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Pivoting to a more connected Ireland Three’s Ciara O’Reilly HSE Assistant National Director for Digital Organisational Change, Maria O’Loughlin discusses the future of work
An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD talks priorities and ambitions for the tri-party coalition
Transport • Water • Connectivity and future of work
Opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald TD reflects on opportunities
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Interview: An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD
Cover story: Three’s Ciara O’Reilly discusses connectivity
Round table discussion: Delivering Ireland’s offshore wind energy ambition
Interview: Opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald TD
ESRI projections for the pandemic recession and child poverty
Overview: Ireland’s transport policy
Round table discussion: The future of mobility
The future of greenways and active travel
BBC broadcaster Joe Lynam on infrastructure opportunities
Overview: Ireland’s water policy
Water quality statistics
Data centre consumption
Connectivity and future of work 100
Overview: Ireland’s connectivity priorities
Interview: HSE Assistant National Director for Digital Organisational Change, Maria O’Loughlin
National Broadband Plan update
122 Europe 122
Brigid Laffan on Europe’s coalitions and cleavages
Lack of progress in latest Brexit negotiations
126 Public affairs 126
Restructuring government departments
Interview: Assistant Secretary Michael Errity from the Houses of the Oireachtas Service
Meet the media: TheJournal.ie political correspondent Christina Finn
Political platform: Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown Neale Richmond
Back page: Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly
15-16 October 2020 • Dates for your diary! Environment Ireland® is Ireland’s major environmental policy and management conference, now in its 16th year. The 2020 conference has expanded to a two-day event and is going virtual for the first time, keeping attendees safe whilst giving the opportunity to discuss all the important issues in Ireland’s environment.
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Speakers confirmed so far… Professor Jim Skea, Co-Chair,
Working Group III, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland
Evelyn Cusack, Head of Forecasting, Met Éireann
Deborah Spence, Partner, Arthur Cox Philip Nugent, Assistant Secretary, Circular Economy, Natural Resources and Waste Policy, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Mary Kelly-Quinn, Senior Lecturer,
Jane Stout, Professor, Botany, Trinity College Dublin
Brian Carroll, Assistant Secretary General of Climate Action and Environment, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Professor Chris Elliott, Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast
Abigail O'Callaghan Platt, Project Lead, VOICE Ireland
David Fitzsimons, Director,
European Remanufacturing Council
School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin
Trish Murphy, Project Officer,
Bruce Harper, Consultant, Antaris
Change Advisory Council Ireland
Martin Adams, Lead, Health and
Sustainable Resource Use, European Environment Agency
Inishowen River Trust
John FitzGerald, Chair, Climate Oisín Coghlan, Director, Friends of the Earth Ireland
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characterised as incoherent at best and inept at worst. From the outset, the nascent administration was dogged by disputes over the allocation of aides-de-camp, ministerial cars and ministerial pay, as well as an a la carte approach to governance from some within the Green parliamentary party.
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Commission role will depend on candidates reputational damage when defiantly stating that a negative Covid-19 test had absolved him of the 14-day period of restricted movement. As details emerged of other movements around the country, including being cautioned by Gardaí for using a mobile phone while driving from Kildare to Clifden, support of Hogan from the coalition Government diminished.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has requested that Ireland put forward a male and female candidate for the position of Irish Commissioner, following the resignation of Phil Hogan.
experience of the nominees before making a decision on whether to shuffle her current cabinet. Critical to any nomination by the Government is the fact that elevation of a sitting TD would require a by-election to be held.
The decision by Hogan, who was set to lead the EU’s post-Brexit free trade negotiations with the UK, to resign amidst mounting pressure about his movements, in breach of government guidelines, means that Ireland is no longer guaranteed to hold the post.
Hogan was one of over 80 people to attend a dinner organised by the Oireachtas Golf Society in Galway a day after the Government implemented new restrictions to combat a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Von der Leyen is set to weigh up the
Hogan apologised for his appearance at the dinner but suffered further
Hogan submitted a detailed report, including a timeline of his movements, to President Von der Leyen, but a joint statement by the three leaders of the Government outlining their belief that he had broken the State’s public health guidance meant that he saw fit to join former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary on the list of high-profile political casualties from the dinner attendance. On resigning, Hogan expressed regret of the “anger and concern” caused by his trip to Ireland. “I broke no law when I went to Ireland, I broke no regulations but I could have adhered better to the guidelines,” he caveated. Von der Leyen thanked Hogan for his “tireless” work as both Trade Commissioner and previously as Agriculture Minister.
An Coimisinéir Teanga issues Garda warning An Coimisinéir Teanga has issued a warning to An Garda Síochána that it may be reported to the Houses of the Oireachtas over its failure to increase the number of on-the-ground Gardaí conducting their business as Gaeilge in Gaeltacht areas. A monitoring report issued by An Coimisinéir in August said that there had been a “lack of progress” on recommendations made as far back as 2011 in order to ensure that public services offered in Gaeltacht areas were done through the Irish language. Of the 99 Gardaí stationed in Gaeltacht areas, only 35 are capable of speaking in Irish according An Garda Síochána’s self-assessment system. Coimisinéir Rónán Ó Domhnaill wrote in his report that this is “especially regrettable” as
the police force has failed to act on the findings of a 2011 investigation that found it to be in breach of the Garda Síochána Act, which states that it must provide Irish language services in Gaeltacht areas to the point that it is feasible. Ó Domhnaill estimates within the report that he meets with Gardaí more than any other public body and warned: “Under the Official Languages Act, if recommendations made in an investigation are not being implemented I am obliged to report that to the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is a very serious step, but at this stage it would seem that it is a step I would have to take because of a lack of progress.”
Ireland yet to apply for European Covid-19 loan Ireland is yet to submit an application, however, member states that have not yet made formal requests may still do so. Any application will require Dáil approval.
Credit GUE NGL.
Loans provided will be underpinned by a system of voluntary guarantees from member states. Based on the EU budget for 2020, each member state’s contribution to the overall amount of the guarantee is relative to its share in the total GNI of the European Union, based on the 2020 EU budget.
The European Commission’s SURE
After consulting with and assessing the
temporary scheme can provide a total
requests of member states, the
of €100 billion of loans on favourable
Commission has proposed to that the
terms to member states. The SURE
European Council approve the granting
instrument is intended to support
of €81.4 billion of financial support to
member states in the context of the
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus,
sudden and significant decrease in
Czechia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
national public expenditure due to
Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia,
Slovenia and Spain.
Upon presenting the proposals, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today marks an important step in this regard: just four months after I proposed its creation, the Commission is proposing to provide €81.4 billion under the SURE instrument to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic across the EU. SURE is a clear symbol of solidarity in the face of an unprecedented crisis.”
Testing and contact tracing system change call Committee Chair Michael McNamara TD said that he understood the system put in place in March was “done in a hurry” and believes that testing and contract tracing “will allow the State to live with and treat” outbreaks of Covid “as they arise”. Welcoming work undertaken by the HSE to design a new test and trace service model, the report warns of two “severe stress tests” facing it the system in the coming months, including travel into and within the State, as well as flu season. A more “robust” and “efficient” Covid19 testing and contact tracing system is needed, the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response has said.
within its Interim Testing and Tracing
The Committee has issued 22 recommendations in its call for change
time for end-to-end testing of a
Report, including proposals to temperature screen all entrants into the State from overseas, regular testing of healthcare workers and a turnaround maximum of one day.
“We will need a system that has capacity to deal with a sudden surge in demand which will happen if we get a flu epidemic in the autumn given the overlap on symptoms between the flu and Covid-19 and our already overcrowded hospitals and A&E Departments,” says McNamara.
Micheál Martin TD: The man who would be Taoiseach
Having successfully sidestepped the ignominy of being the first Fianna Fáil leader to not be Taoiseach — an unpalatable precedent — the man who was tipped as a future chief as far back as 1998, has finally made it. Ciarán Galway sits down with An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD in his Government Buildings office to discuss priorities, leadership and ambitions. Parallel to Paul Henry’s ‘In the West of Ireland’, a sketch of Seán Lemass watches thoughtfully from the wall behind Micheál Martin’s desk. Both hung during Varadkar’s tenure, the Henry since Enda Kenny’s time. A sizeable replica of the National Famine Monument, 300km away at Murrisk, County Mayo, sits in one window. Meanwhile, in a neighbouring room, the portraits of Civil War ideologues Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera rest on the floor, patiently awaiting their coequal return to the office next door. To paraphrase Karl Marx, the tradition of all dead generations weighs heavy on the brains of the living. An adjacent door opens, and Martin enters his office. His mood is amicable, and his quips land with an easy
confidence, though his eyes express a cunning which belies the placid smile. The 15th Taoiseach is a Dáil veteran of 31 years and follows in the footsteps of Cork compatriot and Fianna Fáil icon, the late Jack Lynch who was the first and, until now, the last to ascend to the office from the Rebel County. Martin has represented the constituency of Cork South Central in the Dáil since 1989. He is a seasoned parliamentarian who garnered ample ministerial experience under former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, including in the education, health and foreign affairs portfolios. Following Cowen’s January 2011 resignation as party leader, while remaining Taoiseach, Martin announced his intention to stand for Uachtarán
Fhianna Fáil. It was a bloodless coup in which he saw off fellow contenders Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Éamon Ó Cuiv to succeed Cowen and become the eighth leader of his party. Martin then marched the Soldiers of Destiny through the disastrous 2011 general election and into the decade beyond.
Priorities The new Taoiseach’s first month was frenetic. The Covid-19 pandemic cast its shadow over the first weeks of his tenure. The omnipresence of the crisis inevitably dictated the new Government’s most immediate priorities. Identifying the need to engineer an economic recovery as a significant challenge, Martin states: “We are very
much conscious of the need for a vaccine to emerge. We have to work within the European context and work with the European Central Bank in making sure that member states have the capacity to borrow at reasonable rates. That is happening. I think what we did in the July Stimulus was really give a timeline out to the end of March, where businesses can look with some degree of certainty.” Simultaneously, Martin’s perspicuous policy priorities are in housing, health and climate change, and he describes them as “the overarching themes of what this government is about”. Given the current context, the legislative programme in the first month of the new Government’s term was significant. “In July, we passed 11 pieces of legislation. I have never seen such a productive legislative output in the Dáil,” he emphasises. However, the Taoiseach is realistic about the socioeconomic fallout already impacting the State. “Look, people are still suffering, there’s 16 per cent unemployment, people are really worried about their future and our obligation as a government is to try to underpin as many businesses as we can, to keep them viable,” he says. “They have rates relief, restart grants, tax relief on losses set against last year’s outcomes. So, there is quite a
which followed the previous recession, Martin evades the question somewhat. “We have borrowed already and we’re looking at borrowing €30 billion, which is just unprecedented, and we will be borrowing in 2021 as well. A lot will depend on the prevalence of the virus and how long the virus is with us. That’s why I mentioned the European context, because the European context is key to enabling us to borrow on an ongoing basis,” he responds.
‘The change mandate’ As government formation talks concluded in late June 2020, Sinn Féin, now the lead opposition party, claimed that the new coalition Government could not represent ‘the change mandate’ delivered by February’s general election. It’s an assertion that the Taoiseach rejects outright. “I find that to be an extraordinary claim. If you stand back, this is a parliamentary democracy; everyone elected to the Dáil has a voice. That doesn’t give us a divine right to government. I mean, there are many occasions in the past where Fianna Fáil had over 40 per cent of the vote and didn’t get into government. Why? Because other parties coalesced against Fianna Fáil and formed a government. That was fair enough. That was parliamentary democracy in operation.
Sláintecare as the agreed template for change. Finally, he emphasises the energy that he believes the Green Party has brought to the Government’s climate change agenda.
