov.ie/en/consultation/2bda0-public-consultation-on-the-draft-riverbasin-management-plan-for-ireland-2022-2027/ 5. https://lawaters.ie/

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Figure 2: Upper Mersey Catchment place-based planning approach, providing outcomes beyond infrastructure.

tend to organise the water-related challenges around established operational, regulatory and ownership structures. Therefore, management roles and actions assigned to stakeholders are in line with existing mandates. While typical plans provide a mechanism for co-ordination among established entities, the plans provide little, if any, flexibility for stakeholders to move beyond those roles. Truly integrated approaches are not possible within the existing siloed water environment. OneWater approaches to catchment plans would focus on partnerships, leverage water as the connector, and aim higher for sustainable, inclusive and equitable outcomes across the catchment. The development of integrated catchment management plans presents a great opportunity to implement OneWater thinking (see Figure 1), meeting the needs of the water environment, and achieving wider social, climate and environmental objectives. The planning process for the Upper Mersey Catchment in England is an example of a OneWater approach. This catchment, like many in Ireland, faces traditional challenges in terms of water quality, flood risk and water supply resilience, as well as impacts from a changing climate, population growth and future development. The Upper Mersey Place-Based Planning pilot identified how stakeholders can collaborate more effectively, breaking down the silos that exist between organisations in order to meet the challenges of managing water now and in the future.

We are now embarking on a ‘coordinator’ role for a pilot on the River Tame (within the Upper Mersey), with the aim of working through place-specific questions of leadership, governance, vision, and objectives, before embarking on developing an action plan to address catchment-related issues. We expect these actions to be a combination of more traditional capital schemes, nature-based solutions, land management practices and enhanced social value supported by community engagement. Delivering place-based plans is a key pillar of the relationship between regulators and water managers. It will play a role in delivering on strategic objectives aimed at climate resilience, carbon reduction, nature recovery, flood management and general environmental enhancement, with a pipeline of future schemes matched with a co-funding investment strategy. Adopting a OneWater framework for integrated catchment management plans in Ireland that embraces partnership approaches, with shared ownership of delivery and the development of working relationships, has the potential to provide the platform for a resilient, sustainable water future for Ireland.

E: jillian.bolton@jacobs.com W: www.jacobs.com


Jacobs has been the knowledge facilitator on the project, which was driven by a leading water utility, in partnership with a wider pool of stakeholders, including the environment regulator and local authority. This engagement allowed each of the key partners to be an equal partner rather than ‘leading’ the narrative, and engage in an agenda that is catchment-focused, rather than one that is more oriented towards specific operational outcomes. Jacobs’ multi-disciplinary delivery team illustrates the evolution from traditional plans by providing not only the catchment-based,

systems-thinking, start-to-finish domain knowledge, but also a holistic, place-based, digital, and design-led approach. The project has, to date, focused on a codesign approach (see Figure 2) to bringing partners and stakeholders together to develop.


water report

The National Water Forum: Ireland’s independent statutory stakeholder body The Water Forum was established in 2018 to provide a platform for public engagement on all matters relating to water management in Ireland and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.


It consists of 25 members, including representatives from a wide range of organisations and sectors with an interest in water issues that includes the environmental sector, the rural and agricultural sector, consumers including customers of Irish Water, the rural water sector, rivers trusts, angling, the business sector, trade unions, the community and voluntary sector, fisheries, forestry, education, social housing, and tourism. In accordance with the Water Services Act 2017, the Forum has advisory roles in relation to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH), Irish Water, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and the Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC). The Forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to debate and analyse a range of issues with regard to water quality and quantity, rural water policy, issues of concern to customers of Irish Water, and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP). We partner with key agencies to leverage expertise, insight, and knowledge to make sure our discussions are based on

sound science and the most up to date information.

River Basin Management Plan The DHLGH is currently drafting the third cycle River Basin Management Plan for Ireland. The draft plan was out for public consultation for six months, and the Forum’s submission on the draft RBMP was the culmination of almost six months of engagements with agencies, experts, and academics to gain insight into the status of Ireland’s waterways, current and future risks to water quality and quantity, and the identification of gaps in current policy to protect water resources and ecosystems. The final submission reflected an agreed position that included the perspectives of all the different stakeholders represented on the Forum. The submission included over 110 recommendations for implementation in the third cycle, covering areas such as water governance, public participation in catchment management planning, the need for an outcomesbased approach for every waterbody, as well as recommendations to address most of the individual pressures impacting on water quality.

The Water Forum was established in April 2017 initially on administrative basis, to provide a platform for public engagement in the drafting and implementation of the RBMP for Ireland 2018-2021 and on all matters relating to water as an environmental, social and economic resource. Subsequently the Water Services Act 2017 provided for the


establishment of An Fóram Uisce on a statutory basis.

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Water Forum members and staff with former Chair Tom Collins and current Chair Matt Crowe.

In March, the Forum presented the submission to Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan TD. In April, the Forum Chair Matthew Crowe, presented details of the submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage and a number of follow-up engagements have taken place with department officials to consider in detail how the recommendations can be included in the final RBMP which is due in Q3 2022.

There is a need for policy coherence in environment and water management While everyone shares the objective of clean and healthy waters, achieving this will require fundamental changes in many aspects of life in the country. In spite of the myriad of policies developed to prevent or remedy the impact of human activities on the environment, the quality of our rivers, lakes and estuaries keeps deteriorating. Biodiversity is declining and limiting global warming to less than 1.5˚C seems increasingly out of reach.

The Water Forum, as a multi-stakeholder body that achieves consensus positions on policy developments are at the vanguard of such approaches. The Forum’s policy, A Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management, recommends a systemsbased approach to prioritise actions for water, climate and nature that have the largest synergetic impact. The challenge is breaking down traditional departmental and institutional silos to achieve the deep-seated transformation that fosters a ‘cultural’ change that would result in a shift towards truly integrated and collective action for environmental outcomes. The third cycle RBMP that is currently in preparation provides an opportunity for such innovative policy approaches, particularly with the plan to develop 46 catchment plans. Early stage sectoral and stakeholder engagement is essential where ‘roundtable’ discussions allow for the exchange of views, knowledge sharing and debate. Expert facilitation of such deliberative processes would manage stakeholder participation and facilitate the emergence of collective preferences.


Recent research commissioned by the Water Forum states that policy coherence is essential to ensure that one part of government does not undermine what another is trying to achieve. This warrants an evolution of the processes and approaches to policymaking to allow for greater emphasis on seeking their convergence and developing their potential synergies. Policy mapping needs to be carried out at policy development stage to identify interfaces between environmental and sectoral policies to address tradeoffs explicitly. The research suggests that guidelines

need to be provided to departments and civil servants regarding how such trade-offs can be managed in an accountable and transparent way at national and local levels.

E: gretta@nationalwaterforum.ie W: www.thewaterforum.ie


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Regulation of an evolving water sector

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the independent economic regulator of the public water sector in Ireland. Its role is to protect the public interest and, since 2014, it has regulated the activities of Irish Water, who provide public water and wastewater services to homes and businesses across Advertorial

Ireland. The absence of competition for public utilities like Irish Water heightens the need for strong, independent regulation to hold Irish Water to account and challenge it to deliver its services efficiently and equitably, in the interests of all its customers. The CRU’s updated Strategic Plan, covering 2022-2024, commits to providing effective regulation which 56

delivers secure, high-quality water and wastewater services. This includes reporting on performance and delivery by Irish Water in improving water quality, environmental compliance, and leakage reduction. 2021 was a year that saw the significant development of new national nondomestic water tariffs being introduced. 2022 has continued to see the

harmonisation of other charging policies, while challenging Irish Water to deliver a high-quality service to its customers.

Disconnection and reconnection policy In April 2022, a decision was made to harmonise disconnection and reconnection processes and charges within a national framework for all Irish Water customers to provide a single, simple, and transparent charging policy, in line with recent connections and nondomestic tariffs decisions. Under the new policy, domestic and non-domestic customers can be either temporarily or permanently disconnected from Irish Water’s network. Charges will only apply to temporary disconnections; permanent ones will be free. Where customers were temporarily disconnected, they will have the opportunity to reconnect to Irish Water’s network. If customers have been permanently disconnected from the network, they must apply for a new connection and be subject to the charges and policy decisions set out in the connection charging policy.

While permanent disconnections will be free for both domestic and non-domestic properties, for temporary disconnections, the rates will be dependent on the reason for the temporary disconnection.

Public group water schemes

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Earlier this year, the CRU published a decision on new public group water scheme charges, again introducing a more harmonised and equitable system of charges. Group water schemes are independent community-owned enterprises consisting of two or more houses (and sometimes non-domestic premises) on a shared water distribution system. Public group water schemes are those that are connected to, and supplied with treated water from, the Irish Water public water network. Public group water scheme connections are currently charged tariff rates (standing charges and volumetric charges) and receive domestic allowances from Irish Water which were set by the local authorities around the country prior to 1 January 2014. This means that public group water scheme connections across the country are currently being charged different tariff rates and are in receipt of different levels of domestic allowance(s). The CRU’s decision on the new charges will be implemented on 1 October 2022 and bring all public group water scheme connections fully under the NonDomestic Tariff Framework by 1 October 2024. A more harmonised approach will benefit these public group water scheme connections in terms of transparency, simplicity, and equity.

First fix policy

unmetered customers;

mixed-use customers with a predominant domestic use;

customers with a shared service connection;

unregistered customers; and

customers with no internal stop valve.

This will allow as many domestic customers as possible the opportunity to have a leak fixed and reduce usage.

Irish Water financial incentives decision Also in 2021, the CRU published a decision relating to financial incentives that will apply to Irish Water for the period until 2024. Financial incentives encourage utilities to meet and exceed performance criteria and are a key mechanism through which the CRU seeks to protect the interests of Irish Water’s customers. The decision created two non-domestic

billing incentives to encourage efficient billing and correct billing of nondomestic customers, and also another incentive towards the collection of bad debt. Irish Water is incentivised to achieve targets under the billing incentives as it is allowed to keep a portion of the additional revenues generated through identifying and correctly billing non-domestic customers. This is important as customers connected to the network but not paying a bill, or under-paying for their service, impose costs on the Irish Water network which is ultimately passed on to other customers. Additionally, a new leakage reduction incentive was introduced for the current revenue control period. This encourages Irish Water to meet its leakage reduction targets through its various work programmes and as funded under the CRU’s revenue control decision. For this incentive, Irish Water has an overall leakage reduction target of 176 million litres of water a day (176 MLD) by the end of 2024.


In 2021, the CRU published a decision to expand the eligibility criteria for Irish Water’s First Fix Scheme. The scheme entitles qualifying domestic customers to a leak investigation and repair to their external supply pipe free of charge. The scheme to date has been effective in reducing customer side leakage, while accounting for a small portion of Irish Water’s overall capital programme. The scheme saved a cumulative 155 million litres per day (MLD) in the period 20152019. This vast amount of water equates to the average usage of 450,000 Irish households every year.

Following a public consultation, the CRU expanded the scheme to the following types of customers:

W: www.cru.ie 57

Irish water quality snapshot Water Quality in 2020: An Indicators Report

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2,355 river water bodies are assessed nationally under the Water Framework Directive


lakes and

9 reservoirs are assessed

under the Water Framework Directive

Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2020

1.3 million households were supplied

Biological quality

with drinking water from public supplies each

115 river water bodies exhibited net improvement in biological quality


99.96% Compliance with chemical parameters: 99.71% Compliance with indicator parameters: 99.14% 43 boil water notices occurred at 37 supplies across 19 counties affecting 74,955 consumers 27 boil water notices were in place for more than 30 days, with 18 in place for more than one year Compliance with microbiological parameters:

21 additional river sites were classified in the highest biological quality category (Q5)

57 Prioritised Areas for Action water bodies exhibited net improvement

43% 230

of rivers exhibit unsatisfactory biological quality

rivers experienced a decline in biological quality


of river exhibit satisfactory biological quality


Total number of notices

Notices in in place for more than 30 days

Total population impacted









Nutrient pollution





47% of river sites exhibit unsatisfactory





345 rivers experienced an increase in biological quality

44% of lakes exhibit unsatisfactory biological quality

nitrate concentrations

38% of river sites are experiencing rising nitrate concentrations when compared with 2013 29% of river sites exhibit unsatisfactory phosphate concentrations

24% of river sites are experiencing rising phosphate concentrations when compared with 2013 30% of lakes exhibit unsatisfactory phosphate concentrations Source: EPA, 2021


Source: EPA, 2021

Wastewater Treatment in 2021

12 of Ireland’s 174 large urban areas failed to meet European Union standards for wastewater treatment These 12 large urban areas generated 49% of wastewater collected In 2022, untreated wastewater (raw sewage) flows into the environment from 33 towns and villages 17 large urban areas that were discharging untreated wastewater have been connected to treatment plants since 2014 12 large urban areas are set to continue discharging untreated wastewater beyond 2024 2 large urban areas will not be connected to treatment plants until 2027 water report

Source: EPA, 2022

Compliance with the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

30 25 20 15 10 5 0






Number of large urban areas failing to meet EU wastewater treatment standards Source: EPA, 2022

Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2021

Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems 2021


97% or 144 out of 148 sites met or exceeded the minimum standard

registered domestic

for bathing water quality

waste water treatment systems in Ireland

1% annual increase when compared with 2020 Donegal, Dublin, and Wexford recorded an annual increase of around

2% each

Household owners accounted for


of all registered waste water treatment systems in


7 counties – Cork, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Kerry, Tipperary, and Wexford – accounted for

50% of all domestic wastewater

Source: CSO, 2022

78% or 115 sites had excellent bathing water quality This represents a sites in

3.6% increase from 111


2 sites recorded poor bathing water quality (Front Strand Beach, Balbriggan, County Dublin and Lady’s Bay, Buncrana, County Donegal)

50% decrease from 4 sites 2020 42 pollution incidents were reported to EPA

This represents a in

Source: EPA, 2022 59

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A broadened vision for the future of the group water scheme sector in Ireland

Attendees at a recent open day in Eglish and Drumcullen GWS, County Offaly. At the event, the GWS showcased a range of recently implemented biodiversity and climate action measures, including a solar PV array.

The group water scheme (GWS) sector traces its genesis back to the early 1960s and the campaigning efforts of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA). Some 60 years later, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) has been reflecting upon the sector’s journey and the enhanced role it can have in rural society’s future, Mark Farrelly writes.


Hundreds of community-owned and community-operated group water schemes were established from the 1960s onwards, all with one clearly defined goal: the provision of piped, potable water to their members. Today, Ireland is acknowledged as having one of the best organised and most vibrant community-owned and community-run rural water sectors in Europe. The provision of potable water to circa 300,000 GWS members is, and will always be, the sector’s number one priority. Its approach in this regard has the potential to benefit local communities and the environment in a much wider context. The sector’s strategy of prioritising drinking water source protection as the first port-of-call in quality assurance is now well-established and has been further vindicated by the water safety planning approach set out in the recast EU Drinking Water Directive, which will 60

be transposed into Irish legislation in 2023. Since 2005, the NFGWS has been working with individual GWSs, government departments and other stakeholder organisations to pilot a variety of source protection projects around Ireland. At present, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) is funding the development of 14 bespoke GWS integrated source protection plans, while the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has funded the implementation of mitigation measures within seven GWS catchments. Through these projects, it quickly became clear that the sector’s source protection efforts can also help address issues of widespread water pollution, as well as the biodiversity and climate crises faced by Irish society. The creation of smart buffers in targeted areas along water courses to attenuate

surface water and restrict livestock access also prevents nutrient run-off into the aquatic environment. They also provide habitat for biodiversity and sequester carbon. GWS-led education and awareness campaigns have been helping to change behaviours within local communities, making them more cognisant of the threats posed by pesticides and other contaminants to water quality. As the scientific evidence is already available, the task at community level is to build awareness about what the science is telling us and to explain how our behaviour can effect change for better or for worse. Once citizens are made aware of how their everyday lives/working situations impact on their immediate environment, and on their drinking water source, the GWS sector’s experience is that they will be more easily persuaded to change their ways, to see the need to respect their

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Shane Curley, manager of Glinsk-Creggs GWS, County Galway, giving a demonstration to pupils in Creggs National School (NS) as he plants a native Irish tree on the school grounds. Every pupil in Glinsk NS and Creggs NS was given a tree to plant at home as part of the ‘I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free’ initiative.

environment, and contribute to the restoration of nature. It all depends on how they are approached and by whom. GWS employees and committee members are known and trusted within their own communities. Locals are willing to listen to their expertise and, given that members are themselves shareholders in the scheme, there can be a greater sense of ownership over the drinking water source and its catchment area.

In an effort to better understand how the sector’s intangible assets might be quantified, the NFGWS commissioned Dublin City University’s (DCU) Water Institute and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) to complete a scoping exercise. The recently published report used a systems-thinking approach which demonstrates the impact a GWS can have on its members’ health and wellbeing, as well as the natural environment.

There is still work to be done for the sector to completely address some legacy water quality issues on a small number of GWSs, and, like other voluntary organisations, attracting new members to committees/boards of management will always be a challenge, but there is much to be excited about.

The full NFGWS rural water review submission, ‘A New Direction for the Group Water Scheme Sector’, is available to read at www.nfgws.ie/nfgwssubmissions-2021

T: 087 612 4089 E: mark@nfgws.ie W: www.nfgws.ie

Recent advances in science and technology have helped make information more accurate and accessible than ever before. The NFGWS is seeing widespread participation in its online training courses from GWSs all over the country. Social media and online videos are helping GWSs to educate, engage, and inspire members in a way not possible in the past. Committees and boards of management around the country are filled with experienced community leaders who are teaching and encouraging a new generation. The spirit and passion of the founding ICA members is still burning in those who carry on their legacy today and into the future.


As part of its contribution to the ongoing review of the rural water sector, during 2021, the NFGWS board of directors and staff developed a key document that sets out the Federation’s vision for the future of the sector. It argued that the evaluation criteria of a GWS expand beyond purely economic, cost-based considerations and instead considers its wider value to the community it serves.

It also highlighted how the GWS governance structure, focused on ‘inclusive engagement and participation’ is an essential element of a communityrun service, but similar examples of such effective models around environmental management are rare in Ireland.


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Industrial Water Management: Our mission and values

Recent photograph of the EnviroWater Group representatives at eadquarters in Rossdorf, Germany.

The EnviroWater Group brings together specialists in water and wastewater treatment as well as water recycling. We work together in a network in order to achieve the ideal result for our customers, writes Brian McCleane, Wastewater Treatment Manager at Industrial Water Management. Our mission


We enable the sustainable and efficient use of water. Through holistic solutions, we strengthen our customers and protect both humanity and nature.

Our values Sustainability We offer sustainable and efficient solutions, plants, and services in order to overcome the challenges in water and wastewater treatment and to protect and preserve the environment and water resources for future generations.


Curiosity We are open to innovative and “unconventional” solutions and new approaches that are in line with our mission.


Teamwork We give our best, avoid selfishness and work towards greatness with empathy and trust.

Cordiality We welcome everything that makes us human.

Targeted industries Life sciences and pharmaceutical In the pharmaceutical industry, water technology is subjected to very high quality standards. We help you supply your production processes with water of the very highest quality while also assisting you in meeting all environmental requirements. We provide you with reliable plants, whether you need ultrapure water for production, process water for utilities or for the treatment of wastewater.

Hospitals, laboratories, and medical technology Hospitals, laboratories, and the medical technology sector need pure and ultrapure water of the highest quality, generated using environmentally friendly and reliable plant solutions.

Food, beverages, and catering Water is an important raw material for food processing and drinks manufacturing. We treat it in various qualities for a variety of tasks: fresh water, process water, boiler feed water, cooling water, or CIP water.

Mining and ore processing Water from mining and ore processing often contains considerable amounts of dissolved and undissolved contaminants, some of which are toxic. Mine water that can cause the water level to fluctuate or overflow must be removed. Our experienced industry experts show you how you can reliably meet the requirements for mine water, rainwater and wastewater using customised plant solutions, as well as how you can recycle treated water.

Textiles and industrial laundry Textile manufacturing and industrial laundries produce various wastewaters, which need to be treated using different methods. Our industry experts determine whether water recycling or energy recovery is possible in your specific application and develop an individual plant solution for you based on your requirements.

Green energy and building services Water of a consistently high quality is required for sustainable energy generation, sometimes in large

quantities. Our plant solutions enable you to reliably produce the water quantities and qualities you need for your boiler feed water or cooling water. By generating biogas using our aerobic reactors during biological wastewater treatment, you will also reduce your primary energy consumption. In the building services segment, we provide you with systems for treating heating water along with the matching service.

Transport, traffic, and automotive The wastewater that results from cleaning, maintaining, and servicing vehicles and components is oily, greasy and contains heavy metals, and must be prepared safely and in accordance with legal requirements before it can be discharged. In the automotive sector, we show you how you can treat and recycle water reliably and sustainably while at the same time optimising costs. If you would like to know more information or indeed you need any advice, please get in contact with Brian McCleane or you can contact our team today.


We reliably remove infectious or active components in wastewater through a sterilisation or decontamination process. Alongside a high level of availability, our plants also stand out thanks to their reduced water consumption and low operating costs.

In the catering sector, we ensure pure water for the creation of food and beverages or for cleaning and cooking. The wastewater produced by this sector is often greasy; we treat this water so that it can be discharged into the sewage system.

water report

We meet the highest ethical standards. We take full responsibility for our commitments and encourage others to adhere to theirs. We are transparent, trustworthy, fair, and honest.

“We meet the highest ethical standards. We take full responsibility for our commitments and encourage others to adhere to theirs. We are transparent, trustworthy, fair, and honest.”

T: +353 (0)86 277 1233 / +353 (01) 410 5033 E: bmcc@iwm.ie W: www.iwm.ie


water report

European water policy priorities

Claudia Castell-Exner, President of EurEau, the European federation of water services, speaks to eolas about European water policy developments, particularly the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, with a proposal for its revision due this year. “Our objectives are to ensure access to water by securing investments, to protect water resources from pollution and to promote the sustainable use of resources through the circular economy,” Castell-Exner begins. “Currently, at the European level of water policy, there is a huge set of thematic areas within water services in a broader sense we have to focus on. “It is not only the Drinking Water Directive or the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; there are other areas that are linked to the provision of safe drinking water and wastewater treatment services such as critical infrastructure, cybersecurity, climate change, and the authorisation of chemicals when it comes to the protection of water resources, which is also a huge concern since the current agricultural policy still leads to pollution. Currently, there are around 30 EU legislative actions or initiatives and 11 strategies or action plans within the scope of the European Green Deal that we have to keep an eye on.”


water report

EurEau, founded in 1975, is Europe’s federation of water services, grouping together 34 national organisations of drinking water and wastewater operators from 29 countries. They represent both public and private sector actors. Tasked with representing the water sector, EurEau sits on the EU’s Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform, where, CastellExner says, it seeks to tackle siloed thinking and action while staying abreast of policy developments. “Besides the important Water Framework Directive, we see relevant water-related legislation being launched such as the Water Reuse Regulation coming into force in 2023, which is the first time the EU has worked on the water reuse topic, and, of course, one of the major directives, the Drinking Water Directive, which has been negotiated over five years, starting with a very weak draft presented by the Commission,” she says. “Now, it is a case of waiting dayby-day for national transposition drafts to be launched since all member states have a deadline of 12 January 2023. “There is also very important legislation under revision, such as the Groundwater Directive, the Bathing Water Directive, and the Priority Substances Directive – a daughter Directive to the Water Framework Directive. Then, there is the second of the important directives for us, the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Here, we are waiting for an adopted proposal launched by the Commission. The revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive was recently launched at the beginning of April 2022 and is also very important because it regulates the emissions of huge industrial sites to the environment,

and we are eager to establish a link between the new Drinking Water Directive and the Industrial Emissions Directive to realise the new risk management concept in order to protect drinking water resources.” Further legislative acts in the future pipeline of EU water policies include the Sewage Sludge Directive, which has been evaluated and will possibly be revised under the next European Commission, although there are no details yet available and the report evaluating it has been postponed until the end of 2022, and the Nitrates Directive, which stems from 1991, of which EurEau is “very supportive of a revision, which is urgently needed to provide the necessary protection has been the intention but there has been no movement thus far”. With the Urban Waste Water Treatment proposal due for autumn 2022, CastellExner lays out EurEau’s expectations for the revision: “We contributed with a study conducted by Deloitte on the possibilities of including extended producer responsibility in that directive because we really think that the producers of chemicals in the wider sense should have a responsibility on the whole-life cycle of these products. If they occur in the environment, they should be responsible for this, for example, if there has to be end-of-pipe treatment in wastewater treatment in order to fulfil legal requirements. We expect provisions on energy efficiency in terms of energy audits and provisions in terms of climate neutrality. “The Commission has announced its intention to address combined sewer

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water report

“We really think that the producers of chemicals in the wider sense should have a responsibility on the whole-life cycle of these products.” overflows in order to limit them, but we do not know exactly how this will be approached in the legislation. The circular economy potential of wastewater will be addressed, with a big focus on phosphorous recovery, and the recycling potential in total for things such as biogas production. Individual appropriate systems and agglomerations will also be looked at to ensure that all settlements not connected to the overall network are running properly in an environmentally friendly way.” Discussion is also taking place around the Water Framework Directive and the Daughter Directive on Environmental Quality Standards, with environmental standards and priority substances up for renewal and the possible inclusion of pharmaceuticals, PFAS, Bisphenol A, metals, and pesticides on the list. Here, EurEau wants to see a change in actions taken: “We are supportive of the Water Framework Directive, but we think that this approach of collecting monitoring data over years so that substances are identified to be placed on the list over a process of years is a type of a retrospective approach to protect drinking water resources.


“We would like this approach to be reconsidered and be replaced by a proactive approach which takes into account the intrinsic properties of chemical substances at the very beginning of the authorisation process, so a more hazard-based approach rather than post-authorisation monitoring would

be more sensible instead of end-of-pipe treatment either in the drinking water treatment plants or the wastewater treatment plants.” Castell-Exner concludes on an optimistic note, turning first to the Water Resilience Agenda, initiated by the European Commission as a means of ensuring the resilience of water supply and infrastructure. “What we see from the first working programme is a focus on efficiency and being open-minded to discuss the hierarchy of uses in water scarcity situations via drought management plans. Here we see that DG Environment works with DG CLIMA, which is how it should be, working together rather than in siloes.” After mentioning the collaborative work being performed DG ENV and the OECD on a better implementation of the Water Framework Directive with regards to the cost recovery and polluter pays principle, she then takes an overall view of water legislation, reflecting positively: “There is a tremendous momentum for waterrelated policies through the European Green Deal strategies and plans, the updating of the Water Framework Directive, the revision of the major water directives, and the emission-related chemical policies. The course has never been so ambitiously set and EurEau will dedicate all its efforts to provide substantive input to these developments.”

Claudia Castell-Exner, President of EurEau

Digital Security. Progress. Protected.

Cybersecurity report

Sponsored by

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Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD: Implementing the National Cyber Security Strategy The Government recognises the resilience of public sector IT systems and the protection of critical infrastructure as vitally important, including to safeguard the delivery of services through digital means, writes Minister of State with responsibility for Procurement and eGovernment and Communications and Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth TD. Our vision for the future is to expand further the range of online services and to maximise the opportunities offered by the development of cloud services. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has once again highlighted the threat of cyberattacks, including second-order impacts. In our connected society it is vital that governments take all necessary steps to enhance the cyber resilience of essential services. The National Cyber Security Strategy is a whole-of-government approach to address the growing threat of cyber security incidents and to ensure that


Ireland can benefit fully from the digital transformation. The strategy includes 20 separate measures to safeguard public sector networks and essential services, to facilitate the development of the cybersecurity industry and to promote awareness raising and international cooperation. A number of measures are being led by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, where, as Minister of State, I am responsible for Communications and Circular Economy. I am pleased to report that good progress is being made on their

delivery. For example, the Department has published the Public Sector Cyber Security Baseline Standards to be applied by all government departments and agencies. The NCSC has worked with colleagues across government to develop the standards which will support public bodies to identify cyber risks, deploy appropriate mitigation measures, and protect personal and other important data. At its publication in 2019, we committed to reviewing the strategy at its mid-point. My officials have recently begun this mid-term review and will be engaging with relevant stakeholders in the coming months. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is the lead government cybersecurity agency. Its functions are to lead in the management of major cybersecurity incidents, provide guidance and advice to citizens and businesses, and manage cyber security related risks to key services. The NCSC provides works with over 200 constituents from business, educational

Digital Security. Progress. Protected. institutions, and the charitable and voluntary sector. The NCSC works closely with partner agencies in the UK, US, in other EU member states, and with the EU cybersecurity agency ENISA.

cybersecurity report

Strengthening our National Cyber Security Centre is a key component of the National Cyber Security Strategy and. In July 2021, the Government agreed to a significant expansion in the NCSC’s staffing and resources, which has progressed significantly. A dedicated HQ facility is being developed for the NCSC as part of my department’s new HQ facility in Dublin. In January 2022, Richard Browne was appointed as director of the NCSC, and there have been a number of additional staff appointed in recent months. My officials are also engaging with relevant departments to progress the drafting of legislation to provide a mandate for the NCSC, as well as appropriate powers to carry out its vital functions. Like its counterparts across Europe, the NCSC is presently operating at a state of enhanced readiness in response to the war in Ukraine. I have been heartened by the high degree of coordination and information exchange in the EU and with likeminded partners. From my engagement with my colleagues in other member states, it is clear that we are united in our support for Ukraine, and in our desire to enhance the cybersecurity and resilience of critical infrastructure across the EU. The recent agreement on a successor to the Network and Information Security Directive represents a step change for the EU cybersecurity regulatory framework. The expansion of scope including, for the first time, public administration bodies, will ensure all critical services are captured. The Directive also provides for a more robust system of sanctions and fines to ensure compliance by regulated bodies. I welcome the EU’s commitment to defining global standards for cybersecurity and look forward to working further with Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, and my ministerial colleagues to implement the Directive and to advance further regulatory measures, such as the proposed Cyber Resilience Act. My department is committed to ensuring

“I welcome the EU’s commitment to defining global standards for cybersecurity.” Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD that all citizens can benefit from the myriad benefits of the digital transition. There is a massive development of national infrastructure under the National Broadband Plan State-led Intervention, which will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract to roll out a high-speed and future-proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area. This area covers 1.1 million people living and working in almost 560,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.

outset. In the first two years of the

The National Broadband Plan network will offer those premises in the intervention area a high-speed fibre broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the

underground duct networks. This marks

contract, construction commenced in all

26 counties and construction is ongoing. This plan is the largest infrastructural project in rural Ireland since rural

electrification, spanning 96 per cent of Ireland’s land mass. It will bring highspeed broadband to 23 per cent of

Ireland’s population (69 per cent of the national total of farms). It will deliver

fast, reliable broadband through laying

140,000km of fibre cable, utilising over

1.5 million poles and over 15,000km of a huge development in national critical infrastructure and is important in the

rapid digitalisation of the many aspects of people’s lives.


cybersecurity report

The cyber risks of Europe’s quest for green energy and energy independence Soaring energy prices and increased geopolitical tensions confronted us with many open questions regarding European energy security. The current world is deeply interconnected, especially when it comes to energy supplies and the global energy trade. Advertorial

Maintaining complex, but reliable business and nation-state relationships is critical to ensuring an uninterrupted functioning of the energy supply chain. Yet the crisis in Ukraine and the consequences of various economic sanctions in European and global energy markets show that these oftendurable relations can be broken, and that countries need to rethink how much energy they generate themselves, where they buy energy and how do they

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protect production, transmission, and distribution from the ever-increasing risk of cyberattacks. Even before this, governments faced many cyberthreats from organised criminal groups, which have been increasingly willing to work together towards a common goal. Just witness the close cooperation in the recent years between sophisticated ransomware groups that used botnet access to target victim industries and

Digital Security. Progress. Protected. organisations. Unfortunately, governments and industry are not always so willing to work together defensively.

However, the current climate should also highlight the need for governments, institutions, and businesses to examine the state of cyber and digital security across the energy supply chain. We must collectively recognise that computing at a global scale is massively energy-intensive, and that many popular digital technologies sit at the top end of energy-intense operations. While the EU has been focusing on renewable energies for its green transition, another potentially large source, nuclear energy, has been unpopular for the past few decades, but that too might be changing. In February 2022, French President, Emmanuel Macron announced that France will build at least six new nuclear reactors by 2050. Most of Ireland’s electricity comes from oil and a gas pipeline that originates in Russia, Ireland’s wind, solar, hydro, biofuel, etc are still in their early stages, while none of its power comes from nuclear energy. Although some see it as a “zeroemission clean energy source”, the technology’s use for electricity generation is banned in Ireland.

In 2010, a malicious computer worm called Stuxnet was deployed against Iran’s nuclear energy program, targeting SCADA systems to damage their uranium enrichment process. The deployment of this cyberweapon set the stage for the direct disruption of industrial processes. In November 2015, ESET investigated a set of unique cyberattacks targeting Ukrainian news media companies with destructive KillDisk malware that made systems unbootable. This campaign was followed in December of that year with another KillDisk variant delivered to electricity distribution companies that contained functionality to sabotage specific industrial control systems. The cyberattack operators caused a 4-6hour power outage for around 230,000 people in Ukraine on 23 December 2015. This was the first time in history that a cyberattack was known to disrupt an electrical distribution system. A year on, ESET telemetry picked up new malware named Industroyer. ESET researchers discovered that Industroyer could affect several industrial communication protocols that are used worldwide in critical infrastructure systems for power supply, transportation control, water, and gas.

already seen increased activity and capability by ransomware groups and state actors targeting critical national infrastructure and its supply chain for extortion, disruption, and cyberespionage. Despite all difficulties, we can see some efforts being made, as policymakers are now more engaged on working with the scientific community on climate change and with cybersecurity specialists to ensure that progress continues for the generations to come. Technology has allowed us to automate processes that contributed to the development and progress of humankind. The goal is to change behaviours through improved education about where the key cyber-risks lie and what simple best practices can be learned to mitigate them. Events like last summer’s Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the US keep reminding us of the urgency to improve our response capability. It is important to keep in mind that ransomware and other cyberthreats to energy grids and other critical infrastructure are a danger that can be avoided with proper measures and willingness to implement them.


Ensuring the safety of our electrical grid is just as important as making sure we can deliver the energy we need, mainly when we consider that development is now increasingly dependent on automation, largely driven by IT. “In little over a decade, cybersecurity has been transformed from a primarily technical domain centred on securing networks and technology to a major strategic topic of global importance,” notes the World Economic Forum. Today, the world is concerned about attacks against nations’ critical infrastructure systems, with recent history offering several examples of such damaging

attacks. Generation, and transmission and distribution (T&D) are reliant on industrial control software like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and increasingly the internet, which in the digital age is now a part of critical infrastructure itself. We have a few examples already of what can go wrong when systems offer vulnerabilities.

cybersecurity report

In this digital age, where a nearunlimited supply of energy, especially electricity, is fundamental to the normal functioning of society, it is crucial to ensure we can not only meet our energy needs, but also guarantee that it is transported and distributed safely. So, talking about energy and energy security is increasingly a matter of cybersecurity.

“In this digital age, where a near-unlimited supply of energy, especially electricity, is fundamental to the normal functioning of society, it is crucial to ensure we can not only meet our energy needs, but also guarantee that it is transported and distributed safely.”