Incoherence However, prior to the summer recess, a degree of incoherence within the coalition Government, or at very least in its communication, became increasingly conspicuous. Rather than the substantive issues of the public health response to Covid-19, reopening schools and building social and affordable housing, media attentions were diverted by a ministerial sacking, rows over an aide-de-camp and ministerial cars, ministerial pay rises, PUP recipients and international travel, as well as the apparent à la carte approach of some Green Party deputies to governance. “Well, we did focus on substantive issues. I mean, I’d really argue with this narrative. Okay, on the politics of it, commentary goes on and I think commentary spends too much time on party politics and the political issues to the detriment of the substantive,” Martin retorts. Among other actions, the Taoiseach lists the creation of the new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science as “a political priority”, the July Jobs Stimulus, the
“We’re very coherent on the policies. It’s very clear. The Programme for Government creates the pathway...” comprehensive series of measures there that should keep the majority of businesses intact. That said then, we’re trying to open up new areas in retrofitting, in the development of rural Ireland and biodiversity measures which would create new employment and new opportunities. There is €200 million going into labour activation measures and also into third-level [education] to try to make sure that young people have opportunities.” Asked if he could guarantee that there would be no return to austerity measures, as came to define the era
“I think Sinn Féin have created that narrative in a propagandistic way, which doesn’t hold any water because with the three parties that make up the Government, over 50 per cent of the electorate voted for them,” Martin accentuates. Elaborating, he suggests that the Government’s core policy platform “would represent significant change to how we do policy in Ireland”. In housing, the Taoiseach defines this in terms of access to social and affordable housing, alongside a reduction in homelessness. In health, he stresses the importance of
Roadmap for Reopening Schools, the European Summit and the North South Ministerial Meeting as evidence for the coalition’s focus on governance. “There’s always a lot of noise around government. There’s a lot of noise around the politics of government. Who makes up the Government, what somebody says, what somebody does; that’s natural; it’s normal. As Taoiseach, I’m keeping the focus on the substance. “That creates its own issues and yeah, we can manage communications better, we can do all of that. I take that point.
But it was a very frenetic month. There was a real proactivity. We had lots of Cabinet subcommittees. It stretched people in the system to the outer limits. From morning to night, we were at it. A lot of good work was done,” Martin insists. In relation to coalition discipline and the perceived absence of a unity of purpose, the Taoiseach maintains that “good systems” are in place. “Whatever it looks like from the outside-in, the three leaders meet quite regularly. We have a Cabinet Coordination Committee whereby if there are any issues that are causing difficulty, or could potentially cause difficulty at a Cabinet level, we head them off and deal with them. “We’re very coherent on the policies. It’s very clear. The Programme for Government creates the pathway... That creates the unity of purpose, because anything outside of that needs to be agreed but what we can’t disagree on is what we’ve said and what we’ve put into the Programme for Government and the need to get that done,” he adds.
Government longevity During the final Dáil sitting before the summer recess, then Green Party Whip, Neasa Hourigan TD and Green Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien TD voted against and abstained from, respectively, government legislation to limit the extension of the emergency rent freeze and eviction ban to those impacted by Covid-19. Despite a turbulent start, Martin believes that the Government can still survive a full term. “Eamon Ryan is quite positive about the Greens’ commitment to government and indeed, his parliamentary party’s commitment to
government. We took a long while negotiating this government and therein lies the source of stability; the fact that a lot of time was put into the various aspects of the Programme for Government. That will sustain the Government. There’s a lot to be doing. There’s a lot that we’ve agreed on doing. We should concentrate on getting that done.
“I’ve been through previous governments where there were challenges like that. To be fair, I think Eamon Ryan got the balance right. I think the Greens have a different approach to these issues. It’s quite an extraordinary renaissance for the Green Party and so it’s going to take getting used to being in government for quite a number of TDs. I don’t mean that in any patronising way, it’s just a fact,” he charitably suggests.
“I don’t accept that. That’s just commentary. That’s chit chat. It doesn’t really phase me one way or the other. I keep the focus as Taoiseach. My job is to maintain cohesion within government. There are three separate parties. It’s the first of this type of government in a long, long time. The real challenge for me, as Taoiseach, is to get government to behave with cohesion but also to get things done,” he states.
Civil War politics Simultaneously, when Fianna Fáil formally entered coalition government with Fine Gael for the first time, it triggered a wave of commentary proclaiming that the Civil War had finally ‘ended’, something which amuses Martin. Drawing from his own MA thesis research, subsequently published as Freedom to Choose: Cork and Party Politics in Ireland 1918–1932, Martin reflects: “There is a myth about Civil War politics. My contention is that the Civil War ended in the late 1920s. “The only way [Fianna Fáil] could grow is if it moved on from the Civil War. If it stuck itself in the Civil War narrative, it was gone. I think it’s a misunderstood thing about how the parties evolved. If you want my honest answer, the whole raison d'être of Fianna Fáil was to move away from and beyond the Civil War,” he explains.
“To be the Taoiseach of the country in that context — and I’ve a deep sense of history — is a great honour and a privilege and I’ll work every day that I have to do my best to deliver for the people…” 8
During the general election campaign, Martin told the Irish Sun: “Leo is obsessed with power and holding office.” Since government formation talks concluded, one frequent criticism of the new Taoiseach has been his inability to cast off Tánaiste Varadkar’s shadow.
Ascending to the Office of Taoiseach and achieving what has been a long-term ambition for the man who has, to some degree, revived the fortunes of Fianna Fáil since its nadir in 2011, cannot be anything short of personally satisfying. Martin, however, eschews this suggestion. “I didn’t really get too phased by it. In one way, it sounds strange. I am passionate about parliamentary democracy. I think it’s something we should hold dear in this country. Authoritarianism is on the rise across the world. To be the Taoiseach of the country
in that context — and I’ve a deep sense of history — is a great honour and a privilege and I’ll work every day that I have to do my best to deliver for the people in respect of the challenges that we face,” he affirms. Martin’s legislative ambitions for the autumn include a Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, “to unleash the economic potential of the oceans”, a Climate Action Bill and a Land and Development Agency Bill. “What you’ll see with me as Taoiseach is determination to coordinate, push, deliver and get things done. That’s the role of the office,” he states. However, from his time spent in several ministerial portfolios, Martin has been characterised as hesitant or even a ‘ditherer’. It’s a label he rejects as “nonsense”. “The smoking ban didn’t happen because of some fella dithering around the place. Every government department that I was in, I just took decisions, made them, and got things done. Two-and-a-half years in education; we dramatically changed the education world from special needs education to research. The legislative output was probably the most significant, and I hate having to say it myself, but it’s the truth. It stems from an opposition stroke way back, but it’s very lazy commentary and I have no time for it,” he counters.
Identity On establishing Fianna Fáil’s identity in this coalition, the Taoiseach insists that it is already happening in the areas of housing and education, which he regards as “the key social challenges of our age”. “Education was always a great touchstone for [Fianna Fáil], going way back to the foundation and particularly the work of Donogh O’Malley in creating free second-level education, which is how I developed in life. I got access to free second-level education in the early 1970s in Cork. Our parents never went to second-level school,” he explains. An Taoiseach’s political origins were humble. He is not steeped in Fianna Fáil aristocracy. Martin’s father, Paddy, was a bus driver and a union man. On becoming party leader, Martin stated: “My family's values were those of republican nationalism and community
“I think the north-south agenda has lost momentum in recent years. I think we need to reignite that.” involvement.” This, he obviously felt, aligned with Fianna Fáil’s ideology. “We are a pro-enterprise party but a party that has a social philosophy in terms of access to the key things that enable people to get on in life. Education, health, and housing. Historically, as a party, Fianna Fáil built some of the biggest housing estates in the country. I want to recreate that esprit de corps within the party right now in government and that’s how you do it. “The party has to be careful, and all parties should be. Government isn’t about always trying to put yourself in the limelight. People will respond to good policy, initiatives and substance. They always do. You don’t have to broadcast it from the rooftops, people see it.”
The North Within his first month, the Taoiseach also worked to convene the first meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in over three years. Previously, Martin has expressed a “passion” for a creating a shared island and indicated his intention to give it particular priority. “I think the north-south agenda has lost momentum in recent years. I think we need to reignite that. I think we need to, through the Shared Island Unit, have a conversation about how we share the island in a post-Brexit environment, into the future. “There are some very useful avenues of cooperation that we should be driving forward more effectively. I mean, the Single Energy Market is a very good example. Waterways Ireland was a nobrainer. That’s why I would like to see formative work on the Ulster Canal; we got that into the July Stimulus. We got the greenway from Sligo to Enniskillen into that, in terms of design work. I would just like to get on with it and get stuff done,” he says, explaining the rationale for the new unit.
Describing the north-south jurisdictional alignment in the public health response to Covid-19 as “fair”, except on international travel, the Taoiseach asserts: “You do have two de facto jurisdictions. That can’t be ignored. But we have the Memorandum of Understanding between the CMO in the North and the CMO in the Republic, which is good.” Meanwhile, Martin feels that the BritishIrish relationship will require a post-Brexit realignment. “Prime Minister Boris Johnson and I spoke about the need for a strategic review of the British-Irish relationship post-Brexit because Europe was facilitative of a strong bond between the British and Irish governments. We used to meet in Brussels very often on European agenda items, but we became very familiar with ministers on the British Government side, likewise they with us, and civil servants. There’s a real danger of losing a lot of that familiarity.”
Ambitions While he has medium-term ambitions for housing, health and climate change, Martin’s two-and-a-half years as Taoiseach will be skewed by Covid-19 and its associated economic fallout. “The key immediate objective of the next year-and-a-half is to get through Covid,” he says, adding: “but also to recover the economy and move into new areas in terms of the climate agenda and creating new economic opportunities there.” Concluding, Martin predicts that the Covid-19 crisis will herald “a stronger public service commitment” and praises the response of the public service which he feels has excelled under pressure. “The public service has held the country together in terms of the various phases of Covid. It really underlines the importance of a strong, well-resourced public service. I’ve always been a strong believer in a high-quality public service being an underpinning factor in a democracy,” he says.
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Health crisis now political The Government’s move to tighten restrictions in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 cases has been deeply undermined by the actions of those who where embroiled in ‘Golfgate’, writes David Whelan. In a month where the Government took radical action to reverse the lifting of restrictions in an effort to stem a worrying spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, the severity of the challenge facing the health service has been overshadowed by a political crisis. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly TD described the country as at “tipping point” as the Cabinet announced the reversal of some of its lockdown relaxation measures amidst a rise in cases across the island, including the extension of local lockdowns. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the rise, which saw a jump from 61 new reported cases in a week in early August to 533 new cases in mid-August was “deeply concerning” and the Government is now finalising a roadmap for resilience
and recovery, a short- to medium-term plan aimed at bringing greater levels of certainty on the economic and social aspects of living with Covid-19, in advance of an announcement of a review of restrictions on 13 September 2020. Any strategy would need to contain a clear and concise vision of how society and the economy moves forward. Undoubtedly, public opinion has shifted somewhat from the compliance evident in the early stage of the pandemic and society recognises the lasting consequences of living with Covid-19. The Government’s original four-stage plan provided benchmarks towards a sense of normality, however, the recent backward steps have exacerbated a weariness among the general public. Mixed, or at least ambiguous messaging,
coming from leading public figures has not helped in bolstering public confidence. Gaps between expert advice and political moves to balance economic concerns are emerging and a poor communications strategy within the newly formed coalition has been evident. Only in recent weeks has it become clear that the Government will seek to manage the spread of the virus, now deemed necessary, over initial hopes of eradicating the virus on the island. If the Government’s efforts are to retain public support, then it must articulate clearer goals and a pathway to reach those in a coherent fashion. On 26 August 2020, Director General of the HSE Paul Reid outlined the scale of the challenge facing Ireland’s management of the pandemic by
facilitating the return to school of teachers and students at the start of September. The Government’s planning has switched focus from a second surge to managing peaks and troughs. The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry, has stated that cases in schools are “inevitable” and that outbreaks were possible in the reopening of schools.
Dara Calleary TD, former Agriculture Minister.
pointing out that the significant uplift of 1,269 cases in the previous fortnight compared to 264 cases for the same period in June. He also highlighted that more than 750,000 tests had been completed and that the 55,000 tests in the week to 26 August was the highest recorded by the HSE since April. Reid, who was giving evidence to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, explained that the HSE was finalising a new model for testing and tracing to “set out a more permanent workforce and to implement further process and technology changes”. He told politicians that despite the surge in cases, hospitals have not yet experienced a surge in admissions but that the HSE had a plan to deal with an increase in hospitalisation. However, Reid said that the number of testing centres had been scaled back up to 28 centres across the country because of rising cases, but the use of the 48 centres available would not be the best use of teams, currently. Ireland has taken a more cautious approach to the easing of regulations than most countries across Europe, having already twice delayed the move to the final phase of the exiting lockdown phase and now reverted back to stricter limitations on gatherings, travel, business openings and implemented localised lockdowns.