T: 053 914 6600 E: info@eset.ie W: www.eset.ie

Before the Ukraine crisis, we had 71

National Cyber Security Centre Director Richard Browne:

cybersecurity report

Managing resilience Having been with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) since 2014 and led each of the State’s two national cybersecurity strategies to date, Richard Browne was appointed as NCSC Director in January 2022. He speaks with Ciarán Galway about his current priorities and emerging trends in cyber risks and threats. What are your reflections on your time as a Director of the National Cyber Security Centre? While I was nominally appointed full time in January 2022, I had been in the role as Acting Director since July 2021, having previously held roles in the NCSC between the end of 2014 and late 2020. Two or three things have changed in that time. First is the much more public character of the challenges, not least since the ransomware attack on the HSE, as well as other high-profile incidents in the UK and the US. Second is that the cybersecurity industry in the State has grown significantly, both in terms of international and domestic companies. We have 7,500 cybersecurity employees in the private sector alone, which gives you an idea of the scale of the industry here. Third is the geopolitical tension; we cannot overstate the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the widespread use of cyber-enabled tools in that conflict, which just goes to show how dramatic and kinetic a situation can get.

What are the main functions of the NCSC? Typically, we describe the NCSC as having three primary functions: The first function is that it undertakes full spectrum cybersecurity incident response. Anything from relatively small-scale incidents to coordinating the response to major national cybersecurity incidents. This involves an amount of national security work along with cooperation with other entities in their jurisdictions, exercises in training and planning, and resourcing those activities.

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have a very significant role in the regulation of critical infrastructure in the State with regard to cybersecurity. We have designated a substantial number of entities as critical infrastructure; as operators of an essential service. Through a series of assessments and audits, we ensure an ongoing programme of compliance with a designated standard for cybersecurity.

How has the NCSC led national cybersecurity policy, including coordinating the National Cyber Security Strategy 2019-2024, to date? Until 2020, I held a dual policy and operation role, so the 2015 and 2019 strategies happened under my remit. Now, however, policy is dealt with by a separate part of the Department. Regardless, the NCSC still has an active role in contributing to the policy discussion, both within the Department and across government, not just within cybersecurity either, but also into defence, justice, foreign affairs, and related spheres.

What progress has been made on implementation of the 2019 strategy? The 2019 strategy contains 20 deliverables. Under each of those is a series of individual stepping stones. The vast majority of those are either delivered or well underway. Some of them have been passed out by time in the sense that the EU legislation has leapfrogged them. This will be dealt with in the upcoming mid-term review.

The second function the NCSC performs is building resilience across the State’s public and private sectors through a variety of different actions. These include supporting skills development, supporting companies in their development, by sharing information on best practice, and by publishing guidance and supporting documentation on an ongoing basis.

I think that the NCSC itself has moved on beyond that which was explicitly identified on the strategy. The strategy pointed out that the NCSC would need to be substantially reinforced and the Government’s decision last year made on the foot of the capacity review of the organisation suggested that the organisation needed to expand to 45 staff by the end of 2022 and to at least 70 by year-end 2024. That is well underway. We will surpass 45 in 2022 and hopefully grow to 62 next in 2023.

The final function is enforcement and compliance. We

On the mid-term review, that process is well underway

Digital Security. Progress. Protected. now and the NCSC is fully participating in it. To an extent, this review will have to call out the things that we have achieved, that we need to do more on, and particularly call out the areas from the 2019 strategy that have been surpassed at the European level.

What do the Cyber Security Baseline Standards mean for public service bodies? Last year, the 2019 strategy established the Cyber Security Baseline Standards to build cyber resilience across all public service bodies. This was undertaken by

The geopolitical environment is very fraught, as everyone understands, but we have not yet seen direct manifestations of the kinds of attacks experienced in the rest of Europe. We have seen some in parts of Europe that are not necessarily direct, rather they are accidental overflows of less aggressive emanations. At the same time, the likelihood and consequences of this kind of thing happening are high. It is something that we cannot ignore.

cybersecurity report

One of those obvious requirements is the need to expand our existing Network and Information Security [NIS] compliance regime. That regime is built upon the 2016 EU Network and Information Security Directive. We were seeking to expand our existing application of that directive. However, the EU has published and agreed a revised NIS2 Directive, so that supersedes our existing plans.

What are some of the emerging trends in cyber risks and threats that the NCSC is observing?

The risk of ransomware and cybercriminal activity remains extremely high. We have observed daily incidents of this type, not just here but across Europe. We are now starting to see the actors targeting smaller entities for several reasons. This is partially due to the fragmentation of the actor groups responsible for this activity, including because security forces, police, and intelligence services have had a lot of success against these groups recently and they have been disrupted.

“It is fundamental to the corporate governance of any organisation in 2022 and you should not be treating safety as something distinct from cybersecurity because they are both on the same page.” Richard Browne, Director, National Cyber Security Centre a group of ICT experts from across Government and led by the NCSC and the Department for Social Protection. In other words, it is a standard which everyone in the public sector should meet. Following on from that we established an operational group of IT Security professionals – the Government Cyber Security Coordination and Response Network (Gov CORE). The Gov CORE is now tasked with implementation of that standard, alongside informationsharing, incident response, and capacity building across the public sector. In turn, the Gov CORE will develop that standard further, using its own certification tools which will receive a legislative basis in the next couple of years. By the end of 2024, thanks to NIS2, the Civil Service will become legally obliged to meet those standards and there will be a compliance system in place for public administration bodies. In practical terms, that means we have a very tight timeline. This will be very challenging for many different types of organisations and structural changes will be required. However, in many ways, the intervening period is a fantastic opportunity to reconfigure and reconsider the role of public sector ICT, assessing legacy systems, and preparing for what will be a significant challenge between now and 2025.

Others have gone underground for other reasons. Primarily, larger entities have become better at protecting themselves and are much less likely to pay ransoms because they have backups. They can afford to turn around and rebuild from scratch. Smaller entities may not have that luxury and may be more likely to pay, which is what we are seeing. Another trend we have noted is the rise, once again, of hacktivism whereby website defacement, small scale DDoS, and other low level, small-scale cyber activity is undertaken with political or personal motivation. In recent months, we have started to observe an increase again, sometimes in association with events in eastern Europe. Fundamentally, the consequences of these attacks are minimal; they are small scale nuisance attacks, but they tend to get press, which is the intention.

Can you discuss how your response to the HSE ransomware attack manifested? How did that materialise? The initial incident response process lasted between 10 and 14 days, depending on your perspective, by which point the majority of HSE services were back up and running again. There is still some ongoing clean-up and rebuilding of networks one year on, but that is quite normal with a case like this. 4 73

In some ways, it was quite remarkable how quickly the HSE was able to get its network back up and functioning even though core elements of it had been damaged. The HSE itself, as well as people from several other private sector companies throughout the State ,stepped in and helped us in rebuilding individual networks in the hospitals.

cybersecurity report

It was an entirely preventable incident. A significant number of similar incidents never got through the system. Either we were able to stop them, or the network operators managed to stop them themselves. There were at least three occasions referenced in the independent report on the attack commissioned and published by the HSE. This is partially because the HSE was so badly stressed as a consequence of the Covid crisis. It is also down to the fact that they were reliant on private sector operators who missed obvious signs that there was something very badly amiss. For example, the Department of Health had a very serious incident the day before and they spotted it immediately, called us and they never had the incident. So we were able to help them stop the incident before it ever came to anything. That is the model we try to pursue. Cybersecurity, when it is done right, should be boring. It should be dealt with before there is any media coverage or flashing lights or drama. If you are in a large-scale incident response process, something has gone wrong somewhere.

“The NCSC’s long-term strength has always been that it has led on a technical basis. We have led on our reverse engineering and our cybersecurity incident response capability.” remained operational. Next time, that might not necessarily be the case. There is a real question as to how we build redundancy into systems and how we can fall back onto other older segregated systems, not just in healthcare, but across the State’s critical infrastructure.

What is your vision for the future of the NCSC?

What are the lessons of the single most significant cyberattack in the history of the State to date?

The NCSC’s long-term strength has always been that it has led on a technical basis. We have led on our reverse engineering and our cybersecurity incident response capability. We need to continue to consolidate that.

Ultimately, the lessons are very straightforward. Firstly, this was a preventable incident. As such, there is the need to proactively manage risks and manage networks. Having a coherent system of operations for monitoring threats is important, particularly for a large-scale network. Secondly, we need to have a proper incident response plan in place. In any network, cyberattack must be treated as a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’ and work on the basis that it will occur.

In the first instance, we need to have a single pane of glass for end-to-end visibility of incidents in the State and an ability to respond quickly and proportionately. We have a significant capability already and we need to continue to develop that. There are many lessons we can learn from our colleagues throughout Europe and in the US. It will never stop; there will never be a point where we are finished or done.

Finally, there is a serious question as to how we manage resilience more generally. We were very lucky with the HSE incident in many ways because most of our larger hospitals

To ensure this, we must have an evolving, best-in-class national strategy involving coherent, continually amended legislation, a skills base, and technology; this is an ongoing project. The short-term goal is that, when we move into our new facility next year, we will have that security operations centre that gives us that ability, backed by legislation that allows us access in a transparent, open, non-intrusive way. We need to be able to see what is happening in the world and to respond. Furthermore, I think we have significant work ahead of us in terms of developing the cybersecurity sector in the State for public sector and national security goals, but also economic development. This is a slightly arcane point, but because of the State’s history and our relatively benign foreign policy context, we have not developed some of the technology that some other states have in terms of information security, and around cybersecurity more generally. We are having to develop those now ourselves, quite late in the day. This is an opportunity to do so in a best-in-class way by learning from other states.


cybersecurity report

Cybercrime snapshot Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau caseload

4 new GNCCB cyber satellite hubs established in Cork, Galway, Mullingar, and Wexford


Cases created on GNCCB systems in 2020


Cases created on GNCCB systems in 2021

22.5% increase 166

Cases created on GNCCB systems as of 4 May 2022

333 Cases closed by GNCCB in 2020 431 Cases closed by GNCCB in 2021 29.4% increase 162 Cases closed by GNCCB as of 4 May 2022 Source: Department of Justice

Provisional crime statistics 2021 Fraud offences – which include account takeover fraud, card not present fraud, investment fraud, romance fraud, and phishing/vishing/ smishing frauds – increased by 111% when compared with 2020 Blackmail and extortion offences increased by 71%

Source: An Garda Síochána


Digital Security. Progress. Protected.

cybersecurity report

Cost of cybercrime 2020 Total cost to the Irish economy €9.6

billion Total cost of ransomware attacks in isolation €2 billion Total cost of credit and debit card fraud €12 million 100% increase in computer viruses 20% increase in phishing attacks Source: Grant Thornton

Household Internet Security and Information Integrity 2021 58% of internet users refused use of their personal data for advertising purposes


of internet users restricted access to their

geographical location

37% of internet users read privacy policy statements when providing personal information


of internet users asked websites/search engine

administrators/providers to access the data they hold in order to update or delete it

74% of internet users understand that cookies can be used to trace their online activity


of internet users changed the settings in their

internet browser to prevent or limit cookies


of internet users used software to limit cookies

Source: CSO, 2021 77

cybersecurity report

Cybercrime poses an increasing risk

With the ever-increasing digitalisation of personal and work life, it has become increasingly evident that cyber threats, be they from criminals or nation-state actors, pose an evolving risk to the everyday working of society, writes Mick Begley, Chief Information Officer of .IE. The Network and Information Security Directive (NIS 1) set the precedent for EU legislation when it came to cybersecurity. Its goal was to achieve a high common level of cybersecurity across EU member states. It resulted in member states designating key “entities” as “operators of essential services” (OES) and led to regulations being put in place in national law around the area of cybersecurity, including incident notification by such entities.

Revised directive


Since the NIS 1 Directive was adopted, the threat landscape has moved on. As a result, the European Commission (EC) proposed a revised directive, NIS 2, which would widen the scope of the application to more entities in the sectors of the economy already within scope, as well as adding new sectors. The EC, when framing the proposed directive, also had the objective to create a high level of harmonisation with regard to security requirements and reporting obligations across the Union. The new directive does away with the NIS 1 terms of OES and digital service provider (DSP) and instead replaces them with “important entities” and “essential entities”. The classification of organisations is determined by Annex I and II of the directive. By default, all entities belonging to a sector are automatically allocated to that category. 78

Sectors that are deemed “essential entities” include: •

energy (electricity, energy storage, district heating, oil, gas, and hydrogen);

transport (air, rail, water, and road);

banking and financial market infrastructures;

health (including research and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, EU reference labs);

drinking water and wastewater;

digital infrastructure (IXP, DNS, top level domain (TLD) registries, cloud, data centre service providers, CDN, trust service providers, and electronic communications)

public administrations; and


Sectors under “important entities” include digital providers such as online marketplaces, search engines, and social networks. There is a size-cap provision in place which should exclude certain SMEs (under 50 employees, turnover ceilings) from the scope of the directive. However, some small organisations may not qualify for this size exception if the entity comes within the scope of Article 2 of the revised directive.

Article 18 provides that the entities covered by the Directive will need to carry out “an all-hazards approach when it comes to protecting network and information systems and their physical environment from incidents and shall include at least the following”: a) risk analysis and information system security policies;

inter-institutional negotiations (“trilogue”) from which a political agreement was reached on the final text of the NIS 2 Directive in May 2022. This text will next be read into the next plenary of the European Parliament in the autumn, after which it will formally become law. EU member states will have 21 months to transpose the requirements of the Directive into national law.

b) incident handling; c) business continuity, such as backup management and disaster recovery, and crisis management; d) supply chain security;


policies and procedures; to assess the effectiveness of cybersecurity risk management measures; regarding the use of cryptography and the use of multi-factor authentication.

As a country code top level domain (ccTLD) registry we are designated as an “essential entity” under the new NIS 2 Directive. Accordingly, it is essential that we continue to provide a trusted pathway to the internet for Irish people, communities, and businesses. As part of maintaining that trust we have recently completed a programme of work to achieve ISO 27001 security certification.

cybersecurity report

e) security in network and information systems acquisition, development, and maintenance, including vulnerability handling and disclosure; and

.IE’s position

ISO 27001 is the only certifiable international standard that ensures an organisation manages and mitigates its

“The speedy digital transformation of our society has expanded the threat landscape and is bringing about new challenges, which require adapted and innovative responses… such responses should aim to increase preparedness… and the EU’s capabilities to prevent, detect, respond to and mitigate cyber threats and be prepared to act in crisis.” - European Commission, NIS 2 inception impact assessment document Also new within NIS 2 regulatory regime are rules with regard to the accountability and responsibilities of management bodies when it comes to compliance with security requirements. In event of a security incident where an entity is found to be in breach of its NIS 2 obligation, management bodies may be subjected to the following: •

the issuing of fines;

being held liable for breach of their duties laid down in the directive;

the levying of a professional ban on members of the management team by the relevant regulatory authority; and

the imposition of a Monitoring Officer for a set period of time to ensure that the organisation meets its compliance requirements.

Collectively and individually, the challenge for business, government and citizens is to continue to improve cybersecurity practices and processes.

E: security@weare.ie W: www.weare.ie Twitter: @dot_IE_Tech


The revised directive sets out strict rules with regard to the reporting of security incidents. Entities are obligated to issue an initial early warning within 24 hours and a full incident notification within 72 hours to the relevant regulatory organisation. A final report on the incident will have to be submitted within a two-month period.

cybersecurity risks in an effective manner. It mandates a systematic approach to cyber security risk management including processes, technology and people that helps us protect and manage all our data. By seeking and achieving ISO certification .IE has shown its commitment to taking cyber security seriously and to ensuring we fully meet our obligations, including those within the NIS 2 Directive. ISO 27001 is rapidly becoming the de facto best practice certification for national ccTLDs, as a way to demonstrate its cyber security credentials to national policymakers and legislators.

The Internet needs Guardians, Guides and Stewards – and .IE is an active participant in multi-stakeholder forums dedicated to meeting these needs.

Current status The Commission’s proposal went to both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for review. Each body issued a draft with their proposed revisions to the original directive text. This went through a process of


cybersecurity report

The Irish cybersecurity sector: An overview The Irish cybersecurity sector is growing at a rate of over 10 per cent per annum and could, if such growth continues, employ over 17,000 people and create €2.5 billion of gross value added by 2030. The 489 cybersecurity firms operating in Ireland have 734 offices, according to the State of the Cyber Security Sector in Ireland report, with 73 per cent of these offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, or Limerick. While Dublin has the most overall offices, Cork and Galway retain the largest number of firms per capita. The main products offered by cybersecurity firms in Ireland include managed security service provision 80

and advisory services, offered by 36 per cent of firms, securing applications, networks, and cloud environments services, provided by 31 per cent, and risk, compliance, and fraud services, provided by 28 per cent. Threat intelligence, monitoring, detection, and analysis is served by 26 per cent of firms, with operational technology security and connected devices served by 13 per cent and identification, authentication, and access control by 11 per cent.

Digital Security. Progress. Protected.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s 2022 report Attracting Tech Talent to Ireland estimated there to be circa 80,000 professionals engaged in technological sectors in Ireland, meaning that the 7,351 engaged in cybersecurity work account for 9.2 per cent of the total technological workforce. CSO statistics record Ireland’s gross value added (GVA) as €393.788 billion for the year 2021; the €1.1 billion GVA recorded by the cybersecurity sector in the same year means that it accounted for 0.28 per cent of the national GVA. While broad sectoral figures for the year 2021 have yet to be released, the sector in which the CSO places cybersecurity – information and communication – is now the second largest sector in terms of GVA, behind only manufacturing. The information and communication sector accounted for 17.4 per cent of national GVA in 2020 and has recorded steady growth from €18.166 billion in 2013 to €58.574 billion in 2020. 2020 saw the sector record a growth rate of 13.8 per cent in GVA, from €51.472 billion in 2019. If

such a level of growth were to have been recorded again in 2021, this would mean a GVA of €67,377,212,000, meaning that cybersecurity’s €1.1 billion would account for 1.63 per cent of total sectoral GVA. GVA per employee stands at €150,000 in Ireland’s cybersecurity sector, comparing favourably to the UK rate of £100,000 (roughly €120,000) per employee. As part of Cyber Ireland’s State of the Cyber Security Sector in Ireland report, a survey found 83 per cent of businesses expecting to grow their cybersecurity teams in the year 2022, with half of the businesses expecting growth of over 25 per cent. Findings such as this led the report’s authors to conclude that the 10 per cent plus annual growth rate experienced by the sector in recent years is sustainable in the short term to 2030, whereby the sector could have as many as 17,000 employees and €2.5 billion GVA. However, four-in10 employers attested to a lack of appropriately skilled candidates; 33 per cent noted high competition from other cybersecurity businesses, 22 per cent noted a lack of non-technical skills in the labour pool, and 21 per cent said salaries are unaffordable.

cybersecurity report

The cybersecurity sector is an anomaly in the Irish context due to the makeup of the types of businesses that populate the sector. While the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) Business Demography 2019 found that over 99 per cent of Ireland’s business were SMEs, 44 per cent of the businesses involved in cybersecurity in Ireland are classified as large enterprises, meaning that they have at least 250 employees and €50 million of annual turnover. This is perhaps not surprising given the prevalence of foreign direct investment in the sector, with 71 per cent of employment in the sector supported by FDI, and 28 per cent of firms headquartered in the United States and 55 per cent of employees employed by those firms.