A spike in cases is also being managed in the North. 119 people tested positive in one day at the end of August for instance, the highest daily rise since early April. The Health Minister in the North, Robin Swann, also reversed the lifting of restrictions but not to the same extent as the Republic. The differences in approach from the two governments has raised concerns, with recognition that the public health approach should take an all-island approach.
‘Golfgate’ The Government’s efforts to restrict people’s movements in order to manage the spike in cases has been deeply undermined by the political fallout of ‘golfgate’. Shortly after new Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary TD fronted media interviews on the necessity of the Government’s new restrictions, he was forced to resign his portfolio and his position as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, after it was revealed he was one of over
80 attendees at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Galway. Phil Hogan, the then EU Trade Commissioner also left his position, after initially defending his actions. The event breached government guidelines and included a guest list of high-profile attendees including politicians, judges and lobbyists. The event which took place just a day after the restrictions were announced, has since dominated the political discourse, with the Taoiseach stating that Hogan had “undermined the whole approach to public health in Ireland” with his movements around the country in recent weeks. Amongst those who have acknowledged that the political events had undermined the public health message was Chair of the Irish Epidemiology Modelling Advisory Group, Philip Nolan. Stating that he was fully aware of how disappointing and frustrating recent events have been and that a step backward has been taken, Nolan warned that Ireland was at an important juncture when it comes to keeping the virus under control and that the situation was not irreversible. Ensuring that the Government retains the public’s confidence as it attempts to set out a future pathway of economic and societal recovery will be critical to efforts to manage the future spread of the virus.
“The Government’s original four stage plan provided benchmarks towards a sense of normality, however, the recent backward steps have exacerbated a weariness among the general public.”
The objective of the restrictions was
Pivoting to a more connected Ireland The Covid-19 pandemic placed unprecedented demand on Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s communication networks, which became vital in ensuring the country remained connected to loved ones, and to work or schooling. A record number of people are now working remotely, requiring secure and reliable access to the national networks. Head of Business Products, Propositions and Operations with Three, Ciara Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Reilly, speaks to CiarĂĄn Galway about the challenges posed by the pandemic and the opportunities ahead.
“It’s been a white knuckle ride and while the immediate future is somewhat uncertain, one of the things that became crystal clear is that connectivity is the central nervous system for the country,” O’Reilly says, recounting the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic. In those months, communication and the technology that underpins it became critical, whether for personal reasons or for business. “It was incredible to be a part of everybody coming together. All the partners, all the competitors, all the companies; everybody came together to achieve stability and to maintain business continuity. We know the impacts are going to be big and there are going to be major economic implications, but I think if we didn’t have the connectivity and technology to bring everybody together quite quickly, we’d have been in a much worse position.” O’Reilly acknowledges that while the world is consumed by the negative impacts of the pandemic for obvious reasons, she does see positives in the reaction of both business and people during the pandemic and “how we’re making decisions and approaching problem solving”. “We are learning and being more agile, making more decisions on the go. Technology has a key role to play in that. There has been a catalytic effect from a digitisation perspective. We have been thrust into this digital world more quickly than people were ready for in some ways, but we’ve had to adapt, and people are adapting quite well,” she says. “We found that when most companies are set up to work from home, it’s usually flexibility based, not business continuity based. Suddenly, when everyone has to switch on overnight, it’s a different story. Every sector of business had to do so. Home working policies are great, but when you’re at home and everyone is on the broadband, the children are at home doing schoolwork online, it’s a significant challenge and bigger again if you’re in a rural location. “That, on top of all the tension at the time, created a difficult scenario. For us, it was about finding solutions for people, be it remote solutions like mobile broadband; it was relatively
“Today’s children are digital natives; they adapt to these things differently.” straightforward to get a lot of people up and running.” Three also used its international network of sister companies, such as Wind Tre in Italy, where the virus’s progress was weeks ahead of Ireland, in order to read its data and interpret the behaviour it saw from business and consumers. This allowed better preparation for what was to come down the line in Ireland. To best support their customers, O’Reilly says that Three pulled back on nonessential work to protect the resilience of the network. Having already carried 65 per cent of the country’s data, this saw an average daily increase of 16 per cent in data usage. “Our network is a critical part of the country’s infrastructure and it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that we maintain it so that our customers can stay connected, and to accommodate this growth, we invested an additional
€12 million in to our network. The operators came together and signed up to a set of commitments with ComReg, such as unlimited data,” O’Reilly says. “With Three, you already have All You Can Eat data. We also removed any caps permanently on our All You Can Eat plans. Accessing Gov.ie or any healthcare websites was free. It was very much all hands to the pumps.” Three also had its own employees to manage, including a large customer care facility in Limerick. O’Reilly says the company had a unified communications solution in place, with Teams and SharePoint already enabled. O’Reilly says that the process of adjustment wasn’t as simple as going home and turning on their laptops, but that it wasn’t far from such a scenario. She says the situation provoked a quicker reaction time from the organisation. “It could not have been a more
“Our network is a critical part of the country’s infrastructure and it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that we maintain it so that our customers can stay connected, and to accommodate this growth, we invested an additional €12 million in to our network. The operators came together and signed up to a set of commitments with ComReg, such as unlimited data. It was very much all hands to the pumps.” appropriate time for our own employees to embrace Three’s connectivity services. We had to pivot, rather than wait until the event was over and diagnose what went wrong. At the time, we identified problems as they happened and adapted in the moment. I think we all have to get more used to that and we are getting used to it. The changes that we have seen and had to deal with have, in a strange way, thrust us into a different way of thinking. The decisions are still well thought out, but we have the freedom to push forward while keeping the best interests of our customers and employees at heart.
such a crucial time. “Take, for instance, HSE CEO Paul Reid, with the testing and tracing regime placed on top of the regular responsibilities that he has to manage in the HSE to keep his staff connected and safe,” O’Reilly says. “This is where the digital ecosystem really comes into play. We recognised the immediate requirement for mobility, allowing employees to move from an office setting to working remotely, but with backups, security and resilience. It was incumbent on us to do that because the Three network is part of the country’s core infrastructure in terms of what we can provide.
“Another big aspect there is Health Mail, the secure email service that allows all healthcare professionals to send and receive completely secure emails. That went through the roof with e-
An immediate priority for Three was enabling the mobile connectivity of the public sector, particularly the HSE at
prescriptions and the management of Covid testing. As a comparison: we handled about 630,000 emails in 2019; in April 2020 we handled 670,000. Health Mail was based on a piece of technology that wasn’t going to be sustainable considering the increase we experienced. We needed more resilience and capacity. “The decision to move something like that to the cloud would usually take a few months, but in these circumstances, it was taken within a week. The decision was made so quickly and now Health Mail is more resilient and secure, you can have different size mailboxes and it’s more efficient from a cost perspective because there isn’t physical hardware to maintain. In the context of digital transformation, it is hugely impressive how quickly the HSE was able to
respond, and in return, scale up their services to meet the pressures they are under.”
Post-Covid-19 potential In what will undoubtedly be a difficult recovery from both economic and societal perspectives, O’Reilly recognises a potential to change Ireland’s decision making for the better. As a mother of three, she sees great opportunity for technology and connectivity to meet the challenges of getting children back to schools. “If you can imagine the classroom with half the number of students present, the teacher at the front with the whiteboard, all the usual but with a camera in the corner broadcasting the class to a secure Webex,” she illustrates, adding: “That way, the other children who can’t come in or aren’t in that week can interact and bring that bit of energy back to the classroom. Real time interaction would bring back the social aspect of the classroom and the dynamic aspect of learning. “Today’s children are digital natives; they adapt to these things differently. They don’t have to process it in the same way as those older than them. They’ll guide us to some extent by figuring out what’s going to work for them and what isn’t.
Obviously, this all depends on the school and funding being available, but technology can definitely answer some of the challenges being posed now.” Along with education, health is also predicted to be a huge beneficiary with the widespread implementation of 5G and IoT, and O’Reilly is encouraged by what Three observed during testing of 4G technology on Árainn Mhór in Donegal that will now be applicable to the much faster 5G. One of these tests, done in conjunction with the public sector, were sensors detecting how people requiring care were moving around their homes to try and detect an issue. Three has also been working with Grow Remote around the critical area of connectivity for rural communities. “If those communities don’t have broadband, they’re stuck. If you don’t have the infrastructure, then it’s so much harder to feel engaged and be connected and the isolation is worse again without connectivity,” she says. “Fixed Wire Access [FWA] which will be launched soon, will deliver high speed broadband easily comparable to fixed line. It will be a gamechanger particularly from a rural perspective. What we have seen from the 4G version has been incredible, so we expect great things from the 5G one.
“The reality is that the new way we work is likely to continue, people are happy to work from home and should be able to do so from a rural location. There is considerable work being done rolling out broadband but FWA is a viable and easy option for rural connectivity. People need to be able to run proper email and video conferencing. Until they’re in a position to do that they can’t depend on connectivity to enable business. We are excited about 5G FWA.” Concluding, O’Reilly again emphasises her hope for the future of connectivity and the potential in the change the pandemic has precipitated: “Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, but I don’t necessarily believe that it’s for the worst. We’re learning and adapting, however the role of connectivity in our lives will very much be dependent on the infrastructure of the future. I think there has definitely been an embracing of technology and a thrust towards digitisation that has been amazing to watch. We have had to do it, and if you asked people before they would have said it was impossible but now, they have found a way around it. There is so much potential in how we apply the known benefits of technology, and now that the resistance to change has been lifted because of Covid-19, we have momentum for continued advancement.”
“One of the things that became clear very quickly is that connectivity is the central nervous system for the country.” cover story
32ND G OV E R N M E N T OF IRELAND The composition of a government is determined by Article 28 of Bunreacht na hÉireann and the Ministers and Secretaries Acts 1924 to 2017. The Constitution indicates that a government must not comprise fewer than seven members or more than 15 members of the Oireachtas. Since 1966, all cabinets have utilised the full complement of 15 ministers. Ministers can come from either the Dáil or the Seanad, though a maximum of two senators may sit in the cabinet while the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Finance must all be TDs. Meanwhile, while not members of the government, ministers of state, also known
as junior ministers, assist ministers in their departmental work. However, ministers of state may be selected by a government to attend cabinet meetings. Such members are referred to as super junior ministers and currently this includes Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers TD, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton TD and Green Party Senator Pippa Hackett.
are from Munster (three from Cork and one from Kerry) and two are from Ulster (both from Monaghan). Once again, Connacht is without representation in the Cabinet. Indeed, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is without a minister after Brian Cowen TD was sacked by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his replacement, Dara Calleary TD, resigned.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael each have six full cabinet ministers while the Green Party have three. Women are outnumbered in the Cabinet which has only four female members and in terms of geography, eight are from Leinster (five from Dublin, two from Wicklow and one from Meath), four
Within the tri-party coalition, the Fianna Fáil and Green Party cabinet teams hold the least ministerial experience, with both parties having been out of government since 2011. Meanwhile, each current Fine Gael cabinet member has previously held a ministerial portfolio.
Cabinet An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD Cork-native Micheál Martin was first elected to the Dáil in 1989. He is currently the Taoiseach and previously served as Minister for Education, Minister for Health, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Martin became the leader of Fianna Fáil in 2011.
Tánaiste and Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Leo Varadkar TD Dublin-born Leo Varadkar was elected to the Dáil on his first attempt in 2007. Currently he is the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, having previously served as Taoiseach, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Minister for Health and Minister for Social Protection. Varadkar became leader of Fine Gael in June 2017.
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Vacant
Department of Children
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; and Transport, Tourism and Sport Eamon Ryan TD
and Youth Affairs Roderic O’Gorman TD Dublin-born Roderic O'Gorman was first
Dublin-born, Eamon Ryan was first elected to the
elected to the Dáil in 2020. He currently
Dáil in 2002. He is the Minister for Climate
serves as the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. Previously, O’Gorman served on Fingal County Council, having been first elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2019. He is a member of the Green Party/An Comhaontas Glas.
Action, Communication Networks and Transport. Ryan has previously Government Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. He has led the Green Party/An Comhaontas Glas since 2011, having been re-elected to the position in 2020.
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin TD
Department of Education and Skills Norma Foley TD
Monaghan native Catherine Martin was first
A Kerry native, Norma Foley was first elected to the Dáil in 2020. Currently,
elected to the Dáil in 2016. She is currently the
she is the Minister for Education.
Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports
Previously, Foley served as a member of
and the Gaeltacht. Previously, she represented
Kerry County Council for the Tralee area, serving from 1994 until
the Dundrum Ward on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council from
2020. She is a member of Fianna Fáil.
May 2014 to February 2016. Martin is the Deputy Leader of the Green Party/An Comhaontas Glas.
Department of Employment Affairs
Department of Finance Paschal Donohoe TD
and Social Protection; and Rural and Community Development
A native of Phibsborough,
Heather Humphreys TD
Dublin, Paschal Donohoe was first elected to the Dáil in 2011.
Monaghan-born Heather Humphreys was first elected to the Dáil in 2011. Humphreys is the Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands having previously served as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs as well as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. She is a member of Fine Gael.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Defence Simon Coveney TD Cork-born Simon Coveney was first elected to the Dáil in 1998. Currently, he is
He is the Minister for Finance and previously served as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Minister for European Affairs. Donohoe is a member of Fine Gael.
Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD A native of Wicklow, Simon Harris was first elected to the Dáil in 2011. He currently serves as the Minister of Further and Higher
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence and previously served as
Education, Innovation and Science having previously served as Minister
Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, Minister for Defence,
of State in the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Minister for
and the Department of the Taoiseach with Special Responsibility for
Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit and
OPW, Public Procurement and International Banking (including IFSC) and
Tánaiste. He is a member of Fine Gael.
then as Minister for Health. He is a member of Fine Gael.
Department of Health
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Darragh O'Brien TD
Stephen Donnelly TD Wicklow-born Stephen Donnelly was
A Malahide native, Darragh O’Brien was first elected
first elected to the Dáil in 2011. He is
to the Dáil in 2007, lost his seat in 2011 and was re-
currently the Minister for Health.
elected in 2016 and 2020. O’Brien is the Minister for
Having entered political life as an independent, before joining the Social Democrats in 2015 and parting ways the following year,
Housing, Local Government and Heritage having previously served as Fianna Fáil’s leader in the Seanad between April 2011 and February 2016.
Donnelly joined Fianna Fáil in 2017.
Department of Justice and
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD
Equality Helen McEntee TD Meath-born Helen McEntee was first elected
A native of Cork, Michael McGrath was first
to the Dáil in a byelection in March 2013. She
elected to the Dáil in 2007. He is currently
is currently Minister For Justice and Equality,
the Minister for Public Expenditure and
having previously served as Minister for
Reform and previously served on served on
Mental Health and Older People at the Department of Health and
the Oireachtas Finance Committee, the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry
Minister of State for EU Affairs. McEntee is a member of Fine Gael.
and the Public Accounts Committee. He is a member of Fianna Fáil.
Ministers of state •
Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity: Senator Pippa Hackett
Minister of State for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, with responsibility for Transport: Hildegarde Naughton TD
Minister of State for the Department of the Taoiseach; and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with responsibility for EU Affairs: Thomas Byrne TD
Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW): Patrick O'Donovan TD
Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, with responsibility for Public Procurement and eGovernment: Ossian Smyth TD
Minister of State for the Department of Education and Skills, with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion: Josepha Madigan TD
Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development: Martin Heydon TD
Minister of State for the Department of Health; and the Department of Justice and Equality, with responsibility for Disability: Anne Rabbitte TD
Minister of State for the Department of the Taoiseach as Government Chief Whip; the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with responsibility for Gaeltacht; and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, with responsibility for Sport: Jack Chambers TD
Minister of State for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora: Colm Brophy TD
Minister of State for the Department of Justice and Equality, with responsibility for Law Reform: Charlie McConalogue TD
Minister of State for the Department of Rural and Community Development, with responsibility for Community Development and Charities: Joe O'Brien TD
Minister of State for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, with responsibility for Local Government and Planning: Peter Burke TD
Minister of State for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with responsibility for Heritage; and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, with responsibility for Electoral Reform: Malcolm Noonan TD
Minister of State for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with responsibility for Trade Promotion: Robert Troy TD
Minister of State for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, with responsibility for Employment Affairs; and the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation, with responsibility for Retail Business: Damien English TD
Minister of State for the Department of Health, with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People: Mary Butler TD
Minister of State for the Department of Health, with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy: Frank Feighan TD
Minister of State for the Department of Education and Skills, with responsibility for Skills and Further Education: Niall Collins TD
Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, with responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance: Seán Fleming TD
‘Constructive’ North South Ministerial Council January included a number of commitments relating to the reestablishment of the NSMC including specifically issues spanning Brexit and parliamentary relationships.
Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press eye
Unionist participation in the NSMC has been chequered, dating back to its inaugural meeting in December 1999, which the DUP boycotted. DUP leaders in the past have questioned the need for its existence and called for its suspension over value for money concerns. However, all members of Northern Ireland’s Executive attended the meeting apart from the Justice Minister Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party.
Covid-19, Brexit and devolution were discussed as the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) met for the first time in almost four years, but comments made after the meeting suggest it may not have been as “constructive” as portrayed. The 24th meeting of the NSMC marked the first plenary meeting of the two newly formed governments in Ireland and represented the first meeting of the crossborder co-operation body, established under the Good Friday Agreement, since November 2016. Ironically, it was the northern representatives who entered the meeting with the greatest experience of power sharing between parties, having been back in government since January. However, it was Micheál Martin’s elevation to Taoiseach that injected fresh emphasis into talks on greater north-south cooperation. Martin has previously expressed a “passion” for creating a shared island and made the NSMC meeting a priority in his first month at the helm. The meeting came shortly after the Taoiseach’s first official visit north to meet with the First and deputy First Minister, which saw the two northern leaders share a platform for the first time since the fallout over Michelle O’Neill’s attendance at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey. “It was a warm meeting, it was a meeting in which a wide array of views were
expressed. North-south cooperation is a key priority for our government,” said Martin. Arlene Foster described the meeting as “worthwhile” and “productive”. However, shortly after the meeting, Foster moved to brand as “disappointing” comments made in the media by the Taoiseach that he intended to “beef up” the Shared Island Unit, suggesting that Great Britain may get fed up with the North. “What happens if England gets turned off Northern Ireland? We've got to be thinking all this through,” he questioned. Foster took to Twitter to hit back at Martin’s comments stating, “A good neighbourly north-south relationship requires consistency. After a positive NSMC, the Taoiseach's comments are disappointing. “The principle of consent determines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK,” she said, adding: “Northern Ireland will keep moving forward by respecting our diverse identities, not dubious theories.” The New Decade, New Approach agreement which saw the restoration of the Executive in Northern Ireland in
The order of business centred on the Covid-19 response, where despite a Memorandum of Understanding on public health cooperation between the two health departments, noticeable gaps have appeared in the restrictions being imposed by both governments, most notably around travel restrictions. The NSMC meeting agreed to an early meeting of the Council to review ongoing cooperation in responding to the pandemic and also that upcoming meetings of the Council in relevant sectors will consider how north-south approaches could contribute to the promotion of economic and social recovery. In relation to the commitments under the New Decade, New Approach agreement, specifically the delivery of projects that will benefit people across the island, the Council requested that relevant ministers take forward discussions on these commitments and noted that senior officials will continue to meet regularly to maintain a strategic overview of the projects and commitments set out. An update of the commitments is set to be presented at the next Council meeting scheduled for December 2020. On Brexit, the Council discussed the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The joint communiqué ambiguously stated that ministers recognised the common interest of both jurisdictions to minimise disruption to trade and economic activity on the island.
Delivering Ireland’s offshore wind energy ambition SSE Renewables hosted a virtual round table discussion with key stakeholders in the wind energy industry examining their role in delivering on the Government’s ambition for offshore wind energy. What role will offshore wind play in reaching Ireland’s 70 per cent renewable electricity target? What steps do we need to take now to ensure we can deliver on the Government’s ambition to install 1GW by 2025 and 5GW by 2030? Barry Kilcline Offshore wind effectively has to take the lead. While onshore wind will continue to make a contribution, we’re going to need to rely on offshore to take us from about 35 to 40 per cent to 70 per cent renewable electricity by 2030. The development of offshore wind is a significant opportunity for Ireland. Single
large-scale projects will allow us to make leaps towards our 2030 target and will provide significant socioeconomic investment into coastal communities. If we deliver 1GW by 2025 in line with the Climate Action Plan, it will contribute 2 per cent of each year’s 7 per cent annual reduction in emissions. There are some challenges to overcome to enable offshore wind to help us reach these ambitious targets. The first one for SSE Renewables is that we are competing in a global space with Taiwan, Poland, China, the US and the UK for a very limited supply chain. We therefore need to get the industry moving quickly so that we can compete for these supply chain resources. Garrett Connell Offshore is going to be crucial to both our emission reduction and renewable generation targets. It has a crucial role to play as it can generate unprecedented
Round table discussion hosted by
amounts of renewable electricity. If you look at how technology is going to improve over the next five to 10 years, turbine capacities are going to grow to between 10-15MW on a single turbine, and these can be deployed in large numbers at offshore locations where environmental and social impacts can be minimised. When you combine the ability to deploy large numbers of these turbines with the high capacity factors of between 45 and 50 per cent that you get at sea where wind resources are strongest, this is a very efficient way of producing large amounts of renewable electricity. This makes offshore wind the ideal technology to meet these targets. It will also bring high levels of investment into the country, it’s a new industry that’s starting now in Ireland. Mark Foley In 20 years, Ireland has delivered 5,000MW on the all-island power system, mainly through onshore wind, alongside some solar; we’ve got to do twice that in the next 10 years. The simple proposition people need to understand is that we need all the technologies. We need more onshore wind, solar and offshore wind. That’s the message that must get out into the broad political and other spaces
Roundtable Participants because there is a risk that people will latch onto one technology and think that it’s a silver bullet. Offshore will be a critical part of that equation in the coming years, it brings scale and it brings cost efficiency. I don’t doubt our engineering capabilities, the Irish developer ecosystem or the Government’s commitment to producing quality legislation, but the biggest challenge we have is winning hearts and minds and getting communities to buy into renewable technologies as being the backbone of a decarbonised power system.
Paul Brewster Paul Brewster is European Policy and Funding Adviser at the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). With over 20 years of experience in the offshore renewable energy and maritime sectors he is responsible for supporting the work of the IMDO on the development of the Irish shipping and shipping services industry. The IMDO is the government agency responsible for providing policy analysis and advice on the maritime sector to the Department of Transport in Ireland. It undertakes economic analysis on the maritime sector and socio-economic analysis of all aspects of the ocean economy.
Garrett Connell has been involved in the development of infrastructure projects over the past 20 years. In engineering consultancy, onshore and offshore wind development and marine renewable energy technology development. He has been involved in the Oriel offshore wind farm project in the North Irish Sea off the County Louth Coast since 2006. Is a founder member of the National Offshore Wind Association of Ireland and a long-time member of the Irish Wind Energy Association. Since the re-emergence of interest in offshore wind in Ireland in 2017, he has been leading Parkwind’s Irish office and project activities. Parkwind is a Belgian based offshore wind developer with 771MW under operational management in the Belgian North Sea and a further 1GW under active development. As one of the few companies in the industry that finances, develops and operates its offshore wind energy farms, Parkwind has managed to expand its operations internationally with rapidly growing teams based in Belgium, Ireland and North America.
Paul Brewster I was involved in supporting the work of the Development Task Force nearly five years ago as part of Ireland’s ocean wealth strategy, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth. Offshore renewable energy was identified as a big growth area that could make a significant contribution to a step change in our ocean economy. The policy and supports needed for the industry have aligned. While all stakeholders had concerns about delays to foreshore licencing legislation, the industry has moved from hoping for progress to planning and the conversations are more commercially focused.
Liam Curran Liam Curran is the Senior Technologist in Enterprise Ireland (EI) responsible for the Marine Sector. Working with EI colleagues in its London Office, he is helping relevant Irish SMEs with capability to engage with the UK offshore wind industry. Building Supply Chain capability in the established UK sector will ensure that Irish companies will be in prime position to be part of the supply chain for Irish Sea projects when these begin development.
Mark Foley Mark Foley joined EirGrid Group as Chief Executive in June 2018, having held the role of Managing Director of Land Solutions in Coillte since January 2016. Previous to that, Mark was Managing Director of Coillte Enterprise where he led the development of new businesses in renewable energy, telecommunications, land development and land sales. Before that, from November 2000 to August 2008, Mark was Director of Capital Programmes at Dublin Airport Authority. In this role he was responsible for master planning, permitting, planning and delivery of approximately €1.5 billion in airport infrastructure at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports. Prior to that, Mark held a number of senior executive roles with multinationals in the speciality chemicals and electronics sectors. Mark has a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from University College Dublin, a master’s in industrial engineering from University College Dublin and has attended executive development courses in Penn State University and the Institute for Management Development (IMD).