With such growth having been experienced in the sector since 2013, and further growth expected, the enhanced commitments to cybersecurity seen in the wake of the HSE cyberattack will be music to the ears of those invested in the sector, but a significant challenge lies in store with an annual shortfall of people in cybersecurity roles across the broader economy of 10,000 according to ISC2. Research by people such as Leslie Kesselring has pointed to this being a global problem, with skills shortages impacting 70 per cent of businesses. The challenge for the cybersecurity sector is clear; the same can be said of the opportunity.

Irish cybersecurity in numbers

489 firms offering cybersecurity products or services to the market One-third offering dedicated cybersecurity services 7,351 professionals employed by the sector 71% of employment in the sector supported by foreign direct investment 28% of firms and 55% of employees from firms headquartered in the United States

€2.1 billion cybersecurity-related revenue generated in 2021 €1.1 billion gross value added in 2021 Source: Cyber Ireland


cybersecurity report

Cybersecurity is the new frontier for public sector organisations

Every minute, there are 35,000 instances of password attacks and seven phishing attempts by cyber-criminals across the globe. These statistics highlighted in the latest Microsoft Security Insider briefing show the unparalleled scale and cost of cybercrime, with a new cyber threat detected by Microsoft every 35 minutes globally, writes Frank O’Donnell, Public Sector Lead of Microsoft Ireland.


The worldwide economic impact of cybercrime is $1,141,553 per minute. For public services in particular, the threat environment is only becoming more and more sophisticated, and the stakes are getting higher. According to Microsoft’s Digital Defence Report released last year, public sector organisations accounted for almost 52 per cent of the total affected organisations by state nation threats. The report also shows that nearly 80 per cent of those targeted were either in government, NGOs, or think tanks, which often serve as policy incubators and implementers, with strong ties to current and former government officials and programmes.


The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for increasing digitalisation across local and central government, and in specific areas such as healthcare, education, and community outreach in Ireland. Online public services have become more vital than ever to communities, and exposure to new technologies has created a desire for sustained digital transformation by leaders of public sector organisations to be able to engage with citizens and keep their workforce connected. If our ambition is to continue to meet the growing expectations of an increasingly digital

economy and society, then it is clear that establishing secure and resilient IT infrastructure for workers and citizens has become the new frontier for public sector organisations. The burning question is, how can organisations with such large and unwieldly operations and with such a varied workforce and citizenship achieve this?

Public and private sector collaboration

The recent announcement that Ireland has now joined over 45 other countries and international organisations as a member of the Microsoft Government Security Program marks a significant milestone for the public sector and the Irish Government in the defence of critical national infrastructure against cyberattacks. This is part of a broader statement of intent to invest and bolster our national critical infrastructure by the Irish Government. Ireland's participation in the programme will enable controlled access to source code, exchange of threat and early warning vulnerability information, and the ability to engage on confidential technical content about Microsoft’s products and services.

Cloud adoption and a zerotrust approach

Cybersecurity should no longer be viewed as a specialised risk that falls only within the purview of the IT department. Technology expertise sits in the IT department, just as expertise in financial risk management generally resides in the finance department, but ultimate responsibility and accountability for the risks lie within the wider leadership team. We cannot afford to treat technology and cyber risk as something separate and contained that IT and security teams are left to manage on their own. This is a fundamental paradigm shift for leaders in the public sector and is perhaps the biggest challenge in building and implementing a resilient cybersecurity model and to the digitisation of public services. This will require a standardised approach to security culture across different teams in an organisation, and systems to ensure it is embedded from board level across all employees and operations. Cyberattacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication and are deliberately targeting core systems to maximise the impact of the attack or likelihood of a ransomware pay-out. Within this context, we know a comprehensive approach to operational resilience must include cyber resilience if we are to truly unlock the digital potential of our economy and society, and it is critical that public sector organisations are at the vanguard of this digital evolution.

E: frank.odonnell@microsoft.com S: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frankodonnell/


Fast-tracking cloud migration and adopting a zero-trust approach provides greater security coverage, particularly for large organisations working across multiple geographies, embracing hybrid working models and delivering varied workstreams. Microsoft adopts a zero-trust first approach, which refers to a proactive, integrated approach to security across all layers of the digital estate that explicitly and continuously verifies every transaction, asserts least privilege, and relies on intelligence, advanced detection, and realtime response to threats. This model starts with strong identity authentication everywhere. Multifactor authentication (MFA), which we know prevents 99 per cent of credential theft, makes accessing apps easier and more secure than traditional passwords.

A cultural imperative: Cybersecurity is an issue for the entire organisation

cybersecurity report

Closer collaboration with experts and partners both in Ireland and across the globe can provide leaders with new knowledge and access to global efforts to manage the threat of cybersecurity.

In the last two years, we witnessed an increase in the adoption of cloud technologies across many government departments and government bodies, which ultimately creates a more secure working environment. This journey is set to continue and accelerate as cybersecurity becomes more and more of an imperative, not only in the realm of the IT function, but also at board and executive level across the Irish public sector.

At Microsoft, we have helped thousands of organisations to evolve their zero-trust deployments to respond to transitions to remote and now hybrid work in parallel with a growing intensity and sophistication of cyberattacks.


cybersecurity report

European cybersecurity for the Digital Decade

The EU published its Cybersecurity Strategy in December 2020 as part of its Digital Decade, with the first implementation report published the following summer. Continuing threats inspired the release of a new Cybersecurity Regulation in March 2022. The main aims of the European Cybersecurity Strategy are broken down into three areas of action for the EU: resilience, technological sovereignty and leadership; operational capacity to prevent, deter and respond; and cooperation to advance a global and open cyberspace. The strategy was designed to “ensure a global and open internet with strong safeguards where there are risks to security and the fundamental rights of people in Europe”. Key measures mentioned within the implementation report on the strategy issued in summer 2021 emphasised the importance of finalising the NIS2 Directive, regulation and a directive on digital operational resilience, and the need to establish a network of security operations centres (SOCs) for early detection of signals of cyberattacks, which was described as “more pressing than ever”. The report also noted, “given the increase of cyberattacks conducted by state 84

or state-sponsored actors”, that responsible governmental behaviour must be promoted through the United Nations and other bodies. Ransomware attacks such as the one suffered by the HSE in Ireland have become a primary concern for cybersecurity organisations across Europe, and indeed the globe. Ransomware typically infects computer systems so that users cannot fully use them or the data stored within, encrypts target files and displays notifications, requesting payment before the data can be unlocked. Cybercriminals involved in such attacks often request their ransom payments in virtual currencies, i.e., cryptocurrency, due to the difficulty in tracking these payments. The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), in its ENISA Threat Landscape 2021 report, stated that “the frequency and the complexity of ransomware attacks increased by more than 150 per cent in 2020”, meaning that

Digital Security. Progress. Protected. ransomware can now be defined as “one of the greatest threats that organisations face today regardless of the sector to which they belong”, which in turn means that combatting ransomware attacks is now “a prime item in agendas for meetings on strategy among global leaders”.

The NIS2 Directive has been designed in part to deal with the the looming threat of ransomware attacks. The Directive will push towards the introduction of stricter supervisory measures and more stringent enforcement requirements, including harmonised sanctions across the EU. The updated directive envisages then that a framework for better cooperation and information sharing between different authorities and member states would be established to create a European vulnerability database. This is a key difference from the original Directive, which did not envisage a common and shared framework for the unionwide tackling of cyber incidents such as the ransomware attacks.

cybersecurity report

Agreement has since been reached between the European Council and Parliament on the NIS2 Directive, which will adapt the previous NIS Directive to suit current cybersecurity needs by increasing resilience and incident response capacities in both the public and private sectors across the European Union. The original NIS Directive set out the national cybersecurity capability requirements of member states and a cooperation agenda regarding the exchange of information amongst the same EU countries. Member states were also obligated to promote a culture of security across sectors very relevant for the EU that rely on ICTs such as energy, transport, water, banking, financial market infrastructures, healthcare, and digital infrastructure.

The scope of the Directive has also been broadened, with more organisations now required to take cybersecurity risk management measures and national authorities now required to act under more stringent supervisory measures. The network of SOCs appears to be progressing, with Atos opening its next generation SOC in March 2022 and the European Security Agency awarding the contract for its cyber-SOC, expected to be operational from 2024, to contractor Leonardo. The Commission, in March 2022, proposed its new Cybersecurity Regulation in order to establish common cybersecurity measures across EU institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies. The regulation will put in place a framework for governance, risk management and control, create a new inter-institutional Cybersecurity Board and extend the mandate of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) as a threat intelligence, information exchange and incident response coordination hub, a central advisory body, and a service provider. The CERT-EU will be renamed the Cybersecurity Centre. Under the regulation, all EU organisations will be required to have frameworks of governance and risk management for cybersecurity, a baseline of cybersecurity measures, regular assessments, plans for cybersecurity improvements, and they will need to share information with CERT-EU in a timely manner. Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn called the regulation “a milestone in the EU cybersecurity and information security landscape” and said that they are “based on reinforced cooperation and mutual support among EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on a coordinated preparedness and response”.


cybersecurity report

Government and cybersecurity In 2017, ISC2 stated that the world would fall 1.8 million people short of the number of cyberskilled individuals required by 2022, and testaments of skills shortages are still sounded by public and private sectors alike to this day, making it all the more important that governments take a proactive role in their states’ cybersecurity. The principal elements of an effective and comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy, as defined by McKinsey and Company, are: a dedicated national cybersecurity agency; a national critical infrastructure protection programme; a national incident response and recovery plan; defined laws pertaining to all cybercrimes; and a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem. McKinsey states that “best-in-class countries give a single entity… the overall responsibility of defining and driving the cybersecurity agenda of the entire country”, a process which “involves developing a cohesive national cybersecurity strategy with a portfolio of initiatives”. Ireland satisfies this requirement through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), formally established by the Government in 2015. The need for a national incident and response plan as identified by McKinsey is also addressed within the NCSC, which enveloped the previously


established Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT-IE) upon its foundation. The CSIRT-IE is tasked with the provision of incident response services to government bodies and critical national infrastructure providers across Ireland and acts as a national point of contact for international partners to inform Ireland of cybersecurity matters of interest. Ireland does not have its own critical infrastructure protection programme. This is handled by the CSIRT-IE and, as was noted in the Government’s National

Cyber Security Strategy 2019-2024 – another of McKinsey’s requirements satisfied by Ireland – the critical infrastructure protection methodology set out in the European Union’s NIS Directive has been fully implemented in the State. The strategy contains within it a pledge that the NCSC will “continue to develop and apply these measures to ensure that the NIS Directive is filly applied in Ireland and that this application keeps pace with changes in technology and best practice”. A vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem is certainly also present in Ireland despite skill shortages, with €2.1 billion revenue generated in 2021 and €1.1 billion in GVA, with 489 companies occupying 734 offices. As is noted by McKinsey, “while the world’s best national cybersecurity agencies have comprehensive strategies, it is not possible for a single organisation to deliver all the components of a strategy on its own” and the involvement of the ecosystem at large is needed. Five sector-specific engagement groups across the public and private sectors were arranged to cover national security and policing, enterprise development, skills and research, public sector ICT security, and critical national infrastructure protection, giving hope that, by the global consultant’s standards at least, Irish cybersecurity has a bright, all-hands-on-deck future ahead.

Digital Security. Progress. Protected.

cybersecurity report

ENISA: Four priorities for European cybersecurity The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published its research and innovation brief which outlines four noteworthy challenges, gaps, and solutions for European cybersecurity. These are: the importance of a hyperconnected world; computational security; intelligent systems; and cybersecurity in life sciences (cyberbiosecurity). Hyperconnected world

Intelligent systems

The report states that the main challenge is the generation of a “broader understanding on how hyperconnectivity may influence humanity and the social and political dimensions”. To solve this, ENISA proposes the re-definition of human-computer interaction, and the concomitant security risks that are associated with this. Also, it alludes to the challenges of ensuring that cybersecurity technology keeps pace with the transition from 5G to 6G for the next generation, stating that: “Multidisciplinary and future-oriented research will be required to facilitate the transition to this inevitable hyperconnected world.”

Better understanding is needed of the socio-economic ramifications with artificial intelligence (AI) applied to cybersecurity, with further requirements to develop technical and regulatory excellence. Furthermore, there is currently not enough institutional capacity to deal with AI. The report outlines the need to link vertical and horizontal views on AI research, design of approaches for monitoring large-scale and possibly interconnected systems. It also advocates for the exploration for biomimetic cybersecurity algorithms, as well as the inclusion of context awareness in machine learning in order to boost resiliency.

Computational security

Cybersecurity in life sciences (cyberbiosecurity)

There is a notable lack of skills in cryptography, as well as a reduced number of market opportunities. Owing to this, there is a need for standardisation and efficient support for developers working in the field, as well as the need to move cryptography research from fields to being embedded within hardware. The report recommends planning and preparation for the transition to the “postquantum era” of cryptographic systems, as well as implementing the cryptographic systems which are necessary side channel attacks. It additionally recommends the establishment of standards for quantum-resilient safe algorithms and protocols.

There is a technological skills and training gap for life science researchers, thus necessitating a better understanding of the implications of cybersecurity for life sciences research. There is also no clear vision of the security implications of life science technologies for cybersecurity research. ENISA aims to combat these challenges by the establishment of a risk management framework in the field of public health microbiology, for example, modern DNA sequencing. It also outlines the need to categorise bio-vulnerabilities in the context of cyber, as well as identify processes and routines throughout the life science fields that require cyberinterfaces and reliance on automation.


Energy Ireland 2022


Energy Ireland 2022 took place on 29-30 June at Croke Park, Dublin. Over 250 delegates attended the two day event which was opened with a virtual address from Minister Eamon Ryan TD. Delegates in attendance heard from 38 speakers, both visiting and local, from organisations including the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications; European Commission; Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland; ESB; Oxford Institute for Energy Studies; SSE Renewables; Commission for Regulation of Utilities; Bord Gáis Energy; Gas Networks Ireland, and Energy UK.


















1. Paddy Hayes, ESB; Tanya Harrington, Renewable Energy Ireland; William Walsh, SEAI; Aoife MacEvilly, CRU; and Cathal Marley, Gas Networks Ireland 2. Minister Eamon Ryan TD virtually addresses delegates 3. Peter Hynes, Mayo Energy Group; Owen Lewis, Energy Institute and William Walsh, SEAI 4. Aoife MacEvilly, CRU addresses delegates 5. Brendan Kelly and Lisa Fahy, Bord na Móna 6. Catherine Sheridan, EIH2 and Cathal Marley, Gas Networks Ireland 7. Eamonn O'Reilly, Dublin Port Company and Alison Fanagan, AandL Goodbody 8. Michael Norton, Enda Gunnell and Philip Connor, Pinergy Solar Electric 9. Delegates visiting Jacobs exhibition stand 10. Claire Madden, Gas Networks Ireland and Siobhán McHugh, Demand Response Association of Ireland 11. Kim McClenaghan, PwC; Rory Monaghan, NUI Galway; and Jim Gannon, CRU 12. Brendan Sheill, Fergal McLoughlin and Barbara O'Mahony at Hitachi exhibition stand 13. Energy Ireland delegates watching Ditte Juul Jørgensen, European Commission 14. Adam Berman, Energy UK addresses delegates 15. Nick Barwise, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Jonathan Akpah, EirGrid 16. Úna Nic Giolla Choille; Anne-Marie Clancy, DECC; and Noel Cunniffe, Wind Energy Ireland 17. Barbara Fogarty, Jacobs; Kshitiz Agarwal, Jacobs; and John Furlong, The Office of Public Works

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Russian invasion of Ukraine and the implications for Ireland The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have pervasive implications. With a housing system being further tested by the more than 40,000 refugees who have arrived, as well as record fuel and energy prices, the Government continues to support the comprehensive sanctions on Russia. As of August 2022, Russia controls roughly 20 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea – which it has occupied since 2014 – and the self-declared breakaway republic of Luhansk, as well as much of the Donetsk Oblast, which incorporates the city of Mariupol. Ukraine has thus far successfully retained the port city of Odesa and successfully repelled attempts to capture the capital city, Kyiv.

Housing refugees For Ireland’s part, the impact is multifaceted. Firstly, there is the housing and refuge to be provided to those fleeing from the war in Ukraine. Ireland has committed to facilitating as many refugees as necessary from Ukraine, with the Department of Justice projecting that up to 80,000 could arrive in Ireland for the duration of the conflict. As of 8


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August, 44,365 refugees have arrived in Ireland, according to the Department of Justice. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage announced in March a €400 monthly payment for households who have housed refugees from Ukraine, a payment which started being paid out to qualified citizens from 9 August. The Government has been struggling to accommodate the influx of refugees, and has resorted to calling on hotels, student accommodation, and GAA clubs to facilitate the provision of temporary housing for refugees. On 7 August, the Government announced that around 3,000 Ukrainian refugees currently housed in student accommodation will have to leave by the end of August, ahead of the upcoming academic year.

eolas europe

A new foreign policy

Sanctions on Russia

In February 2022, Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD declared that Ireland was “not politically neutral”, but was “militarily neutral”, thus affirming Ireland’s adherence with the foreign policy agenda being pursued by the European Union. That policy is clear: oppose Russia’s invasion and facilitate Ukraine’s defence of its borders by any means necessary without provoking direct conflict between Russia and the west.