Karen Trant Offshore is here and, from a regulatory point of view, we must start moving in terms of frameworks and mechanisms to facilitate this and show industry that we are open for business. It’s not an all-ornothing approach for the technologies, but in terms of scale and capacity, offshore wind can deliver on the targets. The challenge will be in public engagement and buy in for these projects.
Barry Kilcline Barry Kilcline is Director of Development Ireland at SSE Renewables, part of the FTSE-listed SSE plc and the leading developer, owner and operator of renewable energy across Ireland and the UK. Barry has responsibility for development and construction of SSE Renewables’ 1GW-plus pipeline of offshore and onshore wind energy projects around the island of Ireland, including Arklow Bank Wind Park in the Irish Sea. Barry has worked on several large capital renewable energy projects for SSE Renewables, the most recent of which is Galway Wind Park, Ireland’s largest windfarm. A graduate of electronic engineering from Trinity College with an MSc from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Barry came to SSE Renewables with significant experience after working with ESB International both in Ireland and internationally.
Liam Curran If we look at the supply chain to deliver 5GW, we’re focused on maximising the greatest possible local content. I see the 70 per cent and 5GW targets as the beginning. If we can get a significant Irish SME contribution into those projects, it will lay the groundwork for building that industry that will subsequently go to the south, west and north west coasts and we will have floating offshore wind and hydrogen even further out. That process needs to be starting in parallel with the projects in the Irish Sea because if we get it right, the group of SMEs will be able to deliver the Irish projects and even export their capability globally.
Karen Trant Karen Trant joined the CRU in 2006 and has been involved in the energy safety and energy networks divisions both as a manager and then senior manager. She was appointed Director of Water in 2018, before moving to her current role as Director of Energy Networks and Legal. Karen has responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and natural gas infrastructures in Ireland, including setting network development and connection policy, approving charges for access to and use of the networks and resolving connection disputes. Her division also has a general role in advising the organisation on all legal matters. She is a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast where she completed and LLB in Law. Karen is a qualified solicitor with the Law Society of Ireland.
“There are dozens of countries that are starting on the same journey as us and we need to tap into that global supply chain.”
Barry Kilcline, Director of Development, SSE Renewables
How can the policy and regulatory frameworks support offshore wind route to market? What are the key issues to be addressed in marine spatial planning? Karen Trant The CRU recognises that it needs to be a bit more agile. Regulators tend to be slow and risk averse in terms of what they develop. One of the areas we have demonstrated that agility has been connection policy. We have just been through two rounds of the enduring connection policy development in relatively quick succession and what we learned from that process, through active engagement with industry, were the barriers they faced. I think that engagement was well received by the industry and, again, we’ll look at that engagement process for offshore. What will feed into that process will be the grid model, whether it’s centralised or a developer-led mixture, once that’s
bedded down, we can start looking at that regulatory framework. In addition to that, there’s an offshore strategy coming from Europe, which will influence what we do. When we’re developing regulatory frameworks, we are always working in the public interest, we look at risk and decide who is best placed to bear the risk and cost, which ultimately feeds down to the consumer. We want to facilitate offshore as quickly as we can at this stage. These projects can take a long time to get up and running. When speaking to the system operators, we have emphasised the need to engage with viable, ready to go projects. Some of those projects are potentially already out there. In addition, the CRU is in the process of a revenue review process with the system operators in which the connection of offshore is very much a feature. Garrett Connell If you look at the timelines for delivery for an offshore wind farm, the European experience is that it typically takes about 10 years from initial development to first power. The relevant projects have been underway for 15-20 years in some cases
so we’re not beginning from a standing start. The projects that are underway are at various stages of development and will come onstream in a staggered way over the next few years. Something we need to look at to kickstart the industry is how RESS is brought forward. If we’re waiting for a large group of projects to be ready at the same time before we have a RESS auction for offshore wind, the timeline could be quite long. If we are to meet those ambitious targets, I don’t think we have that time to wait. What’s going to be important is that those early mover projects are facilitated into a RESS auction when they are ready. We may need to allow offshore projects to enter early RESS auctions rather than waiting on a large-scale offshore specific one. And of course, getting the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill enacted is the most important thing if we want to get projects through the consenting process and ready to qualify for an auction in late 2021 as planned in the Programme for Government. Barry Kilcline We welcome the Government’s
“Ports operating as economic hubs is an age-old scenario and this will be no different.” Paul Brewster, European Policy and Funding Adviser, Irish Maritime Development Office
“Competition is going to be intense over the next decade in the supply chain, in terms of everything from installation vessels to booking production slots in cable and turbine manufacturing facilities.” Garrett Connell, Project Manager of Oriel Wind Farm, Parkwind commitment to hold a RESS auction on an annual basis, from an onshore, offshore and solar perspective. We can all look enviously to the UK in terms of scale, but we need to remember that most of those projects are in significantly windier locations and have more scale. The more scale we can get into our projects, the more economies of scale we can drive and the better an achievement we can make in a RESS auction to pass that value onto the taxpayer. In terms of marine and spatial planning, it’s great to see progress on the MPDM Bill. It’s of significant importance to make sure we drive that MPDM Bill in as swift a fashion as we can.
fight the corner about mechanisms of RESS and planning bills but when these things get delegated from the top down, they maybe happen that bit quicker. I think that’s missing in Ireland. No one has ever doubted the scale of the resources around our coast but I think we need to refocus our efforts to fully realise the potential in our maritime sectors and the wider ocean economy.
Speed of execution should be the dominant driver in terms of considerations for 2030. In general, the MPDM Bill has to be got right and published as quickly as possible, but we also have to start dealing with vexatious planning appeals from non-interested parties. This is of vital national significance. Clear connection policy and a clear line of sight for future options are also vital. Developers need to know that there will be an auction on ‘date x’ yearupon-year if they are going to sink enormous amounts of equity into these projects. Lastly, we must have technology specific auctions with appropriate rule sets. Offshore has to have its own auction and its own rule set.
For Enterprise Ireland, an adequate supply chain is our priority. For the last two years, we have been working on identifying within Ireland where we have capability and relevant SMEs for the offshore wind industry. We have established an offshore wind energy cluster of 53 organisations across three groups. Firstly, there are a handful of companies who are already in the industry. The second group of companies are people on the onshore side that have capability relevant to the offshore industry. The third group are marine engineering companies who aren’t directly focused on the offshore wind industry opportunity at the moment but would certainly have the right skillsets and could turn their hand pretty readily to the offshore wind industry.
Paul Brewster I think there is still a gap for an overarching offshore maritime strategy here. A lot of the progress that was made with harnessing our ocean wealth has started to address and highlight some of the issues, be they regulatory or in terms of building industry. There are still a lot of gaps despite the progress. You could
How do we ensure the development of an adequate supply chain for offshore wind in Ireland?
Barry Kilcline The bigger concern that we have is Ireland competing at a global level. We’re hopefully going to achieve 5GW from offshore wind by 2030, but to put that in perspective, Europe is looking for 450GW by 2050. At this point in time, there are
only two vessels that can put up 12MW machines and those vessels take between two and three years to build. There are dozens of countries that are starting on the same journey as us and we need to tap into that global supply chain. Paul Brewster On the European targets to 2050, 80GW of the 450GW is in the Atlantic Ocean and I think it’s very interesting that the new Atlantic Action Plan has incorporated offshore renewable energy as one of its four pillars. We will share opportunities and challenges with our neighbours down the Atlantic Arc from the UK and France to Spain and Portugal. There are lots of opportunities for collaboration and the scale of what will be undertaken over the next decade is enormous. We look at where we’ve got strength and capability in this part of the world and we can build from there. Garrett Connell Competition is going to be intense over the next decade in the supply chain, in terms of everything from installation vessels to booking production slots in cable and turbine manufacturing facilities. It’s very important that we indicate to the supply chain and that market that we are serious about delivering on our targets. We do that by living up to our commitments and start progressing projects to get the industry moving. It’s critical that we are seen to deliver on our targets otherwise it’s a poor message to the supply chain and the focus will drift elsewhere. Having said that, these projects are multi-billion-euro investments that need to be operated and maintained for the next 25 to 30 years. There’s a significant opportunity for 4 long-term, high-skilled jobs into the future in rural and coastal areas, like the north23
“The CRU recognises that it needs to be a bit more agile. Regulators tend to be slow and risk averse in terms of what they develop.” Karen Trant, Director of Networks and Legal, Commission for Regulation of Utilities east and south-east of Ireland. Area’s that have suffered from a lack of opportunities in the past.
How do we integrate offshore wind supply into the electricity grid? Mark Foley I think we’re pretty clear about the job we need to do which is to strengthen the grid up the east coast of Ireland in a way that can accommodate these projects. Grid development is not easy, but we have got great clarity of purpose. EirGrid has submitted its capex requirements into the Commission for Regulation of Utilities. What we need to do now is to get on with it and work collaboratively with the developers. A story has to be told from Arklow to Dundalk that convinces the people who live on the east coast that this suite of developments is vital and in the national interest. I’d like to collaborate with developers and, indeed, the Department on telling that story so that we can avoid becoming embroiled in judicial challenges and the whole programme goes out the window. Garrett Connell The East Coast Generation Opportunity Assessment that EirGrid produced last year was very good. It shows that there is capacity available at the moment on the east coast. That should be the initial focus. Let’s use that effectively and get projects underway. At the same time, and in parallel, we need to plan the reinforcement of the transmission system to enable the additional projects that are coming along. I think, initially, developerled is the right way to go. There is a lot of experience in developing offshore and
offshore connections within the European companies involved in the relevant projects. We should use that expertise while transitioning into a new regime, whatever the outcome of the Navigant report consultation might be. Barry Kilcline EirGrid has done great work on system non-synchronous penetration targets, which was one of the big challenges for EirGrid over the last decade. Looking forward, if it can bring that approach to the connection and the integration of offshore wind into the electricity grid, we’ll be well placed to deal with the challenge. Sometimes we look forward without enough reflection on the achievements that Ireland Inc has made. Karen Trant One of the things that the Commission for Regulation of Utilities is looking at with system operators is the stability of the system and making sure that it can facilitate that level of renewables. That’s ongoing work. In the longer-term, the hybrid models are probably something of the future. We have the potential for two interconnectors – the Greenlink and the Celtic Interconnector – so if offshore can potentially link into those, we can become an exporter rather than an importer of offshore wind energy. The capacity is there. We need to think more holistically about offshore, whether it’s meshed grids or hybrid models it’s important that in the speed to get things up and running we don’t miss potential opportunities for the longer term. Garrett Connell Whatever model is brought forward for how the grid is developed, an important element to consider is the financeability of
projects. These will undergo intense due diligence during their financing, so responsibilities of ownership, including operation and maintenance of offshore assets as well as guarantees on availability are all important elements which need to be considered. Let’s not rush into a model. It needs to be right or else projects will never get off the ground.
What can Ireland learn from other countries who have developed their offshore wind resources? Mark Foley There are times in life when it’s good to not be first. I’ve been to Scotland to see the offshore windfarm Beatrice, which is simply staggering in terms of scale and quality of engineering. It is unquestionably world-class. The opportunity is to replicate a proven, lowcost, competitive and world-class engineering and to do so at speed. It is critical that the development community and financiers are provided with certainty and that Ireland gets on and copies what has been done in other jurisdictions, particularly the UK. The risk is much lower now because it’s proven, and the prices will be very attractive. Liam Curran One lesson we can take from other jurisdictions, particularly in the UK, is the colocation of a critical mass of SMEs in the supply chain around a port. That model works really well. If you want to see that model working in a slightly different marine sector, visit Killybegs and have a look at how the pelagic fishing industry does this. There is a group of
“For Enterprise Ireland, an adequate supply chain is our priority. For the last two years, we have been working on identifying within Ireland where we have capability and relevant SMEs for the offshore wind industry.” Liam Curran, Senior Technologist, Enterprise Ireland around 10 marine engineering companies there which supplies the pelagic fishing industry with a one-stop-shop of what it needs. We could take that capability and replicate it for offshore wind at a single port location on the east coast, strengthening the capabilities of the Irish SME sector, making it very attractive for developers and tier 1 contractors. Paul Brewster Ports operating as economic hubs is an age-old scenario and this will be no different. The UK benefited enormously from its offshore oil and gas industry and as such, there were already many ports with established infrastructure alongside industry clusters which didn’t have to pivot that significantly to become involved in offshore wind. Our ports are very much focused and aware of the opportunities and indeed active in encouraging these kinds of clusters. Garrett Connell Not all jurisdictions are comparable, and I think the most comparable for Ireland is
the UK. If you look back to 2008, the Crown Estate, which controls the seabed in UK territorial waters, had a big ambition of 25GW which really created a line of sight on a pipeline of projects, providing great incentive to the supply chain to get involved. It also took a whole of industry approach and planned everything from allocation of sites, the consenting process, grid connections, as well as a focus on the supply chain and what the most appropriate support scheme should be. A similar cross government and industry approach is needed here to ensure that we capture as much of the opportunity as we can.
experience in offshore wind energy and
key decisions to be made and
we can learn from that. Barry Kilcline There are three key lessons from the UK. Firstly, the Offshore Wind Sector Deal was a very clear target to get from 8GW to 30GW by 2030 and it brought together the offshore industry in the UK. It also provided the supply chain, regulators and government confidence that targets were going to be met. The Offshore Wind Industry Council was a collaboration between key players in the UK industry and the UK Government and it allowed commitments extracted from developers
We are already engaged with our colleagues and counterparts in Ofgem and obviously we will take all the good lessons and learnings onboard as part of our policy developments. They are currently consulting around the whole OFTO model so it will be interesting to see the outcome of that process. It’s great that the UK has so much
in relation to, for example, the establishment of manufacturing plants. Finally, on a more operational level, the FLOWW guidelines. I know that some of the developers have been liaising with the fishing industries along the east coast, but I think an Irish version of the FLOWW guidelines would help significantly.
“The biggest challenge we have is winning hearts and minds and getting communities to buy into renewable technologies as being the backbone of a decarbonised power system.” Mark Foley, Chief Executive Officer, EirGrid Group
Schools reopening after summer of discontent Minister for Education Norma Foley TD.
A summer of contention has rolled into the autumn, with the Government and teachers’ unions at odds over the reopening of schools following the Covid-19 forced closures of schools in March. Following a Cabinet meeting in late July, the Government announced its plan for the reopening of Irish schools after approximately 4,000 were closed on 13 March due to the pandemic. An overall funding package of €375 million was announced, with funding dedicated to the provision of an extra 1,000 post-primary teacher posts, 120 extra counselling posts in order to aid the children in adjusting to their new educational environment and a €75 million fund to allow schools to build new premises and/or alter existing buildings in order to facilitate social distancing. Minister for Education Norma Foley, upon announcement of the plan, explained that children in the first four years of primary school would not have to social distance, but that older students would be required to maintain a distance of one metre. Foley said that “enhanced cleaning and hand 26
hygiene” support would be provided for schools, and opportunities for the provision of personal protective equipment would be there. The Minister also said that a student suspected of having Covid-19 would need to be placed in an isolated area within the school for testing to take place and if a positive test was returned, their whole class might be required to selfisolate. Doubts were immediately cast on the Government’s plan. The morning after the announcement, Deirdre Mac Donald, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI), appeared on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland to say that it was a “mighty task” to reopen schools at full capacity by the end of August, and that she was “not confident” the time frame outlined could be complied with. “It is the logistics of it,” Mac Donald said. “Some schools will need more changes to the
school infrastructure, or maybe have to get in extra portacabins or space that is available in a nearby hall or something like that.” Mac Donald also cast doubt on the idea that 1,000 extra teachers could be recruited in the month between the announcement and the scheduled reopening of the schools, saying that was “no small task either”. Minister Foley had said that recruits would be drawn from a “variety of pools or strands”, which would include the 1,300 teachers currently job sharing across schools, with limits on the number of hours a job-sharing teacher can work to be lifted. The Minister also said that there are 2,000 secondary teachers registered but not teaching “for a variety of reasons” and over 300 teachers that were newly qualified and trained in the UK this year. Foley said that she had “every
confidence” the extra 1,000 teachers could be in place in time in order to allow schools to split larger classes to adhere to social distancing rules. Mac Donald said that she expected a significant amount of the 1,000 to be made up of existing part-time teachers, but that few former teachers would be coming out of retirement. She also added that supply teachers should be assigned to specific schools rather than across several schools in order to create “as closed a school regime” as possible. Foley has urged smaller schools to “reimagine” their spaces in order to facilitate a safe return to education. Under the roadmap issued by the Government, each primary school class is defined as a bubble, with smaller groupings within known as pods. Social distancing with pods and between pods within bubbles is set at one metre. The Minister said that the €75 million fund for minor works was to be used to “declutter classrooms, remove all unnecessary furniture and maximise space”. However, in late August, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) revealed the results of a survey that stated that almost half of the secondary schools within the State were having problems sourcing builders to carry out works that would allow them to maintain social distancing. TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie argued that these findings meant that the “only acceptable option” was for schools incapable of enforcing social distancing to remain closed until they could do so: “Should a school not be in position to open as scheduled in a manner consistent with the physical distance requirements set out by the public health authorities, a delay in the opening is the only acceptable option.” However, Foley’s comments in July appear to have given any such idea preemptive short shrift, when she said that all schools would have their usual “autonomy” with regard to reopening dates but would be required to be open “as normal at the end of August, early September, as it was in the past”. “There is always within schools a latitude to decide what exactly will be their opening day – whether it is 27 August or 25 August or 1 September,” Foley said. “That latitude within a couple of days remains, but in the
“Should a school not be in position to open as scheduled in a manner consistent with the physical distance requirements... a delay in the opening is the only acceptable option.” TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie main what I am saying is schools will open as normal at the end of August, early September.”
Clonbonny National School near Athlone
Criticism of Foley mounted throughout the month of August, with the Government on recess and schools preparing to reopen at the same time, with their teachers and unions decrying the conditions in which they were being forced to do so. Foley largely avoided media appearances until appearing on RTÉ’s Prime Time in late August, where she clarified that masks would be mandatory in secondary schools, under recommendation by NPHET, and that the Government was doing “all that we can to ensure that our school environment stays as safe as it possibly can”.
shed being used as the school’s isolation
Yet pressure has ratcheted up as schools have begun to reopen, with pictures from
coalition Government’s handling of this
showing children sitting back to back in classrooms and a repurposed garden room having caused a social media uproar. Further reminders of the risk involved were offered in the North when Ballyclare Secondary School in County Antrim was forced to close within a week of reopening. With risks apparent, specifically in small rural and cramped urban locations, how the reopening and the specific challenges thrown up by the individual situations of given schools are dealt with could come to define the public perception of the new stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Momentum for change: Mary Lou McDonald TD For many years, the Civil War parties successfully dammed Ireland’s reservoir of electoral politics. Periodically, the flood gates opened, and coalitions of various hues came and went. Substantively though, the duopoly remained in control and spiritually intact. Sinn Féin’s relative electoral success in February 2020 finally caused the edifice to crack. By the time it was patched, a torrent of change had already altered the political landscape irreversibly. Ciarán Galway engages with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, now Ceannaire an Fhreasúra, to reflect on recent developments. Having freshly emerged from the Dáil chamber and removed her mandatory face mask, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is visibly dissatisfied with the “complete non-answers” she reputedly received from Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD during Taoiseach’s Questions. The session, which overran its slot in the Dáil schedule by some time, has left her bristling with indignation. 28
A phalanx of Sinn Féiners enjoys a brief break in the sun splashed courtyard outside Leinster House 2000, while inside and upstairs, the party’s offices bustle with activity. The remnants of an earlier engagement litter the meeting table in McDonald’s well-lit but modest office. The leader of the Opposition is time poor.
Priority In the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn and the tentative steps of the nascent Government, the Sinn Féin President’s priorities are myriad. Specifically, though, the most immediate priority, she says, is that the public health emergency is contained and the capacity
of the HSE consolidated in preparation for a second wave. Secondly, McDonald adds, there is a need to get people back into work safely and prepare schools for a return of pupils. It is essential, she suggests, “to get back to what is called, and I know it’s a cliché at this stage, some kind of ‘new normal’” and to “establish how we live with Covid-19 and how we support the economy through stimulus”.
provision and on the provision of PPE”.
Turning to the performance of the new Government, however, McDonald is scathing. “It has been chaotic. The first forays of this government; not very promising at all,” she remarks.
hasn’t been that kind of dynamic engagement that we need. In fact, early on in the crisis, when Belfast, or a section of the [Northern] Executive was looking to Boris [Johnson] and to Britain for guidance, we were in a very dangerous situation where herd immunity and a laissez faire approach might have been adopted. That would have been catastrophic for the whole island,” she states.
While acknowledging the importance of economic recovery, the Opposition leader emphasises the significance support for communities. “We’re very aware that when the crisis came, the glue that held communities and society together was largely voluntary effort. I think we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” she insists.
“I think there has been a massive confusion from start to finish. I have two teenage kids at home, I want them back at school. I know why they couldn’t be at school and why the schools needed to
However, McDonald naturally rejects the suggestion that Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill MLA, has subsequently undermined her own political authority by contravening public
Remarking that “some of the most harrowing stories I have heard are from people who lost parents or grandparents in nursing homes”, McDonald is also cognisant of the pandemic’s impact on “people who are struggling with additional needs or some form of disability, their families, people who struggle with addiction and with all of the human dilemmas that confront us”. The response, she asserts, must be the delivery of a swiftly assembled and holistic package of support services, adding: “We need a lot more than just lip service to mental health supports, for example.”
Public health response Assessing the Fine Gael-led caretaker Government’s handling of the public health response to the pandemic from mid-March to late-June, McDonald commends its efforts. “I think ‘the caretaker government’, as it was called, was faced with a pandemic the likes of which hadn’t been seen for a century,” she says, adding: “To its credit and to the credit of the Irish system, the Government and its advisors had the good judgement to adopt the right approach of test, isolate and trace, which was the WHO advice. I think that was really important.” Beyond this, the Opposition leader is guarded in her criticisms of the shortcomings in terms of supports for frontline workers and particularly those within the health service, adding that the Government “fell short on childcare
“There were a lot of shortfalls. But the important thing is to accentuate the positives, to learn and then to mediate and correct the negatives,” she says.
“I think the election was absolutely transformational in that the old political establishment was essentially left with two options: either to deal with Sinn Féin and therefore to allow change in, or to coalesce formally this time and keep change out. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it opted to coalesce.” close, I entirely get that. But the children need to go back to school and it seems to me that with every announcement, more confusion is created. “In terms of childcare itself, I think a really negative message was sent out during this week [commencing 20 July] when the Government voted down our motion for the 12-week extension to maternity leave. I think that said to parents, particularly to parents who have very small children, ‘you’re on your own’. Prior to Covid, it was difficult anyway to get childcare places for young infants. Many childcare facilities weren’t opening baby rooms because of the huge and onerous regulations.”
Jurisdictional alignment Asserting that, in the context of the pandemic, the island of Ireland must be regarded as a single epidemiological unit, McDonald expresses her dissatisfaction and “alarm” at the Irish Government’s “passive” stance on jurisdictional alignment of the public health response. “There is a memorandum of understanding – that’s good – but there
health guidance and attending the funeral of erstwhile senior IRA figure Bobby Storey in Belfast. “No, absolutely not. Michelle has led from the front and I think that’s what she’ll continue to do. I understand all of the sensitivities where there has been huge loss and huge hurt, particularly where people have died. Absolutely, I understand that. I think there was genuine upset at the time. I understand that also. We’re all human and we all have families. “But I think Michelle O’Neill has been exemplary actually and I think only for her, the North and consequently the rest of the island would have been in a very vulnerable position. I think she ought to be commended for that.”
General Election 2020 After several retrograde electoral outings in quick succession, Deputy Mark Ward’s Dublin Mid-West byelection victory in late November 2019 appeared to herald a turn in the party’s prospects. This was confirmed by significant gains in the February 2020 general election.
have to be on our toes, and we have to be an opposition that holds government to account. But we have to be more than that, we must maximise our leverage and our pressure to get the right results for people. I don’t underestimate that as a challenge.”