The economic ramifications from the conflict globally cannot be overstated, with Ukraine exporting 40 per cent per cent of the world’s supply of grain, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Furthermore, the disruption of the flow of Russia’s oil and gas, and the inflation crisis, which arose amid the supply chain crisis arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, has been exacerbated and has resulted in record fuel and energy prices.

Ireland’s foreign policy has been thrown into a state of flux arising from the EU’s robust response to the Russian invasion. The State has traditionally followed a policy of military neutrality since thenTaoiseach Éamon de Valera’s decision to remain neutral in the Second World War. Ireland’s neutrality has been called into question in the past due to the facilitation of Shannon Airport as a stopover point for the United States Air Force during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taoiseach, in February, asserted that the Government would support the “strongest” and most “comprehensive sanctions” against Russia, and stated that Ireland is “militarily neutral” but not “politically neutral”.

Ireland is following the European Union’s implementation of comprehensive sanctions against Russia and Belarus as a backlash to the invasion, which are intended to curtail the importation of 90 per cent on oil imports from Russia. The EU announced that all crude oil imports from Russia will be phased out by February 2023, as well as a ban on insuring ships which carry Russian oil taking effect from December 2022. Furthermore, with the Russian economy experiencing 15 per cent inflation and a deep recession, the EU has banned investment or participation in projects co-financed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, as well as transactions related to the management of assets and reserves of the Russian Central Bank, and the Belarusian Central Bank.

The Taoiseach additionally created speculation that Ireland may join NATO after meeting with NATO and EU leaders in June. He furthermore stated that, in the event of such a decision, that the Government would not “need a referendum to join NATO”. This is due to the fact that military neutrality has been a convention adopted by successive governments but is not enshrined in the Constitution. The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Government would hold a referendum in the event of a European Union defence pact, since there are provisions in the Constitution which stipulates the requirement for such a referendum.

Some have criticised the sanctions as having an adverse effect to what was intended, as the Russian Rouble has since recovered from the initial economic shock from the sanctions, and its valuation is now stronger than it was throughout the second half of 2021. Having had its 10 largest banks removed from the SWIFT banking networks, Russian banks have subsequently been able to use the Chinese banking system, with China providing a large market for many Russian exports. The European energy market has to find new means of making Europe energy independent, which will include a temporary increase of German coalpowered energy, as well as emphasising the long-term importance of ensuring a reliance on renewable energy.

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The potential impact of the disruption in Russian gas supplies to Europe Premature moves to reduce European dependence on Russian gas could lead to storage levels reaching lows that would render gas rationing and blackouts “unavoidable” in central and eastern Europe, even with solidarity measures in place, says Katja Yafimava, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has made the idea of Russian gas as a weapon the “predominant narrative” in Europe, Yafimava explains. Overall gas flows to Europe from Russia have fallen by two-thirds compared to 2021. It has added impetus to the European Commission’s new policy and legislative initiatives regarding gas security, with EU policy changing from reducing dependence on Russian gas to phasing it out fully by 2030. The Versailles Declaration pledges to phase out dependence “as soon as possible” and REPowerEU commits to cutting imports of Russian gas by two-thirds in 2022 and altogether by 2027. The revision of the SoS Regulation has set mandatory storage filling targets for member states and the Gas Regulation revision has now made certification of storage operators mandatory, where it had only been mandatory for TSOs previously. “There are constraints that prevent many of the things proposed within REPowerEU from being implemented,” Yafimava says. “Some are more likely and realistic, but some suggestions are not. There are constraints of a physical, commercial, and legal nature. It is fair to say that these measures will be very expensive and too fast of a reduction on dependence on Russian gas will actually be detrimental to energy transition and jeopardise greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. “Gazprom’s supply contracts do not expire en masse until 2030 or beyond, apart from a couple of contracts of not very significant volumes. REPowerEU talks about a complete phase out by 2027. There is a discrepancy, and this is important because if contracts are broken, then there will be very heavy financial penalties and also the question of what fuels will replace the gas, to which there is no obvious answer.”


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The short-term measures contained within the REPowerEU plan include the increase of imports of liquified natural gas (LNG), with an aim of 50 billion cubic metres (bcm), the increase of pipeline gas imports by 10 bcm, the delayed phase-out of coal plant (accounting for 24 bcm), the abandonment of the phase out of nuclear plant (seven bcm), fuel switching in residential and service sectors (nine bcm), and energy-saving measures (10 bcm). Mid- and long-term measures centre around the development of renewable and efficient technologies such as heat pumps, solar and wind power, and renewable hydrogen development. Presently, Russia accounts for one-third of European gas demand and 40 per cent of imports. The $50 billion revenue it generated in 2021 was worth 15 per cent of Russia’s total budget for the same year. “Realistically and pragmatically, it is neither in European nor Russian interests, politics aside, to see those supplies being cut,” Yafimava says, although she notes that it not inconceivable for this to happen should Gazprom go unpaid. A modelling exercise carried out at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies showed that the winter would be “very difficult” for Europe, particularly in the centre and the east, should the gas imports be majorly disrupted. “That would be, even with solidarity measures, a very significant impact. In the event of emergency, the UK and the Republic of Ireland are in a better situation in terms of physical supply security compared to Germany, and central and eastern Europe,” Yafimava adds. “Still, if there is a complete cut-off of Russian gas to the continent, this will be felt on both islands due to their interconnectors and the impact in terms of price.” She also notes that solidarity measures with the UK are now “a matter of goodwill” rather than a legal certainty in the post-Brexit landscape but predicts that such goodwill would prevail in such a situation. Storage filling, the security of supply mechanism that would help alleviate shortfalls in an emergency situation, has been on track, although Yafimava notes that the mandatory filling requirements introduced by the EU have added extra pressure to already-inflating prices. Flows from Russia have been affected in

“Gazprom’s supply contracts do not expire en masse until 2030 or beyond… REPowerEU talks about a complete phase out by 2027. There is a discrepancy...” Katja Yafimava, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies various ways: the Ukrainian corridor is seeing 42 million cubic metres per day (mmcm/d), less than half of the booked 110 mmcm/d; there is no flow on the Poland/Belarus corridor; Nord Stream flows had seen a 60 per cent decrease (partly due to sanctions which prevented one turbine from being shipped back to Russia after it had been repaired in Canada and also interfered with maintenance and capital repairs of other turbines which were being taken offline due to technical faults and due to exhausting their maximum hours of operation); and the TurkStream pipeline is delivering 40 mmcm/d to southern Europe with no disruption. “Storage has been at a quite healthy level, but the filling has slowed down after the reduction of Nord Stream flows,” Yafimava says. By August 2022, European storage has been filled at 70 per cent but flows on Nord Stream have declined further to just 20 per cent of capacity, as yet another turbine has been taken offline, thus making reaching the EU filling target of 80 per cent by November yet more challenging, with all the gas that Europe could import from elsewhere. If storages are not refilled by winter, she warns, “gas demand rationing and blackouts are unavoidable”, particularly in Germany, central, and eastern Europe. Speaking in June, Yafimava said: “In the coming weeks and months, I believe that Nord Stream flows are likely to be restored to their full extent but only when and if this issue with the turbines is resolved. More generally, what would have to be resolved is that western sanctions do not jeopardise technical maintenance of equipment that is

necessary for the exporting of Russian gas to Europe under existing contracts. That issue will have to be resolved because the main reason this reduction happened is that Gazprom wants to send a clear message that for flows to continue, the issue with sanctions will have to be resolved in such a way as not to hurt maintenance.” By mid-August, this issue continues to be unresolved as, although the turbine had already been shipped to Germany from Canada, following the latter’s government decision to grant a waiver, Russia has refused to accept the turbine unless it is accompanied by additional guarantees confirming that the EU, UK, and Canadian sanctions regimes will not hinder maintenance and repair process for all turbines. Concluding, Yafimava states her opinion that the phasing out of Russian gas by 2027 would incur unnecessary constraints on European energy and that cutting dependence by two-thirds by year-end 2022 is “not realistic” without demand curtailment and rationing “It is a very big challenge that the EU is facing because it has been awash with competitive gas from Russia, Norway, LNG, and now it is a completely different situation because the EU has made a political decision to phase out Russian gas,” she says. “All of these plans are yet to be costed and assessed for realism. To me, the most beneficial scenario for everyone is if the supply of Russian gas continues until expiry of the contracts, and that would allow time for everyone and prevent further jeopardisation of achieving green-house gas emissions reduction targets.”

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Parr’s Ireland:

From the Pope to a flat white

One of the pre-eminent photographers of his generation, documentary photographer Martin Parr talks to Owen McQuade about the ‘Parr’s Ireland’ exhibition which accompanies his latest book Parr’s Ireland: From the Pope to a flat white and his work photographing the Irish over the last 40 years.


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Martin Parr started travelling to Ireland in the 1970s to visit a friend who had studied photography with him at Manchester Polytechnic. He then came back in 1979 to document the Pope’s visit before moving to near Boyle in County Roscommon because of his wife’s job as a speech therapist. “We had a fantastic time in Ireland. All the black and white photos in the book are from that period – except the Pope’s visit photos. I would get the local paper and go to all the local events from horse fairs to small auctions and céilithe.” Parr has been back to Ireland since then, returning several times and shooting in colour. To finish the book off he decided to come over to Dublin to photograph “the new businesses in the upgraded and gentrified Dublin. Hence the flat white as a symbol of the gentrification”.


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The book compares “the almost naivety of the Pope’s visit in 1979 with the amazing economic advancement that Ireland has gained since then”. When asked has he seen similar changes in Britain, he replies: “Things have changed globally, with things like the smartphone that has changed many societies across the world but nothing as dramatic as Ireland. “I cannot think of a country that has changed so much in that 40 year period. Ireland is almost unique on the planet for having seen that amount of change.”


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Parr’s Ireland: 40 Years of Photography Exhibition This is a landmark retrospective of the Irish work of esteemed British documentary photographer, Martin Parr. The exhibition has been touring since 2021 and has been to Limerick City Art Gallery, Gallery of Photography Dublin, Roscommon Arts Centre, The McMullen Museum of Art, Boston and was most recently in the Belfast Exposed Gallery from 4 August to 24 September 2022. It will complete its tour in November 2022 the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.

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Population increase will require at least 11 new TDs cent) and a net inward migration of 190,333 (52.6 per cent). 2,593,600 females and 2,529,936 males were recorded, with respective increases of 7.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent, making the State population 50.6 per cent female and 49.4 per cent male.

Population by county and political representation The population in all of the State’s 26 counties increased between Census 2016 and Census 2022, with the highest growth in counties Longford, Meath, and Kildare, where growth rates of 14 per cent, 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively were recorded. The lowest increases were recorded in counties Donegal and Kilkenny, both 4.5 per cent, and Tipperary and Kerry, both 5.1 per cent.

The preliminary results of the 2022 Census show the highest population recorded in any Irish census since 1881 and the highest in the State’s history. With all but one constituency now breaching the legal limit of TDs to people ratio, at least 11 new TD seats will be needed to satisfy constitutional laws. Preliminary results for the 2022 Census released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in June 2022 show the population of the State to have reached 5.1 million, a record level since partition and the foundation of the Irish Free State and a high in any Irish census since the 1881 census of the entirety of Ireland showed a population of just under 5.2 million people. Coupled with the 2021 Northern


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Ireland Census showing a population of just over 1.9 million people, there are now seven million people in Ireland, again a high since the 1841 census (8.18 million). Overall, the preliminary results showed a population of 5,123,536 on census night, a 7.6 per cent increase on 2016 levels. The total population increase of 361,671 was accounted for by a natural increase (births minus deaths) of 171,338 (47.4 per

With a population of 5,123,536 people and a total of 160 TDs, the results also show that the average number of people per TD for the State is 32,022, meaning that an increase to the number of TDs will be required under the limits set within Bunreacht na hÉireann. The constitution states that political representation at Dáil level must have a minimum ratio of one member per 20,000 population, and a maximum ratio of one member per 30,000. 38 of the 39 Dáil constituencies in the State now show an average of over 30,000 people per TD, with Limerick County the only constituency still within the legal limits for representation. The constituency with the highest number of people per TD is Dublin Fingal, with 34,138 people per representative. With An Coimisiún Toghcháin expected to return its report on revised constituency boundaries in 2023, barring a change to Bunreacht na hÉireann, at least 11 extra TD seats will need to be introduced into the Dáil, a figure that could theoretically reach as high as 250 and still fall within the constitutional limits. An Coimisiún awaits the final figures, upon which it will base its 2023 recommendations.

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An Ghaeilge chun cinn: The Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 With recent announcements surrounding the establishment of new arms of the State such as Uisce Éireann, Coimisiún na Meán, and An Coimisiún Toghcháin, the recommitment of the State to name its official bodies i nGaeilge has been remarked upon. This move is “in the spirit” of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021. “It is appropriate that on legal separation, Irish Water should be known as Uisce Éireann which is in the spirit of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021,” Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD said in his July 2022 announcement that the water utility would be renamed upon its split from its parent body, Ervia. On the same day as O’Brien’s announcement of the shake-up in water management, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD was announcing the Government’s response to the report issued by the Future of Media Commission. This response, Martin announced, would be overseen by a newly established media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, which would oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations. The Electoral Reform Bill 2022, currently

progressing through the Seanad following its progression through the Dáil, initially was stated to “provide for the establishment of the Electoral Commission”; it now reads that it “provide[s] for the establishment of An Coimisiún Toghcháin” following amendments on the Dáil floor. The recommitment of the State to naming its bodies in the native language has come in the wake of the signing into law of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 in December 2021, which was hailed as an “historic day for the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht communities”, with Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport Jack Chambers TD stating: “A new era is in store for the relationship between the Irish language and Gaeltacht community and the public service.” The naming of new statutory bodies is committed to in section 9D (1) of the Act, where it is explicitly stated that any

new body established after the commencement of the Act “shall be [named] in the Irish language”, with section 9C (1) of the Act stating that a public body, “where it is renewing or altering its logo, ensure that text that forms part of the new or altered logo shall be in the Irish language or in both the Irish and English languages”, with section 9C (2) adding that the Irish language shall appear before the English language and not be less prominent, visible, or legible than the English. Following years of gradual naming of statutory bodies in English, Irish Water and Ervia not least among them, the same-day announcements of O’Brien and Martin signalled a government that has taken this recommitment to Gaeilge on board as it seeks to deliver on its aim of vastly improving the presence of the native language in the public service.

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Secretaries general: In profile Each government department has a leader at civil service level known as the Secretary General. They are responsible for overseeing the implementation of government policy. There are 18 government departments, each of which has a secretary general, each of whom are answerable to the minister of the department in question. Brendan Gleeson was appointed Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 2 October 2018. He has previously served in a number of senior leadership roles in the Department, with responsibility for areas such as international trade, Brexit, Common Agricultural Policy development and sectoral policy development in the meat and livestock sectors. He has also had responsibility for governance in several state agencies, served as a member of the Teagasc Authority, and in policy and operational roles in the Department of Industry and Commerce and the European Commission. He holds a BSc in management law from Trinity College Dublin and diplomas in law and public administration. He is also an alumnus of the Common Purpose Senior Leadership Programme and the 100

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Harvard Kennedy School Senior Managers in Government Programme.

Kevin McCarthy was appointed Secretary General in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth on 19 January 2022. He previously served as Secretary General of the Department of Rural and Community Development from 2017 and as an Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Education from 2008 to 2017, where he held a number of senior leadership roles. In the earlier part of his career he worked in a number of roles in the Departments of Health and Finance and in the health sector.

Jacqui McCrum was appointed to the post of Secretary General of the Department of Defence in August 2020. She is the first female Secretary General of the Department. In her capacity, she acts as the principal policy advisor to the Minister for Defence and as the Accounting Officer for all Defence expenditure. She is a member of the advisory board of the National Shared Services Office. Prior to her appointment, McCrum was the Deputy Secretary in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Director General and Accounting Officer in the Office of the Ombudsman, Offices of the Information Commissioner and Commissioner for Environmental Information, Standards in Public Office Commission, Referendum Commission and Commission for Public Service Appointments. She also held the position of Deputy Financial Services Ombudsman. The majority of her career was spent in financial services in London and Dublin.

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Secretaries general: In profile Bernie McNally was appointed Secretary General of the Department of Education in February 2022. The Department leads on primary and post-primary education policy in Ireland and supports 4,000 schools and almost 1,000,000 children and young people Between 2015 and 2022, she was Assistant Secretary in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and before that was Director General of the Office of the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner from 2012 to 2015. In her earlier career, she was an occupational therapist and worked for a short time in both the UK and USA. She was later Director of Therapy and Social Work services in St James’s Hospital, Dublin. Bernie has a BSc and MSc from Trinity College Dublin and an MBS from University College Cork. She has also completed several senior leadership programmes.

Orlaigh Quinn is Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. A career civil servant, she has held leadership positions across several public bodies, spearheading reform of Ireland’s public and Civil Service at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and as Head of Corporate and Head of National Pensions in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. She has also led on EU and international affairs and served as an expert adviser on employment and social policy at the European Commission. She is a former Visiting Research Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and holds a master’s in public

management and a doctorate in governance from Queen’s University Belfast. She is the author of two books on public policy topics.

John Hogan is the Secretary General of the Department of Finance. He has held a number of positions in the Department throughout his career. He was previously Assistant Secretary General with responsibility for tax policy and prior to that for banking policy in the Financial Services Division of the Department. He has worked as Financial Services Counsellor in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union and has held posts in a number of Government Departments

Joe Hackett has served as Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs since September 2021. He joined the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs in 1995 and has since served in a variety of positions at HQ and abroad. Prior to his appointment as Secretary General, he was Director General of EU Division (2019-2021), also serving in Brussels as Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the European Union (2017-2019) and as Permanent Representative to the EU’s Political and Security Committee (2013-2017). He also has extensive experience of managing Ireland’s bilateral relationship with the United States and engaging with the State’s global diaspora and international business community.