Mandate for change
Retrospectively, the underestimation of its own popularity and the subsequent decision to field only 40 candidates has become a source of regret. “If you mean should we have run more candidates, then yes. I think the maths tell you that,” McDonald concedes. However, the Sinn Féin leader denies that her party would have approached its campaign any differently in retrospect. “I don’t think so. In truth, when we were out on the ground, it was very clear that a wide section of Irish society had decided for change and that a wide section of society regarded Sinn Féin not as the only, but the primary political vehicle to deliver that. People wanted us to be in government,” she says. Conversely, while critical of her party’s subsequent exclusion from government, McDonald takes some satisfaction having shattered the concept of ‘the big two’ in Irish electoral politics. “That’s over. Even though we’re not in government, I think the election was absolutely transformational in that the old political establishment was essentially left with two options: either to deal with Sinn Féin and therefore to allow change in, or to coalesce formally this time and keep change out. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it opted to coalesce,” she observes. Sinn Féin’s ascension to the largest opposition party is also notable in that it is the first time since the 1920s that a party other than Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael has led the parliamentary opposition in the State. 30
“It should be recalled, of course, that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had a confidence and supply agreement the last time around because we weren’t to be in government, but we certainly weren’t to lead the Opposition. They used that mechanism then, but the numbers did not allow for that particular ruse this time around. They were forced into this position. I have to say to you, in all honesty, that’s not a good result for Ireland,” McDonald insists.
Negotiations Acknowledging the policy gulf between her party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as being “evident and clear”, the Sinn Féin President is dismissive of the accusations of arrogance and of having possessed a sense of entitlement during the lengthy government formation period. “I never assumed, as some have asserted, that we had an automatic entitlement to anything, quite frankly, much less to being in government. That’s not how this works. I did simply point out that it was wrong, as a matter of principle, for the old establishment to decide that they would thwart and set aside the democratic choice of a very substantial section of Irish society,” she responds. “I don’t recall a previous occasion in which the political establishment so openly proclaimed that it was keeping the view of such a substantial section of Irish opinion – not just us as individuals – out. It wore it as a badge of honour which was even more extraordinary. We know what the consequences of that will be, so we
Simultaneously, though, Sinn Féin was critical of the Green Party’s decision to enter negotiations and subsequently into coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, suggesting it had thwarted the ‘mandate for change’. In reality, following the general election, Dáil arithmetic dictated that a left coalition was exceptionally unlikely. Indeed, it was apparent that any coalition involving Sinn Féin would also require either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. “What we said is that as the numbers settled, there was a choice. You could choose to form a new government and a government of change or you could choose the same old same. Unfortunately, the Green Party made the latter choice. I respect that it was that party’s choice to make. There was an alternative government that could have been shaped and led by a progressive alliance, which would have included Sinn Féin but also the Green Party,” McDonald states.
Opposition Given the ongoing pandemic, gathering economic headwinds and the difficult decisions which will face the new Government, it seems plausible to suggest that a stint in opposition might prove conducive to Sinn Féin advancing its ambition of entering government next time around. However, McDonald rejects this contention. “It would have suited us better if we had been in government, but the cards have fallen as they have. I wouldn’t say that it suits us to be in opposition, we now lead the Opposition and we have a job to do. We fought the election on the basis of a wish to enter government and that hasn’t changed. Even as the leaders of the Opposition benches, I believe our job is to hold the Government to account, to deliver for and stand up for people, but all the while preparing ourselves for the next time and the next opportunity.
“We will go out, fight the next election and say to people that yes, we wish to be in government. I hope that next time around we can sustain that momentum for change, that we run more candidates, that we can get them elected and that the mathematics look very different,” she replies. In the meantime, McDonald has affirmed that her party would act as “the most effective opposition in the history of the State”. Describing Sinn Féin as “a party of the left” with a republican programme, she emphasises a desire to break from the status quo. “It means real opposition,” the TD for Dublin Central quips, elaborating: “I’m in the Dáil since 2011, almost a decade, and I have to say that the idea that there was ever really vigorous opposition when it was Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael and Fine Gael to Fianna Fáil is just not true. I haven’t witnessed it. I think we all know that the political dynamic in this State now for almost a century has been a ritualistic changing of the guard, but it’s always been the old guard, changing from one administration to another. We unambiguously represent a different approach to politics, a different kind of politics and different policy agenda. We want to deliver it.”
Inauspicious start Having now restored confidence in her management, it is easy to forget about McDonald’s inauspicious origins as party leader. Having succeeded Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin President in February 2018, her party underperformed in three successive elections: the presidential
election in October 2018 and again in the local and European elections in May 2019. From the outside, it appeared that McDonald’s leadership was coming unstuck. “Of course, you feel the pressure; you’re in charge. I’m not one for shipping blame to others. I’m the leader of the party and that’s on the good days and on the bad days. You’re right. Initially, I had a baptism of fire and a succession of bad days. But I am a resilient person and I learn quickly. “I always think that the most important thing when you make a mistake or when things don’t go as you had planned them, is that you get under the bonnet of it, figure it out and go again. A corner has been turned and that’s down to a collective real sense of purpose and I think it’s a credit not just to the Teachtaí Dála, the Seanadóirí or the people in here, rather it’s the Sinn Féin people out on the ground. It’s our activist base and people who work hard out there, so full credit to them for that.” Discussing the modernisation of her party’s internal structures as well as its external image, McDonald believes that “we just have to be ourselves”. Accepting that “the past has been written into history”, she believes that what sets Sinn Féin apart is its “national ambition”. “This isn’t about jobs for the boys or the girls. It isn’t some kind of elaborate career structure. This is a political party with an agenda to deliver The Republic, to end partition and to create a society that is specifically and deliberately engineered with equality at its very core,” she illustrates. Referring to the party’s association with the IRA, she adds: “I don’t wake up every day and say, ‘my god, you know, the militant past of the Irish republican struggle’ – and by the way, that militant past is actually in the history of all the
political parties – no more than you get up in the morning and ponder, I don’t know, the 1798 situation. I look at the here and now and ask myself, ‘what are we going to do? How are we going to make things better?’ and then I get to work.”
Vision In outlining her vision for the country in the short-term and from the Opposition benches, McDonald expresses an ambition to compel the Government to align economic recovery with social justice. “I want us to ensure that government, even if it doesn’t want to and against its will and its own instincts, is forced into a situation to regard recovery as a holistic thing. Yes, it’s about the economy and yes, it’s about jobs, inward investment and corporate wellbeing, I accept that. But it also has to be about workers, families and communities and not the crumbs from the rich man’s table. I mean real opportunities and investment for people, because that will come back to us in spades. It’s the smartest approach that we can adopt. “In terms of rebuilding the economy itself, it has to be about investment and not austerity. I’m really glad, actually, that that is an accepted norm for now. I am also savvy enough to know that this consensus may or may not hold. We are going to have to watch this under the current government very carefully, because I believe that its instincts will kick in at some stage, for me it’s only a question of when. I also want us to ensure that we keep politics connected with people outside of ‘the bubble’ because that is the guardian of the common good,” she concludes.
“This is a political party with an agenda to deliver The Republic, to end partition and to create a society that is specifically and deliberately engineered with equality at its very core.” eolas issues
Covid-19: Pandemic recession and child poverty A new Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report indicates that even with the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) until April 2021, the unparalleled job losses triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic will cause a spike in child income poverty in 2020 if the economy does not recover. Child Poverty in Ireland and the Pandemic Recession, authored by ESRI research analyst Mark Regan and senior research officer Bertrand Maître in July 2020, estimates how Irish child income poverty will evolve in 2020. The research highlights trends in child income poverty during the Great Recession in 2008 and models the effect of Covid-19-related unemployment alongside emergency support payments in 2020.
child poverty statistics from pre-Covid-19 Ireland in early 2020), the ESRI research estimates that child income poverty rates are likely to rise. Indeed, the report states: “The recent surge of unemployment to unprecedented levels due to the Covid-19 pandemic naturally leads to concerns about poverty levels, particularly among children.”
Upon the report’s publication, Regan stated: “Emergency income support measures, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, have supported families during the pandemic. However, even with these measures in place for the remainder of 2020, we can expect to see child poverty levels rising by an average of one-quarter in the absence of some economic recovery.”
At the beginning of 2020, the child income poverty rate was 16.6 per cent. In Scenario A, which accounts for no economic recovery in the second half of 2020, child income poverty rates are projected to rise to 21.1 per cent. Meanwhile, in Scenario B, which accounts for between 61 and 82 per cent of those individuals displaced from work during the pandemic returning to work by the end of September 2020, child income poverty rates are projected to rise to 18 per cent.
In comparing two scenarios (Scenario A and Scenario B) with a counterfactual No Pandemic Baseline scenario (based on
During the Great Recession, a significant increase in unemployment (from 5 per cent in 2007 to 15 per cent in 2012) positively
correlated with an increase in basic deprivation, most felt by children. Data from the 2008 recession indicates that households with children experienced the greatest increase in basic deprivation (an inability to pay for basic goods and services). Between 2008 and 2013, basic deprivation levels increased from 16 per cent to 32 per cent. Children in singleparent households or in households where the ‘head’ of the household was unemployed experienced rates of deprivation of over 60 per cent at the peak of the last recession. Child poverty poses a dual-pronged challenge in that it has a short-term negative impact on children while creating the potential for a long-term negative impact that persists into adulthood. These negative impacts range from academic outcomes and social participation to health and socio-emotional outcomes. A significant factor in preventing and/or transitioning from child poverty is parental employment.
Context With a global Covid-19-engendered recession imminent or already underway, ESRI baseline scenario projections for Ireland indicated a 12 per cent contraction in the Irish economy in 2020. A significant fluctuation in the labour market saw the rate of unemployment in Ireland increase from below 5 per cent in February 2020 (an historic low) to 24 per cent in Q2 2020 (an historic high). In fact, the CSO recorded an unemployment rate of 28 per cent in April 2020. Consequently, reduced household incomes are likely to impact negatively upon living standards and increase exposure to financial stress. Conversely, income support measures introduced by the Government, including the PUP and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) will either supplement or potentially increase the household income for displaced workers. As such, the ESRI modelled significant unemployment with emergency support measures to illustrate the net impact on income poverty. In doing so, the ESRI made the assumption that the tiered rate of PUP and TWSS would continue for the rest of 2020. Indeed, PUP has been extended to April 2021 and TWSS replaced with the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which will also continue until the same date.
Scenarios The ESRI paper analyses two scenarios (Scenario A and Scenario B). In each scenario, initial employment losses and emergency response measures are identical. However, in Scenario A, economic recovery does not occur, and displaced workers do not return to work. While acknowledging that this is unlikely, the paper suggests: “It is a useful scenario to analyse as it provides a floor to income losses we can expect households to incur if the present downturn persists through the year.” Scenario B allows for between 61 and 82 per cent of displaced workers returning to work by the end of September 2020. Within this, the ESRI incorporates the Department of Finance’s projected 7.6 per cent decrease in earnings per employee in 2020. This is modelled by reducing earnings of displace workers returning to work by between 10 and 15 per cent and freezing the earnings of workers who did not become unemployed.
Children at risk of poverty (AROP) and basic deprivation (Deprivation) by socioeconomic characteristics (2008, 2013 and 2018) 2008
Household 1 adult, with
2 adults, with 1-3 children
Other households, with children
Insufficient sample cases
Source: Mark Regan and Bertrand Maître’s analysis using the 2008, 2013 and 2018 Survey on Income and Living Conditions research microdata files Notes: A child is defined as an individual less than 18 years of age. The household work intensity measure is derived using a European Commission methodology.
Conclusions In its findings, the ESRI indicates that “in the absence of an economic recovery, child income poverty rates will increase substantially”. In other words, Scenario A projects a potential increase of at least 2.9 per cent and at most 6 per cent, relative to the No Pandemic Baseline. These increases represent an increase in child income poverty rates of one-sixth and onethird. Meanwhile, Scenario B projects a moderate increase of at least 0.2 per cent and at most 2.4 per cent (representing a maximum increase of one-seventh). In both scenarios, children living in households with significant loss in income due to unemployment are more likely to experience income poverty. The ESRI advises that “policies which increase the
child-dependent components of social welfare schemes or universal increases to child benefit would help to combat these income losses”. However, these income losses could also be offset by decreased childcare and work-related expenditure (though ESRI analysis does not account for this). Evidence from the Great Recession suggests that employment and higher work intensity are two safeguards against income poverty and deprivation being experienced by children. Likewise, the 2008 experience shows that “non-financial measures of well-being and living standards can further demonstrate hardship brought about by changing economic circumstances, financial stress and a changing composition of household income”.