Jim Breslin is Secretary General of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. In 2011, he led the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Subsequently, he was Secretary General of the Department of Health for six years from 2014 to 2020. He previously held senior management roles within the HSE and the ERHA. He has a master’s in public administration (mid-career) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, MSc in economics from Trinity College/Institute of Public Administration, BA in economics and politics from UCD and a diploma in company direction from the Institute of Directors. He holds a Policy Leader Fellowship at the Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge.

Robert Watt is Secretary General of the Department of Health. Previously, he spent 10 years as Secretary General in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. With the Department of Finance, he managed the budget and estimates process. During this period he was one of the principal advisers to the Government on economic, budgetary and financial policy issues. He was centrally involved in the management of the Troika programme. He is an economist with experience in both the public and private sectors, having worked in several roles within the Department of Finance as well as previously working as an economic consultant and a lecturer. He has been a member of numerous boards including the board of the NTMA and the Economic Management Council. He is currently a board member of the Football Association of Ireland.

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Secretaries general: In profile Graham Doyle is Secretary General of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, having been appointed in July 2020 after the formation of the new Government. Previously he was Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport since late 2015. He was an external recruit to the Civil Service in 2013, initially responsible for the public transport. His background is in aviation management and business consulting with experience in insolvency, corporate finance and business strategy. He is a chartered accountant by profession, having trained with PwC, and holds a range of business-related qualifications, including an MBA.

Oonagh McPhillips is Secretary General of the Department of Justice and was the first woman to hold the role when she was appointed in 2020. She joined the civil service in the 1980s as a temporary clerical trainee. She previously served in the Department of the Environment, as a civilian manager in An Garda Síochána, and in Áras an Uachtaráin. Her career has been mainly in justice, where she has worked on policy, governance, legislation and as head of corporate, as well as private secretary and press officer to successive ministers.


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She holds a master’s in communications from Dublin City University and in 2016 she was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship focusing on organisational culture.

David Moloney is the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Prior to this, he was head of the Labour Market and Enterprise Division of the Department, with responsibility for various expenditure areas including social protection, housing, enterprise and agriculture and for the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES). Over the course of his career in the Civil Service, David has also served in the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health.

Mary Hurley, was appointed as Secretary General of the Department of Rural and Community Development in March 2022. A graduate of University College Dublin (UCD), she previously served as an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and has held the responsibility for policy areas such as local government, fire and emergency management, homelessness, regeneration, community and rural development.

Over the course of her career, she has also worked across a number of departments, including the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, where she played a key role in the 1916 commemorations.

John McKeon joined the Department of Social Protection in October 2010 as Assistant Secretary General. Prior to that he was Managing Director of eircom Wholesale, having joined the Department of Posts and Telegraphs aged 16 as a trainee technician based in Waterford in September 1979 and subsequently moving on to Telecom Éireann and then eircom. While with eircom he worked in a variety of roles from technical operations to procurement, treasury operations, pricing and forecasting, investment evaluation, marketing, new enterprise development, organisation development, and international business. Prior to his appointment as Secretary General, he held responsibility within the Department for labour market activation policy, the development and implementation of the Pathways to Work programme, and the modernisation of the Department’s public office

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Secretaries general: In profile (Intreo) services. He also held responsibility for staff relations and finance, legislation and PRSI policy. He holds an honours primary degree in public administration (Institute of Public Administration) and a master’s in business administration (DCU).

Mark Griffin commenced duty as Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in September 2013. In his current role he has responsibility for key sectors and policy areas including climate action, environment, circular economy, energy, telecommunications and cybersecurity. Prior to his appointment, Mark was Assistant Secretary for Water at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. He also led the planning division in the Department for much of that time. Prior to that, he served in the Department of Foreign Affairs as Environment Counsellor at the Irish Representation to the European Union in Brussels. He has also worked in the Department of Finance. Mark is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.

John Callinan was appointed as Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach in May 2022. Previously, he was the Second Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach since 2016. In that role he had lead responsibility for the International and EU Affairs Division and the Britain/Northern Ireland Division, including the Shared Island Unit. He was also the Taoiseach’s “sherpa” (senior EU advisor) and lead negotiator on Brexit. He joined the Department of the Taoiseach in 1998 and worked in a number of policy areas since then. He was appointed Assistant Secretary General in 2007 and led several divisions in the Department between 2007 and 2016, including Economic Policy, Social Policy, EU and International Affairs, and Britain/Northern Ireland. Prior to joining the Taoiseach’s department, he worked in a number of areas at the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he also spent four years at the European Commission in Brussels.

Katherine Licken was

the national cultural institutions, film, media, tourism, sport and the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. Licken was previously an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. She is a graduate of communications studies in Dublin City University and has a postgraduate diploma in corporate governance from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

Ken Spratt has been Secretary General at the Department of Transport since July 2020. He previously served in six other government departments including as Assistant Secretary General for Tourism and Sport and Assistant Secretary General for Energy. He holds a Master of Science degree from Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Ulster University, Jordanstown and is a graduate of the Institute of Directors, Ireland, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK. He holds thirdlevel and professional qualifications in HRM, employment law, economics, systems analysis and corporate governance.

appointed to the post of Secretary General at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, formerly the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with effect from 20 January 2017. The Department has a broad range of functions relating to arts and culture,

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The Protocol, the next British Prime Minister, and prospects for Irish unity The next leader of the Conservative Party will be announced on 5 September 2022. That person, Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, will be the fourth leader of the Conservative Party since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. The careers of Conservative Party Prime Ministers have been among the many casualties of Brexit, write Mary C Murphy (UCC) and Jonathan Evershed (UCD), authors of A Troubled Constitutional Future: Northern Ireland after Brexit published by Agenda Publishing in March 2022. In Northern Ireland, ongoing uncertainty in relation to the implementation of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol; the British Government’s plans to proceed with the highly contested Northern Ireland Protocol Bill; and the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive have all added to an existing atmosphere of instability and volatility. This state of unsettledness has also influenced and facilitated a growing discourse about the prospects for Irish unity. Some see Irish unification as the organic and inevitable outcome of Brexit’s legacy while others reject and oppose this prospect. The next British Prime Minister will be facing urgent challenges come


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September 2022 – not least a rapidly intensifying cost of living crisis – but the Protocol issue and the “Irish question” will also loom large. Although the potential for a constitutional rupture exists, there is no guarantee that profound constitutional transformation is inevitable. However, how the new Prime Minister navigates the period ahead will have a bearing on the strength and intensity of the evolving constitutional debate in Ireland: his/her decisions and actions on the Protocol will influence how different political parties, civic society movements and future Irish governments position themselves on the Irish unity question.

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For its part, the current British Government does not support calling a border poll and this will not change following the election of the next Prime Minister. Successive Conservative governments have sought to assert an increasingly muscular form of unionism which has been alienating not just for nationalists in Northern Ireland, but across Scotland and Wales too. Further British Government action on the Protocol may serve to either reduce or reinforce wider calls for a border poll and constitutional change in Ireland. Should the new Prime Minister oversee the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill becoming law, the EU will likely retaliate with (further) court proceedings against the UK. In this context, the prospects of a bitter and damaging trade war between the UK and the EU cannot be discounted. Such a move would be highly damaging politically and economically, and likely intensify calls among nationalists for constitutional change. Critically, it may also sway otherwise undecided voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A related factor here is the poor level of trust between the British and Irish governments. This has undermined the bilateral relationship and upended what had previously become a more consensus-based approach to Northern Ireland. If the new Prime Minister chooses to work to address the challenges facing British/Irish relations (most of them concentrated around the Protocol) in a spirit of meaningful collaboration, this bodes well for restoring an atmosphere of cooperation and consensus, which has historically been critical to stability in Northern Ireland. If not, the push for constitutional change may well intensify. The current Irish Government has ruled out supporting a border poll in the short to medium term. Instead, Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD has ploughed money and commitment into his department’s Shared Island Initiative. Its emphasis is less on constitutional change, and more on supporting the full operation of the 1998 Agreement. Importantly however, the next Irish Government – particularly

Mary C Murphy one that might be led by Sinn Féin – is likely to take a different and stronger position on the border question. Unionists in Northern Ireland are utterly opposed to a border poll and are loath to even discuss or consider the question. Instead, unionism has remained resolutely focused on resisting the Protocol, which they see as undermining Northern Ireland’s place in the Union, and on supporting the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. How the next Prime Minister engages with unionism on the Protocol issue will be consequential, and not just for unionism but for all in Northern Ireland. A more considered position on, and a more inclusive approach to, the Protocol which takes note of all swathes of opinion in Northern Ireland may temper calls for an intensification of the Irish unity debate. The third force in Northern Ireland politics – that which is classified as ‘other’ and is neither unionist nor nationalist in outlook – is also reticent about a referendum on Irish unity. This political category includes the Alliance Party, a party which has been gradually increasing its electoral appeal and is now the third largest political party in Northern Ireland after Sinn Féin and the DUP. Alliance does not take a position on the constitutional question. However, it is Northern Ireland’s ‘others’ who will be decisive in shaping the future direction of the constitutional debate in Ireland. Alliance supporters are more malleable on the constitutional question than are committed nationalists and unionists.

Jonathan Evershed How the new Prime Minister deals with Northern Ireland and the interests of this constituency may prove critical in directing the nascent constitutional debate. Sinn Féin is spearheading calls for a border poll. For many nationalists, the chaotic manner in which the British Government has managed Northern Ireland interests since the Brexit vote, has been a decisive factor in swaying them towards more serious and more immediate contemplation of an altered constitutional future. Brexit has also precipitated the emergence of civil society groups including Shared Ireland, Think32, and others actively pushing for a border poll. This cohort is already focused on the achievement of a new constitutional future, and regardless of the actions of the next British Prime Minister, is unlikely to backtrack on its push for constitutional change. Importantly, however, for all the unsettledness which Brexit has created in Northern Ireland, it has not led to the emergence of majority support for constitutional change. Despite important shifts in public opinion flowing from Brexit, opinion polls continue to suggest a majority in favour of Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK. It is not clear, therefore, that the UK vote to leave the EU will inevitably lead to a new constitutional settlement for the island of Ireland. What is clear however, is that the next British Prime Minister and how he/she deals with the Protocol issue will be a critical factor influencing the direction of the constitutional debate.

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Mol an óige Jack Chambers TD As one of the youngest deputies in the Dáil, with a Dublin base, a good rapport with his party’s membership, a track record of loyalty to the current leadership, and cabinet experience as a super junior minister, Jack Chambers TD is likely to have a bright future in Fianna Fáil. The Government Chief Whip sits down with Ciarán Galway to discuss political trajectory, priorities, and ambition. Though there are no less than four camáin in his office – complemented by a OPW-loaned illustration of hurlers anticipating a puck out – the Minister of State with responsibility for Sport insists his allegiances lie with the size five ball, having previously played football with the St Brigid’s club in Castleknock. Indeed, while both his parents hail from County Mayo – his father, Frank, from Newport and his mother, Barbara, from Hollymount – Chambers was born in Galway and raised in west Dublin from the age of two. Both his paternal and maternal families had traditional political affiliations and he is particularly keen to emphasise his anti-Treaty and Fianna Fáil lineage. Chambers’s great-grandmother, Nora Chambers, “was involved in some of the anti-Treaty ambushes around the 1920s”. Meanwhile, his great-aunt, Bridget Rice (née Henaghan), from Louisburgh, County Mayo, was married to Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD


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Eamon Rice of Iniskeen. After Eamon’s death in 1937, Bridget retained the seat for the party from 1938 until she retired in 1954. On the other hand, though, his mother’s family “would have been more Fine Gael”. More recently, his father was locally involved with Fianna Fáil in the Dublin West constituency, exposing him to political activity, which included canvassing for Brian Lenihan Jnr from a young age. Remarking on his relationship with his late party colleague, Chambers reflects: “Brian Lenihan was someone who showed incredible public service, who was a brilliant constituency politician but also was someone who represented the country with dignity and hard work in everything he did nationally. So, that is how I initially got involved in politics and I just got more active as I grew older.” However, the TD for Dublin West does not believe that his path into Fianna Fáil was preordained by virtue of his familial ties. Rather, he insists, it was conscious decision given that the party aligns with his

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People are ready for a more progressive style of governance.

own perspective “across a number of issues”, not least “the republican tradition”.

General Election. Following his subsequent election, at the age of 25, Chambers became the youngest TD in the 32nd Dáil.

“I think where we sit on issues such as housing, health, the State playing a strong role in our public services and that Lemass tradition of pro-enterprise as well. With their political figures, Fianna Fáil was always the right fit for me,” he asserts.

Having been fortified by his time as a councillor, he was unfazed by his rapid ascent to first time TD and embraced the challenge. “I always loved representation and following through on people’s issues since before I was ever elected. I was very much privileged to be selected by my local members, received good community support, and then was very consistent to my work ethic when it came to Fingal County Council. That gave me a very good platform to get elected to the Dáil in 2016.

Political origins Having completed a degree in law and political science at Trinity, Chambers had an obvious interest in pursuing a political career, but “did not know when the opportunity would arise”. As such, he subsequently enrolled to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). However, his journey into electoral politics started sooner than expected when, in 2014, he was elected to represent Castleknock in Fingal County Council. Chambers had been a local area representative since 2012 after David McGuinness failed to secure Fianna Fáil’s Dublin West seat in the October 2011 by-election, following the death of Brian Lenihan Jnr in June that year. Recollecting Fianna Fáil’s fortunes in Dublin during that era, Chambers outlines: “We had a huge absence of representation across the city not just with Dáil seats, but also the party was keen on building better council representation. “[Party leader] Micheál Martin TD was strong in encouraging new young candidates who had not run before and had an interest in politics to take the plunge. Some are now councillors, some are TDs, and some others dipped their toes in and found it was not for them. But it was a really inclusive way to bring new people into politics and give them a chance to run and become active in their local communities.” First time TD Experience garnered at local level provided him with sufficient momentum in the internal Fianna Fáil structures to contest the 2015 convention to be the party’s Dáil candidate for Dublin West in the 2016

“I suppose politics is about taking the chance when you have the opportunity and being courageous to run,” he reflects. Initially appointed as a party spokesperson on drugs, he then became Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson for both defence and climate action, communications, and the environment, as well as sitting on the Justice and Climate Action Committees. Reflecting on the learning curve, he recalls the advice of more experienced colleagues about “how to continue to run a good operation and how to manage your first period in the Dáil, and how important it is to continue to follow through and focus on the key issues of your constituents”. Simultaneously operating within the committee system, he suggests, instils “a good grounding on the policy issues and learning about different external perspectives on policy issues”. Second term A month after his re-election in the February 2020 General Election, Chambers finally qualified as a medical doctor. Upon formation of the triparty coalition government in June, the Dublin West TD was initially appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Finance before replacing colleague Dara Calleary TD as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht. Pushed as to whether he was disappointed when not appointed to a full cabinet portfolio in 2020, Chambers indicates that he was “delighted to be asked to serve as Government Chief Whip and as Minister for Sport and the Gaeltacht”.

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Jack Chambers TD

“A week is a long time in politics. In politics you are elected every number of years and so the best thing any Minister can do is work to follow through on your priorities every week and I am delighted with my current role,” he adds. As a super junior minister, or a Minister of State who attends cabinet, Chambers is the youngest voice in the cabinet of the 32nd Government of Ireland. “I think it is good that there is a young person’s voice,” he comments, adding: “In fairness, we have a cabinet that is a mix of different ages and backgrounds. I think it is healthy that in any working group and as a younger member of the cabinet I reflect the issues that come up not only for my generation but also for my constituency.”

Ideology Defining Fianna Fáil as a “strong party of the centre”, and one which is “pro-enterprise and inclusive”, the Dublin West TD identifies several broad distinct features. Among these, he emphasises party’s legacy in housing and the European Union, alongside its republicanism.

[As Chief Whip] you always work a week ahead, in a worst-case scenario position, so that the Government’s majority is protected at all costs.

“I believe in unity and our strong republican ideas, which is very much of being for the people, by the people and of the people, with that strong sense of constitutional republicanism,” he observes.

In November 2020, Chambers was also appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Defence. However, the position is largely ceremonial in function. Indeed, responding to a question from Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD in February 2021, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD stated: “No functions of the Minister for Defence have been delegated to the Minister of State and full responsibility for defence policies, the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces remains with Minister Coveney who will continue to represent Defence at cabinet.”

Making a comparison with other parties which he describes as populist in the pejorative sense, Chambers insists: “We are a party that gets things done in government and follows through. I think people have backed us in politics and in democratic representation because of our drive to follow through and represent our communities.”

As such, on certain occasions the Minister of State has “taken certain legislation in the Seanad and I have represented the Department and the Minister at different events, engagements, or interactions. So, duties are delegated intermittently”.

“I think that in politics we always have to be open to different perspectives and allow that to shape your own view and I support the current constitutional position. I think it is a better place in terms of women’s healthcare and giving people that choice,” he states.

Party youth While his involvement with Ógra Fianna Fáil was relatively limited, Chambers believes that party youth organisations can complement broader party structures. “That is a very important way of


“Youth wings have a very strong role, and they are very important part of spreading our message and allowing young people to shape our message and our policies. It is very important to have a tight involvement of Ógra in all aspects of policy and when the Taoiseach appointed Christopher O’Sullivan TD [as the parliamentary party’s Ógra liaison] it was a good way of supporting that.”


Looking ahead to a potential cabinet reshuffle in December 2022, Chambers is loath to speculate. “Any changes are a matter for the Taoiseach, but I am driven to do the job I am given and anything beyond that is a matter for the party leaders and the Taoiseach. We have a lot of work to do over the next six months,” he says. Defence

introducing people to politics and giving them that space to debate issues and shape policy. When I was involved with the Programme for Government, we had discussions trying to involve Ógra’s voice, and its input was really important.

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In May 2018, Chambers was one of 31 Fianna Fáil TDs and senators who posed in a photocall in Merrion Square Park, Dublin, urging voters to support of the retention of the Eighth Amendment. The stunt contrasted with leader Micheál Martin TD’s ultimately victorious support for Repeal. Today, in a significant volte face, the Dublin West TD is now supportive of abortion up to 12 weeks, in all circumstances. Explaining the complete reversal in his opinion, he credits having met people and “hearing different perspectives”.

“It is a big change in your perspective, but I think it is important that in politics you are open and listening and hearing different perspectives definitely persuaded me that today we are in a much better place now than we were.” Chief Whip In exercising his remit as Government Chief Whip, Chambers describes his style as “very collaborative and collegial” while also being strict on absences. “It is the working majority of the Government, and we need everyone present to ensure that that continues. But you also work with colleagues when it comes to pairing arrangements and authorised absence through illness or other specific matters. It has to be tight and as whip there can be no surprises; you have to know what is ahead,” he insists.

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Outlining priorities of this role, he indicates that the “first job is to manage the arithmetic of the coalition” to ensure “a very solid gap between the Government and the Opposition”. As such, management of the pairing system – especially in the context of Covid – and the business of the Dáil is key.

Challenges for Fianna Fáil

“In the Business Committee, I present the government business every week, and try to develop a consensus there with my opposition colleagues. I also chair the Government Legislation Committee which works on priority legislation and sequencing the legislation through the Houses.

Identifying housing as the primary challenge prioritised by Fianna Fáil in government, the Chief Whip describes Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien TD as having undertaken “excellent work in repositioning our legislative architecture” around affordability and protection for renters, while DPER Minister Michael McGrath TD has, he argues, introduced “a serious step change in the State’s investment in public and affordable housing”.

“As whip, you are the interface of the Government and the Dáil when it comes to the running of the Government’s business. Managing that and managing a cohesive team has been important to delivering an ambitious legislative programme.”

“The next phase on that is to see a follow through on that and commence and a real step change on the level of social and affordable housing. I think that is the issue of this generation.


As a party, delivering on housing is a key priority for us Outlining that Government has enacted “over 100 pieces of legislation”, Chambers explains that he also liaises with the Attorney General and government ministers on this sequencing. “There is a lot of work that goes into that behind the scenes as well as always trying to be a week ahead of myself,” he notes. Fine Gael Deputy Joe McHugh’s resignation of the party whip threatened to destabilise the Government’s stability. However, the failed motion of no confidence in the Government, as tabled by Sinn Féin ahead of the 2022 summer recess, is now the Chief Whip’s base metric for the Government’s reliable majority. “I think we were able to prove that with a majority of 19 in the confidence motion which gives us strong stability going into the winter period,” he says. At the same time, he warns against complacency and adds: “[As Chief Whip] you always work a week ahead, in a worst-case scenario position, so that the Government’s majority is protected at all costs.”

“As a party, this was one of our primary issues as we entered government and delivering on housing is a key priority for us. We have seen progress but there is more to do and that is why we are keen to ensure progress, and Housing for All is a key step for change on our policy on that.” Responding to the cost-of-living and energy crises is a second priority flagged by Chambers. “The fiscal space that is now available with the improved management of the economy sometimes gets overseen,” he contends, adding: “Coming out of Covid we are one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. We have one of the highest levels of employment. That has given us the space to protect the most vulnerable, give opportunities to those most in need.” Ambitions Reflecting on his own ambitions and whether he may, one day, seek to lead Fianna Fáil, he concludes: “That is not in my thinking at the moment. I am honoured to do the job I do, and I look forward to doing it over the coming weeks and months. I am someone who is focused and driven by the issues and areas that I have responsibility for and that is my motivation for the current term ahead.”

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Ernie O’Malley: His life according to Harry F Martin and Cormac KH O’Malley Published in late 2021, Ernie O'Malley: A Life seeks to distil the life story of one of the most prominent figures of the Irish revolutionary period, and, later, a muchadmired writer. Ciarán Galway sits down with co-authors Harry F Martin and Cormac KH O’Malley – Ernie O’Malley’s son – to discuss the mercurial man. A native of Castlebar, County Mayo, Ernie O’Malley pursued medical studies in UCD before abandoning both his studies and his conservative and Anglocentric family home. Immersed in revolutionary fervour following the Easter Rising, he rapidly ascended the ranks of the IRA, ultimately becoming a commandant-general at the age of 23. Having survived both the War of Independence and the Civil War, during which time he endured captivity, torture, and escape, as well as severe battle wounds and a 41-day hunger strike, the second half of his life was no less interesting. Described variously as an ‘intellectual’ and a ‘renaissance man’, he rejected the postrevolution consensus of the Irish Free State, instead embarking on travels across Europe, America, and Mexico, traversing artistic communities in Provincetown, Greenwich Village, Carmel, Taos, Santa Fe, 110

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Mexico City, Woodstock, and Yaddo. Along the way, he became a contemporary of figures such as Edward Weston, Hart Crane, Katherine Ann Porter, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Jack B Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and John Ford, among others. At the same time, he undertook a tumultuous marriage with American heiress-sculptor Helen Hooker, the mother of his three children, Cathal, Etain, and Cormac. A respected writer, at the time of his death aged 59, much of O’Malley’s work was left unpublished. Reflecting on his most renowned account, On Another Man’s Wound, John McGahern wrote: “[It is] one classic work to have emerged directly from the violence that led to independence.”

Ciarán Galway (CG): Why did you

feel compelled to write a biography of Ernie O’Malley?

Harry F Martin (HFM): What drew

me to him was the incredible courage that he had, and the stamina to go through being wounded, tortured, etcetera, and never giving up. And that same drive, which took him through an unbelievably difficult warring period, including the tragic Civil War, and when he came out and there was nothing in Ireland for him, and nobody wanted these rebel kids anymore. He did not give up. He went on to have an incredibly interesting career as a writer, a friend of intellectuals, and a sponsor of the arts. He was just this dual character who draws you to him because he was so unusual. The warrior thing really compels you; the fact that he did not really care whether he lived or died.

Cormac O’Malley (CO’M): Harry drove the story with his passion for the character and I filled in on the factual side. Father had already written and between his two books on the War of Independence [On Another Man’s Wound] and the Civil War [The Singing Flame] – and the books that I had published of his letters, both in the Civil War and the rest of his life – we had a basic framework. What I was able to provide in between that was material that is not included in the letters, so that Harry got a better feeling for the characters. CG: How can you distil a multifaceted character like Ernie O’Malley into a single book? HFM: You do that with great effort. I had to keep getting rid of material all the time when I finally realised that both my co-author and my wife were right most of the time and all these extra pages that I had on Ernie had to come out. Then the real writing and learning begins, where you can say something concisely and you never tell the reader that he was a great guy, you let the reader find out. The most excruciating part of the writing was boiling down into the briefest possible explanation, what this terribly complex guy was like in the last half of his life. CG: How do you define Ernie O’Malley’s Irish republicanism? CO’M: He was initially taken up with the

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whole Sinn Féin cause. Once he joined that, there was a commitment throughout to the Sinn Féin principles. You can see over the initiation of the Truce, where he smelled something was going wrong, and leading that up into the debate on the Treaty when he offered his resignation to [Richard] Mulcahy. There was again, a Sinn Féin consistency at that period as well as with the no compromise over the Treaty and the Four Courts. This goes through the rest of his life. He is a Sinn Féiner and will not join Fianna Fáil. He accepts the hospitality of [Éamon] de Valera to go to America because it is an excuse to get out of Ireland. When he is asked, in January 1929, by Frank Aiken, to speak on behalf of de Valera – who had just been arrested – father said: ‘No, I am here on a mission to recommend and raise funds for the Irish Press.’ Basically, he was saying that he will not speak on behalf of a Fianna Fáiler. At the end of his life, the irony is that de Valera is able to capture the O’Malley mantle by offering him a state funeral. In that way, O’Malley gets tucked into de Valera’s heritage.

CG: To what extent did O’Malley

develop class consciousness?

CO’M: He was empathetic to what was

happening in the world. He saw different people from different types of life, whether they be the Plunketts, who were well off, or the Lynchs or the Kilroys, who were not well off. He was dealing with people from different backgrounds. Now, he had an intellectual superiority in a certain sense. He bemoans the fact that he cannot hear music, or talk to anyone about art. Does that interfere with his mission? No. He just happens to remark on it. He said that he would love to hear music. Why would he go to the National Gallery on a Thursday night when it is open after 17:00? Because that is his thing. He loves art and he bemoans that there is no one else in there, and certainly not from the revolution.

CG: What explains Ernie O’Malley’s rapid

ascent through the ranks of the IRA?

HFM: He was an intellectual and it came to the attention of [Michael] Collins and [Richard] Mulcahy that he had somehow educated himself. He never had any real military training aside from reading the British books. Then, on the other hand, he had been all over Ireland as an organiser,

so he had experience of a wide variety of men. Then he had this particular charisma. This combination of qualities did not exist in the other men. They had not been organisers all over the place, and they certainly did not have the intellectual discipline to understand how to organise and all the aspects that go into putting a combat unit together. Then he had this charisma, and they took a chance on him, and they were right.

CO’M: In addition to that, unlike the other

leaders, who were in competition, you have to recall that Ernie O’Malley had worked directly under Collins. After each time he went out on a mission, he would return to St Enda’s School, and he would be doing the paperwork and they would be having their conversations. There are a couple of instances in On Another Man’s Wound where Collins asks my father’s opinion on certain people. Father actually gives a very frank opinion, but never totally honest in the sense that he does not tear down a character. So, Collins perceives that O’Malley has the capacity to observe, the capacity to act, and the capacity to be a leader.

CG: While he was a born combat leader, to what extent were his limitations as a headquarters strategist later exposed? HFM: [Seán] Lemass said, as a combat leader, O’Malley was wonderful but as a strategic leader, on a higher level, he was a failure. It was clear that the republicans had lost the Civil War and O’Malley adamantly refused to recognise it, even though he was sending military dispatches – that Cormac has put together in No Surrender Here – to [Liam] Lynch, and they can barely get to him because he has no good communications, saying the so-and-so division up here is all shattered, they have captured everybody. Yet he still retained that command, and he was kidding himself.

He was magnificent, really, as an irregular guerrilla combat leader, but he had had no combat experience – neither had Lynch – in larger operational, set-piece battles. And he was terrible in that because his passion as a young republican did not allow him to see that he was in a totally hopeless situation. That was his greatest weakness.

CG: Was his single mindedness at the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty a weakness?

HFM: Yes. There was one other thing that drove every one of those young generals and that was that the Free State was exercising some of the same terrible cruelties that the British had. And as they saw their comrades imprisoned, killed in gaol, blown up in [County] Kerry. They reacted. This emotion that a terrible injustice was being done by their former comrades against their men made it even more difficult for them to see reality.

CO’M: I think that is right; there was a

blindness. Even if they had have met with Collins in June 1921, would they have accepted a compromise leading up to a truce? They might have. So, there was a narrowmindedness in terms of their objective, early on. When you go down to counties Mayo, Kerry, Cork, or some parts of Tipperary – even today – you will find great support for that original feeling that no compromise was the best position. The fact that it was not really attainable, that six counties had gone, permanently, were never going to be achieved by military force, or political force at the time; they just did not accept that. And the British Empire was not going to give up on an oath of allegiance in some form or other, for a democratic republic to be established. They were blind to those facts.

CG: What options faced Ernie O’Malley upon release from Free State captivity in July 1924? Why did he reject politics?


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“My effort has been to put my father’s books on the shelf and let them stand for themselves. I will certainly continue to do that.” Cormac KH O’Malley HFM: He had no prospects. He had no

money. He really, by that time, had probably figured out that he did not want to be a doctor; he was too inflexible and too purist. He did not want to be a politician. He has no future. He returns to the family home and his father is still angry at him. He is terribly wounded and so he goes to recuperate in Europe and the depth of his stamina is shown but he never gives up on the fact that he is going to be a significant person in the world. When he is in Europe, he is ‘General O’Malley’. When he is sent to America, he is ‘the General’. The fact that he is a general may give him access to people like [John] Ford, the film director, and [Paul] Strand, the photographer, and all these people. That makes him the intimate of all these creative intellectuals. Hart Crane and Katherine Ann Porter were leading writers of the time – and Hart Crane says of him: ‘I have my most pleasant literary moments with an Irish revolutionary, the most quietly sincere and appreciative person I’ve ever met… Ernest O’Malley by name. And we drink a lot together – look at frescos – and agree.’ He could create intimacy with people in an hour or two and leave such a lasting impression that when he goes to the New York, he is entrée to all the deepest intellectuals. So, what he does in the second part of his life is recreate himself. He was always a deep intellectual, but the same drive that makes him a great military leader, makes him a great, charismatic intellectual that all the elite of America and Mexico relate to, and that propels him to Ireland.

CO’M: Going back to your question as to

what happened to his role in politics in 1924 was that he remained a Sinn Féiner. Though he is in bad health as he gets out of gaol, he attends an IRA Army Council just


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one month later, in August, and he accepts a position to become a member of the fiveman executive committee. As Harry mentioned, he takes off for Europe, but that is for health reasons, not for political reasons. When he comes back in 1925, 1926, and 1927, he is still a member of Sinn Féin at UCD, and he had a little carrying card. So, the real question is when does he ever give up the political ambitions of Sinn Féin? He is a member of the parliament and that expires in 1927. Does he re-run? No. Is he available for re-running? Yes, because he is in Ireland at the time of that election, but he decides not to. So, clearly by 1927 he has come to a decision. The political world had failed Ireland and he did not want to have any part in it.

CG: How do you explain the stark contrast between the revolutionary years and then second half of his life? HFM: He is not a casual intellectual. During the warring years, he carried these books around. He was a relative expert on Spanish painting. He used Lorenzo de' Medici as his model. He has this deep, incisive knowledge of painting, literature, philosophy, and history, which he is trying to keep alive as he is an itinerant warrior with no base at all. So, this was not something new for him, it was something that lay nascent there during the warring years. All he had to do was touch a match to it and it lit up again. Then, the minute he gets a chance, he starts writing these books. If he was not a deep, creative intellectual, how could all these American intellectuals relate to him and accept him immediately, with those natural qualities that he had?

CG: Was it romanticism that endeared American intellectuals to Ernie O’Malley?

HFM: I think it may have been. I think he is a great romantic. Cormac and I never discussed this. I think he is a great romantic.

CO’M: I do not know how to answer that. I can describe what he is like. He believes in himself and what he is capable of doing. He says he finds happiness in the arts. He does not want to become the surgeon that will save lives, he would rather become the art historian or the person who helps preserve Irish culture and gets Irish culture back into the mainstream of Ireland. Now, if you look at the cultural revival movement of the early 20th century, he would have subscribed fully into that. Is that romanticism? That is cultural, whether it is romantic or not. I totally agree with Harry’s characterisation of him, that he was not a ‘bohemian’ in what we think of that as a term. But he was an intellectual who had aspirations for how Irish culture could be changed and how, in fact, over the course of years, during the Free State government and later, during de Valera, that was not achieved. The fact that Ireland is there now, I think Ernie O’Malley would be very happy with the cultural activities in Ireland.

CG: To what extent was Ernie O’Malley’s time spent travelling in the US and forming relationships with intellectuals his golden era? Was he hampered by his relative poverty? HFM: He was hampered always by his

poverty. In New York City, he is surrounded by all these rich people, or highly successful intellectuals, like Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer, and the brilliant intellectual James Johnson Sweeney – who becomes the second director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum – and he is broke. The fact that he was the glamorous general who was now an intellectual in the middle of Manhattan led a mutual friend to get Elon and Blanche Hooker, parents of Helen Hooker, to invite him to the Sunday lunches at their mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, where they were searching for suitors for the daughters. Their youngest daughter, [Blanchette Ferry Hooker], had just married the most eligible bachelor in America, the tall, fit, bright John D Rockefeller III and there was Ernie O’Malley talking to Elon Hooker about how the United States had been so unfair to the American Indians, and there was the tumultuous, independent,

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beautiful Helen Hooker looking at him, thinking, ‘now, here is the young man who can stand up to my father.’

CG: Through his marriage to Helen Hooker – a woman completely removed from revolutionary Ireland – in London in 1935, to what extent did Ernie O’Malley finally break with Irish republicanism? CO’M: I think you need to divide

republicanism into what the Republic stood for in its original values. I think Irish culture would be one of the pillars upon which he wanted to establish the Irish Republic. He was frustrated because it never came about – the Republic in the first instance and the culture in the second. He only got married in London because my mother was not a Christian and they could not get married in a religious ceremony in Ireland. Father found out that the Brompton Oratory [or Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary] allowed a non-Christian to be married outside the altar. So, they went to London to get married, then they returned to Dublin. He started to build a republic of the mind, namely in culture and ideas, which was not a political republic, with his friends Frank O’Connor, Seán Ó Faoláin, and other people who sat around the table and were fairly intellectual. My mother fitted into that to the extent that she was an artist, knew artistic people, and was a sculptor and photographer. They started to build up a society which was to their liking through the arts, theatre, sculpture, articles to support of the arts, and exhibitions. So, you can see what he had said back in 1929, in the interview in Seattle, that “my soul lies with the arts. In them lies happiness. I hope to be able to restore Ireland’s interest in them”. When he found an artist whom he could marry that had no affiliation with Ireland, that gave him the security, personally within their marriage, that Irishness was not an element that needed to be considered. And when they come home to Ireland, they are able to concentrate just on the arts, not on the politics.

CG: What are your memories of your

father, Cormac?

CO’M: I arrive on the scene in 1942 when

the family is living happily in the west in Burrishoole Lodge [Newport, County Mayo].

My parents have developed a selfsustaining farm, following de Valera’s calls under neutrality that Ireland should be self-sustaining. By that time, my mother has received some funds from the death of her father, and she is able to acquire neighbouring lands – building up a 40-acre farm – and able to employ people. They start living a life where this military, artistic character who wanted to do all these great plans, has become a farmer. That creates an inherent resentment because he does not want to be a farmer. My mother leaves in 1950, and I do not have many memories of either of my parents back in the family household in the 1940s. In the 1950s, it is a one-on-one relationship with my father. He is the man taking care of me. Our actual period of interaction is somewhat limited but notwithstanding that, it is still very close. When we move up to Dublin, it is the same thing. I come out on the weekends and help to take care of him. I would say we had a loving, warm relationship in which I was social focus. You can see that in his letters in which he writes with great pride of me to his friends that I am doing well in school.

CG: Do you have any recollection of

your father travelling the country and putting pen to paper?

CO’M: Indeed. When I was out of school, we would go off together – he had a car – and he was not paid to do it. We would sleep under the car with a Mac over ourselves, and that was better for the back than sleeping in somebody’s bad country bed; he also did not what to impose. I have memories of him going off and doing those things. In fact, he wrote two-and-a-half million words, and then he wrote those twoand-a-half-million words in a second version. So, there are five million words of Irish history which have yet to be published in full form, but there will be about 10 volumes and they will be out within a couple of years. CG: How would you like Ernie O’Malley to be remembered or would you rather publish his work and let it speak for itself? HFM: I think Ernie died a reasonably happy man, knowing that he had first made

a contribution toward freedom in the warring period. But during this second period, and by the time of his death, he realised that he had made an important contribution to Ireland, that he had been a great writer, and I hope he felt content with himself. I believe that he did.

CO’M: I think he was disappointed by his

early death and there were many things that he wanted to accomplish. We have correspondence from 1954/55 when he is writing to people and saying that. In a letter to Paul Strand he wrote of his realisation that the people he was talking to were dying and so his primary focus was to try to get them while they were still alive so that Irish history could be written. He never published Irish history in a way that he had envisioned. In that sense, the cause did not meet the expectation. Over 20 years, I have undertaken to put his name on a shelf. By that I mean, publish the books as I have – or republish and expand them – and publish his letters, and publish his diaries. There are plenty of other diaries on his trips to Spain and New Mexico, which outlines his understanding of the indigenous peoples. He considers Irish culture to be an indigenous culture that had been invaded by British culture and what he wanted to do was to give sustaining integrity to the original culture. So, my effort has been to put my father’s books on the shelf and let them stand for themselves. I will certainly continue to do that.

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Proposal for further northern Oireachtas representation voted down A recent proposal to grant standing invitee status to northern MPs and MLAs, allowing them to sit on Oireachtas committees that do not vote on legislation, has been voted down by the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform. The proposal, which had been passed unanimously by the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in January 2022, was rejected amid claims that it could have “legal or constitutional implications”. The proposal, if passed, would have granted standing invitee status for northern MPs and MLAs on special Oireachtas committees that do not vote on legislation. Elected representatives from the North do currently have special invitee status for the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, a status which grants them speaking rights and access to Oireachtas papers. The proposed move to extend this status to further non-legislative committees was rejected by a majority of the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform, with a belief in government


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that standing invitee status could “amount to de-facto membership of an Oireachtas committee, which may have legal or constitutional implications”, that the structure of standing invitees would be different from the current d’Hondt system of membership, and that the presence of standing invitees would eat into the speaking time of elected Oireachtas representatives. The voting down of the proposal has led the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD to accuse the Government of a “coordinated effort” to try to exclude Stormont and Westminster representatives from the Oireachtas. In a letter to her Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Green Party counterparts Micheál Martin TD, Leo Varadkar TD, and Eamon Ryan TD, McDonald stated that she had felt there had been “positive engagement” on the issue until the month leading up to

the vote and that she felt the rejection of the proposal flew in the face of the recent National Economic and Social Council (NESC) Shared Island report that “emphasised that a shared agenda and a set of interests is a key enabler of crossborder collaboration”. The idea of such expanded northern representation in the bodies of the Oireachtas is not new, with the former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claiming that he had received assurances from then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that speaking rights in the Dáil for MPs, a claim that was later amended to speaking rights in Oireachtas committees, in their discussions in the lead-up to the Provisional IRA’s announcement of the cessation of its armed campaign in July 2005. It is unlikely that this will signal the end of the pursual of expanded rights for northern representatives in the Oireachtas, with Sinn Féin certainly in a much stronger electoral position in 2022 than in 2005. The party’s leader in the Seanad, Niall Ó Donnghaile, stated that the rejection “sends a very negative message to people in the North” and pledged to continue to pursue the issue.

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TRADE UNION DESK Priorities for Budget 2023 Real incomes and living standards will fall for most households in 2022, writes Tom McDonnell, Co-Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), as he considers the priorities for Budget 2023. Cost of living pressures are creating almost daily demands for wage increases and for fiscal and regulatory measures to relieve the burden on households. Economy-wide price inflation is likely to average over 8 per cent but reach 10 per cent for lower income households (which spend a higher portion of their incomes on the type of necessities such as energy, food, and rent). We will see a significant rise in poverty and deprivation rates for those on fixed incomes without meaningful policy interventions from government. Therefore, all social protection payments in Budget 2023 should at least match inflation to protect or increase real incomes and to ensure that no one is left behind by the cost-of-living crisis. Budgetary supports should be targeted on those households likely to experience distress and government should not attempt to chase inflation for all households. Fortunately, the public finances are in a reasonably strong position. Tax receipts have been buoyant this year with a modest projected surplus in both 2022 and 2023. The expected €6.7 billion budgetary package is broadly appropriate in terms of the fiscal stance, albeit plans to cut taxes are short-sighted. The Government should remain conscious of the medium-to-long-run fiscal pressures including demographic change, international changes to the treatment of corporation tax, and the gradual loss of receipts from fuel excises as Ireland achieves its climate targets. The reliance on corporation tax receipts is a further worry as it means the health of the public finances depends on the performance of a small subset of firms.

Higher income households have generally built-up significant savings during the pandemic with aggregate household deposits rising sharply and accumulated net savings exceeding €20 billion according to the Central Bank. Many of these households can absorb the hit to their real incomes by reducing their rate of savings. Such households do not need fiscal support from government and are unlikely to experience deprivation or a meaningful qualitative decline in their living standards. As such, the Government should only directly help low-income households with targeted income supports, while higher income households should look more towards wage increases. Pro-cyclical tax cuts would be a mistake. Cutting taxes for middle and high earners via the introduction of a third income tax band or through a significant increase in the standard rate cut off point will be regressive and will add to inflationary pressures. It will also do nothing for most of the households experiencing income adequacy issues due to the cost-of-living crisis. Instead, the Government should seek to consolidate its revenue base by eliminating tax breaks such as the help to buy scheme.

the ‘social wage’ provided through subsidised universal public services. This should form part one of a multiannual process of increasing government spending on collective early year services, on education and public R&D, on healthcare, on public transport, and on public housing services. Universalist measures such as free or more heavily subsidised public transport would simultaneously support carbon reduction targets. A key focus and theme of this strategy for Budget 2023 should be on reducing the user costs to households, for example in areas like health and education. Unlike cuts to income tax, such an approach will help dampen inflationary pressures. Medium-term cost of living measures ought to focus on areas where Ireland is particularly out of line with other countries. Good examples include direct government funding for the labour component of childcare services in conjunction with regulated caps on nonlabour costs, alongside measures to directly increase the supply of affordable and cost rental housing. The cost of inaction in these two areas will be a weaker labour force and a poorer and less competitive economy.

On the other hand, Ireland’s per capita level of public spending is well below that of other high-income EU countries. This has consequences in terms of our ability to address the ongoing crises in housing, in healthcare, in early childhood care, and education, alongside a range of other areas. Budget 2023 should build on our collective economic and social infrastructure through greater funding of

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Meet the

Meet the media: Flor MacCarthy Flor MacCarthy is an award-winning author and journalist whose first book The Presidents Letters: An Unexpected History of Ireland was published in October 2021. A former RTÉ News journalist and anchor, she presents political debates on Oireachtas TV, interviewing politicians, academics, and journalists, both in Ireland and at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Flor is from Skibbereen, County Cork and lives in Dún Laoghaire County Dublin with her family.

How did you get into journalism? I was lucky enough to start my career in journalism with RTÉ. Following an arts degree in Trinity College, Dublin (history of art and architecture/French), I was contributing to radio programmes while trying to figure out what to do next. The radio bug bit big time and I knew that I had found my direction. I did a post-grad broadcasting course and got a placement with RTÉ. It was the 1990s and there was only a handful of us reporters working from the studios in Cork, so we got superb training in every aspect of broadcasting; from radio reporting to news journalism, to live radio and 116

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television presenting. The summer of 1996 was a memorable one when I borrowed my mother's car and went on tour presenting RTÉ Nationwide. From there I moved to RTÉ HQ in Donnybrook and spent the next 15 years living the dream as an RTÉ News reporter and presenter.

How do you think the profession is evolving? When I started in journalism there were still filing cabinets in the newsroom, along with fax machines, and ashtrays. The arrival of computers for every desk revolutionised the job of the reporter, with instant online access to

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“The most significant change of course has been the sheer volume of information, and therefore disinformation, in the digital world.” Flor MacCarthy, Oireachtas TV

information and images. I remember doing a TV report on “the information super-highway”, it seems light years ago now. But the most significant change of course has been the sheer volume of information, and therefore disinformation, in the digital world. Factchecking and verifying sources has never been more important.

What are the challenges of working in broadcast journalism? I remember reporting on the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 for RTÉ News and as the cameraman, Pat Fogarty, and I lugged a camera, tripod, edit gear, lights, and cables along the ravaged west coast of Thailand, I remarked on how our colleagues from the print media simply carried a notebook and a pen. For television we had to physically meet every interviewee and visit every location we reported on. Of course that has all changed now as most reporters are multimedia journalists and those distinctions between print, audio, and video reporting have blurred.

Who do you admire most within the industry and why? I learned so much from brilliant colleagues in RTÉ News, in particular Andy Sheppard on foreign news; Órla de Barra on what makes a good story; Morgan O'Kelly on the importance of a great editor; and Eileen Dunne on how to stay cool in studio when it is all going off. I was co-presenting the RTÉ News: Six-One with Eileen the day the Concorde crashed in Paris. It was all unfolding so fast we had no script in the autocue for the headlines, and eleven

live interviews with no idea who was coming up next. Viewers were oblivious; it was a masterclass.

was as a direct result of my investigation, but the plan was dropped by the Government shortly afterwards.

What has been your most significant story or project to date?

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Often it can be the ‘smaller’ stories which leave an indelible mark. One such story for me was the time I reported from Copenhagen on how asylum seekers in Denmark were being housed in ‘floatels’ – decommissioned military vessels moored in the bay. I interviewed several people in their cramped quarters; one Ukrainian woman, Vildana, was trying to grow a houseplant in a windowless cabin, so that she could keep alive the memory of her garden. Human rights activists were up in arms at plans to introduce a similar system here. My reports were quoted in the Dáil, debates ensued, and the story was picked up by other news outlets. I will never know if it

As I am freelancing these days, I can pretend to be working wherever I am. I love to get down to west Cork as often as possible where I keep a little mooring in Baltimore. We have had various boats on it over the years, at the moment there is a 15 foot Wayfarer sailboat which I picked up recently for €780 and have spent the summer drifting around between the islands of Sherkin and Heir sometimes accompanied by Paul Cunningham, our kids, and/or the dog. Otherwise, reading (mostly history), languages, photography, and cinema.

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Political Platform How did your political career begin? My progression into political life was not always predetermined or straight forward. While I had grown up in a political household, in that my late father was a councillor for the Blackrock Electoral Area in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, I had no interest in running myself for many years. However, after the implosion of the Irish economy following the recession and witnessing the serious fallout as a result, I decided to volunteer to canvass for Olivia Mitchell in the 2011 General Election. I never anticipated running myself until 2014 when Fine Gael were looking for candidates for the local elections. When Olivia retired in 2016, I ran in the general election and was elevated to cabinet in 2017.

What are your most notable achievements in the Oireachtas to date?

Josepha Madigan TD First elected to represent Dublin Rathdown in Dáil Éireann in 2016, Fine Gael’s Josepha Madigan TD was re-elected in 2020, and was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion in July 2020. Previously, she served as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht from November 2017 until June 2020.

In July 2016, I introduced a Private Members’ Bill, the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 which, once enacted, reduced the time by which a spouse can apply for a divorce from four years to two culminating in an 82 per cent majority vote by way of referendum in 2019. My appointment as the coordinator for Fine Gael’s Yes campaign in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment by then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD was another moment I will never forget. Witnessing one of the most seismic and significant cultural and political determinations of my generation was empowering, but to have played a part in Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote was something I will always cherish. I was very proud to have recently passed


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the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Act 2022 in the most recent term. The Act seeks to ensure adequate provision of special educational needs placements for our most vulnerable students and providing the necessary supports to schools and their staff.

What is unique about representing the Dublin Rathdown constituency? Dublin Rathdown is one of the few threeseater constituencies in the country. It is primarily made up of families who wish to raise their children in some safety and where they have access to schools, churches, shopping centres, green spaces, and sports clubs. Public transport, traffic and housing are all challenges in a constituency like Dublin Rathdown which is very densely populated. The constituency runs the gamut from the Kilternan in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains all the way to part of the Dodder in Clonskeagh. Dublin Rathdown has a great community spirit which was exemplified by the kindness of neighbours to each other during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are your priorities going forward? In my current role as Minister of State with Responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion, it is my ultimate priority to ensure that every single child in the country with an additional educational need has a school place. I know many of us would have some fond memories of our time at school, building memorable relationships with particular teachers, the classrooms filled with colour and music, the play dates and school trips. School is truly a wonderful place, and no child should be excluded from having those experiences. The budget for special education, the number of SNAs and SETs in our schools, the number of special classes nationwide, and the number of special schools are all increasing year-on-year. Being the first government minister appointed to this brief says plenty about

“Fine Gael has a proven track record in managing the economy having brought the public finances back under control after the financial crisis.” Josepha Madigan TD changing attitudes towards supporting families and children with additional needs. The resources which may not have been available to families in the past are now coming on stream and we are seeing those advancements in care and special education benefitting thousands of our children and young adults each year.

How can Fine Gael maximise its impact during the lifetime of the current government? It is imperative that Fine Gael in government continues to implement a responsible and calculated management of the country’s finances. We now have more people employed than ever before, and more and more companies are choosing Ireland as the location for their European headquarters, bringing thousands of well-paid jobs. Our economic outlook for the next 12 months is looking positive. Fine Gael has a proven track record in managing the economy having brought the public finances back under control after the financial crisis, successfully decreasing the deficit without increasing income tax or cutting core social welfare rates of Jobseeker’s Benefit, Carer’s Allowance, or the State Pension. We balanced the budget, recording an Exchequer surplus in 2018 for the first time since 2006. The deficit was €22 billion in 2011. With Fine Gael in government, Ireland had the fastest

growing economy in Europe for five years in a row between 2015 and 2019. Fine Gael will never apologise for standing up for middle income earners, as well as those on lower incomes. The Tánaiste recently discussed the idea of a third tax band that would assist middle income earners with the cost of living. The squeezed middle, despite paying a large proportion of income tax, do not qualify for many state supports. Amending the tax bands appropriately would ensure that the squeezed middle does not lose most of any pay increase it gets in income tax, USC and PRSI, and pension and welfare increases.

What are your interests outside of the political sphere? I like to keep fit by running 5km, usually every second morning. I go to the gym on the days I am not running for strength and conditioning. It is also a good way to de-stress. Spending time with my husband and teenage sons when I can is very important to me. I read at mass in Mount Merrion Church once a month. I love the theatre and the opera and all types of music. I am a complete bibliophile. There is nothing nicer to me than a good book and I also dabble in creative writing when I find the time.

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Need for rapid emission reductions can no longer be ignored The sectoral targets are the first step in government delivering a system-wide, transformational decline in polluting emissions, outlines Bríd Walsh, Climate Policy Coordinator, Friends of the Earth. After the extensive media coverage and political horse-trading in recent weeks, people may be asking what has happened when it comes to climate action in Ireland. In short, the main elements of a new governance and accountability process have been introduced.

The sectoral emission ceilings also do not cover all sectors of the economy because the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry sector has not yet been allocated a sectoral ceiling. The Climate Change Advisory Council has also cautioned that the ceilings fall short of the State’s 2030 target. So, it is not all plain sailing.

Following the introduction of a new climate law last year, the Government firstly set what are known as carbon budgets. In short, this means the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Ireland can legally emit for the periods from 2021 to 2025, and from 2026 to 2030.

We also must remember that while carbon budgets and sectoral emission ceilings are necessary the very act of setting a target on emissions suggests that we have emissions credit left to spend. But all we have to do is look to the recent heatwaves and flooding on our doorstep, and the climate-fuelled drought and famine in Sub-Saharan Africa to fathom the scale of our carbon and ecological debt. We are in debt to those in the Global South who have done least to cause the climate crisis and are being hit first and hardest, and to younger and future generations who will bear the brunt of climate impacts.

To live within these budgets, the Government then had to divide up this ‘pollution pie’. In other words, the Government had to decide on the maximum number of emissions that each sector can emit during each of the five-year budget periods. These are known as sectoral emission ceilings. This is where the rubber met the road, with the ceilings being the subject of intense negotiation earlier this summer. The Government finally published the ceilings on 28 July 2022. They represent a positive step forward for climate action across government departments, economic sectors, and communities. However, Friends of the Earth has concerns. The sectoral emissions ceilings are not in full accordance with the Climate Act as they set a percentage reduction by 2030, not the number of emissions permitted for each sector. In other words, sectors have been given a 2030 emission reduction target but are missing the key piece of information of how much they can emit to stay within the budget limits.


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The sectoral ceilings must function as a means to an end: a system-wide, transformational decline in polluting emissions. The Government’s focus must now shift to implementation across every sector while supporting vulnerable and impacted communities. There is also reason to be optimistic when you consider the impressive level of engagement from the public and the media on the need for ambitious, fair climate targets in recent weeks. There is a clear appetite for change and a sense that people want the Government to act on climate with the urgency and leadership it requires.

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