A new ‘greener’ government or a government of ‘silos’? Research finds Ireland can improvise well in a major crisis, but its ‘silo mentality’ is a barrier to long-term environmental planning. With three jostling parties making up the government, one must consider policy coherence, cooperation and implementation. Will this be a government of ‘silos’? NUI Galway Ryan Institute researchers Pádraic Ó hUiginn and Brendan Flynn write. Following the agreement by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party to go into government, with the election of An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD by the Dáil, then the subsequent cabinet appointments; and after a protracted day of would-be junior ministers being appointed, declining appointments and protesting at not being appointed, there
emerged the new layout of government
within government. This will become
departments and their ‘silos.’
more pressing when it comes to
A major challenge for this government combination, particularly for An Taoiseach and the Government Chief Whip is that it does not become a government of silos. It has inherent risks of each party operating as a government
agreeing a budget this autumn, the timing and sequencing of positive announcements, or not wanting to be associated with bad news announcements. The challenge of siloisation is not unique
to Ireland or to environmental policy. The image of a silo has been used to describe how modern governments have tended to overspecialise into very many small sub-departments or sections, dominated by their civil service experts. Inside the silo, policies are forged and delivered, but outside each ‘silo’ it is a different story. The inevitable crossdepartmental connections with other issues and the bigger picture often get left aside. The result is usually fragmented policy, and sometimes government action under one heading gets actively undermined by another government policy from a different branch. Climate action, in particular, requires joined-up policymaking to be effective and to ensure that there is a ‘just transition’. It is disjointed if we have a Green Party Minister for Transport who makes progress de-carbonising our
well environmental policy is integrated into Ireland’s system of government and public administration. It examined Irish environmental governance in its current state, to identify where there may be socalled disconnects and to find examples of integration and joined-up thinking. The bottom line from the EPIIC research is that there’s already a lack of joined-up thinking, action and funding across Irish agriculture, energy, transport, climate, marine and other sectors. It is our view, and our research indicates all of this might only become worse with such a complex, three-party coalition, which at the same time is promising so much on climate action and the environment. In an already siloised system, are we facing into a period of mini governments within government, with each party doing its own thing? If the new Government is going to deliver on what it promises for climate change,
gaps and opportunities for joined-up thinking. 38 interviews, across three jurisdictions, aimed to give voice to the experiences, insights and learnings of those on the frontline of environmental policy delivery. Throughout the process, the 38 interviewees expressed strong views on a lack of environmental data sharing, on the suitability of voluntary agreements that aim to go beyond compliance, and the importance of subsidies, specifically feed-in tariffs, for new renewable technologies in Ireland such as anaerobic digestion or biogas. Interviewees suggested that awareness of the Environmental Policy Integration concept was limited because of a ‘silo mentality’. It suggested that the State could engage more with the citizen to achieve buy-in when formulating responses for the long run. This will
“The bottom line from the EPIIC research is that there’s already a lack of joined-up thinking, action and funding across Irish agriculture, energy, transport, climate, marine and other sectors.” mobility but can’t exert leverage on the Minister for Agriculture to reduce emissions from our food production system. Within this, there is also the strategic economic question around Ireland’s farming emissions being proportionally larger than other EU neighbours that have much larger heavy industry and its associated greenhouse gases emissions. Do we risk excess focus on agricultural/agri-food emissions, that ultimately hampers our capacity for economic recovery and leads to ‘carbon leakage’ etc. through food imports from countries with less sustainable production? Equally, there is a risk that ambitious green measures could undermine other valid policy objectives, on mobility, health and social inclusion. The EPIIC1 (‘epic’) initiative explored how
environment and sustainability, it’s going to have face down the problem of government by silo. The good news, as the EPIIC report on Environmental Policy Integration makes clear, is that there are a set of quite simple measures that could be taken to reduce this problem and improve coherence. Some of these involve methods to get the silos to interact with each other. EPIIC looked at emergency responses, how they’re dealt with in the short-term, and how they impact the long-term. The research found that Irish policies for energy poverty and conservation were quickly and creatively developed, even in the face of the 2008 financial crisis. The research identified areas of crosssectoral pressures on the Irish environmental policy system and the
require institutional change, adaptation, and evolution along with a dedicated ‘network agent’ to broker formal policy networking. Environmental Policy Integration is not a new concept, nor is it unique to Ireland, but the EPIIC project showed how it requires a renewed effort to ‘mainstream’ environmental and climate concerns into all other policy sectors, notably into agriculture, energy, transport, and health. The research commended policy ‘champions’ for using this approach including specialist agencies, larger multinational firms as well as not-forprofit NGOs. Our view is that this research is more relevant than ever right now. Our approach was to explain how policymaking is increasingly having to improvise in a global era of disruption
1. EPIIC was published as part of the EPA Research Programme 2014–2020. The programme is financed by the Irish Government. It is administered on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment by the EPA, which has the statutory function of co-ordinating and promoting environmental research. A summary of EPIIC and its report are available here from the EPA website: This is a follow-on article from the article published on eolas Magazine online edition, July 2020.
and that was long before Covid-19. However, with the scale and lethality of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is not just an opportunity but a necessity to get joined-up policies working. The EPIIC research explains how, for example, retrofitting for energy conservation was so successful in getting silos ranging from health to energy to jobs working together, during the last great recession from 2008 to 2013. The EPIIC report finds that that success story can be replayed and built upon. Our research showed that a time of increased demand on decreased public finances can be a time for more environmental policy innovation, rather than not. Evolutionary change and
existing agencies that are policy champions for a more joined-up environmental effort (e.g. Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Heritage Council, CODEMA, Teagasc, EPA, etc.). 5. Prioritise attention and resources for the National Transport Authority and Regional Waste Management Offices to move towards a more joined-up agenda. 6. The planning system needs to become more joined up. It could, for example, embrace green infrastructure concepts and use Transport Impact Assessments. Covid-19 era social distancing on our footpaths, and for cyclists, may yet
Just as Dáil Éireann headed on its summer recess, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the Friends of the Irish Environment challenge to the National Mitigation Plan. It seems that the new Government will need to re-visit its predecessor’s first National Mitigation Plan (the ‘Plan’) (required under Section 4 of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Act 2015 (the ‘Act’). Whilst the Supreme Court judgment held that the Plan did not have the “level of specificity” required to comply with the Act, and focused on the interpretation of the Act (part of its remit), rather than the Plan’s policy content; it is highly likely that the next iteration of a Plan will again require direct input from many government officials and state agencies
“[The National Mitigation Plan] and the more recent Climate Action Plan have taken steps towards a ‘whole of government’ approach. More of this whole of government and bridging of ‘silos’ approach will be essential to progress.” adaptation rather than revolutionary change is stressed. We suggested some of the following. 1. Engage much more with the general public who naturally want policy to be more joined-up than experts or interest groups. 2. Rather than creating new institutions, a network agent, such as the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), if placed in the Department of the Taoiseach, could broker policy integration. 3. Directly involve state agencies who work on the frontline of policy implementation in cross-functional efforts to solve ‘wicked’ problems, rather than traditional interdepartmental working groups where mostly only the officials from their ‘parent’ departments participate. 4. Further empower and resource
act as an unexpected impetus for some of these. 7. There needs to be a focus on sharing data between state and public agencies rather than hoarding data. A dedicated EPA data analytics/mining team could do this.
to agree and set out detailed targets or risk further exposure to legal challenge. This Plan and the more recent Climate Action Plan have taken steps towards a ‘whole of government’ approach. More of this whole of government and bridging of ‘silos’ approach will be essential to progress.
A balanced toolbox of environmental instruments should be promoted: not just taxes and subsidies, especially proven feed-in tariffs, but also carbon certification and labelling schemes for food, and policies that involve the citizen in design and delivery. The challenge of overcoming siloisation becomes more pressing in the Covid-19 era, as the responses to the global pandemic themselves require joined-up thinking and delivery. In the ongoing pandemic disruption, the environmental and climate imperatives remain, and arguably become more pronounced.
Our view is that the EPIIC report offers a Tripadvisor-type travel guide for those in government and public administration faced with the daunting challenges of delivering joined-up environmental policies. It offers tips on the ‘must see’ and ‘best to avoid’ routes to policy integration, from those who’ve ‘been there’. It remains to be seen if this new government will be a government of silos, but the EPIIC synthesis report is available as a helpful guide to the policymakers and decisionmakers to navigate the journey.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan arrives at the Convention Centre, prior to the election of a new Taoiseach, June 2020.
Overview: Transport policy transport report
The establishment of a new tri-party government which includes the Green Party aligned with the public health challenge of Covid-19, associated economic headwinds and Brexit mean that Irish transport is in a state of flux. eolas provides an overview of Ireland’s transport priorities in this context. Upon the creation of the new coalition Government, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD was appointed to the role of Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport in June 2020. Minister Ryan is supported by Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton TD as Minister of State, attending Cabinet, with responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics. Having labelled his predecessor, Shane Ross, “possibly the worst Minister of Transport that I've ever seen”, Minister Ryan’s appointment is likely to set a marked change in tone in transport policy. The challenge facing the new Minister is that transport remains Ireland’s most significant source of energy-related CO2 emissions, representing a 40 per cent sectoral share in 2018. The new Government is now committed to an average 7 per cent annual reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Aside from contributing to Ireland’s international greenhouse gas reduction obligations, a reduction in transport emissions will contribute to cleaner air and greater health outcomes. Consequently, as indicated in the Programme for Government (PfG), the new Government’s expenditure on transport infrastructure will be implemented at a ratio of 2:1 between new public transport construction and new road construction. At the same time, essential road and public transport maintenance budgets will not be impacted, though any underspend on roads will not impact on public transport expenditure.
• accelerated sustainable transport plans for schools.
Simultaneously, investment in bus, light rail and intercity rail will continue. Existing transport strategies (e.g. the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, the Galway Transport Strategy and the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy) will be further developed and implemented, while strategies will also be established for Waterford and Limerick.
However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on public transport, which provoked a virtual collapse in the network in March 2020, is still being felt. Consequently, it is likely that limited passenger capacity, increased costs and health concerns will encourage people to adopt alternative modes of transport.
Specific public transport measures that the Government commits to in the PfG include establishing: • a review of public transport fare structures; • a National Transport Authority (NTA) -led park-and-ride implementation plan for Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick; • a sustainable rural mobility plan; • a review of operation and funding of the Local Link bus service (within 12 months); • a prioritisation of regional and rural public transport projects for additional funding in the lifetime of the National Development Plan, as per the National Planning Framework; • a working group to utilise modelling capacity to identify existing and potential public transport demand and match this with new and existing services; • a national integrated public transport system; • a National Public Transport Forum and a Dublin Transport Advisory Council; and
Active travel Overall, Green Party’s fingerprints are all over the transport section within the Programme for Government document. As such, the new Government commits to “a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland”. This, it elaborates, comprises improvements in climate impact, quality of life and air quality, as well as physical and mental health. As such, the Government has promised that “every effort” will be made to enhance and improve the accessibility of active travel and public transport. Taking precedence in the PfG, cycling and walking are recognised for their “enormous potential to facilitate a high proportion of daily trips”. This, the Government states, should be facilitated through the creation of an environment which is conducive to the protection and prioritisation of this ‘active travel’. The Government explicitly commits 10 per cent of the total capital budget for transport cycling infrastructure and 10 per cent for pedestrian infrastructure. Subsequently, the Government will commit €360 million (20 per cent of the 2020 capital budget) per annum to
cycling and pedestrian infrastructure projects over its lifetime. Aside from an expenditure commitment, the Government will also support active travel by: • mandating that each local authority adopts a “high-quality cycling policy”, completes a roads network assessment and develops cycling network plans to be implemented by a cycling officer;
• mandating the Department of Transport to work on active transport initiatives in schools; • extending the eligibility for bike to work scheme; • expanding the Cycle Right cycling proficiency programme in primary schools; and • reviewing road traffic policy.
Greenways The Government has also pledged to develop an integrated national greenways strategy. This has already materialised with the announcement of funding, totalling €4.5 million, allocated under the Carbon Tax Fund 2020 for 26 projects. It is intended that this will assist local authorities in preparing greenway projects to be ready for construction funding. Minister Ryan said: “I’m particularly pleased that a number of Greenway proposals in the areas supported by the Just Transition Fund have been funded today – these projects in Longford, Roscommon and Offaly will benefit from this funding and follows the recommendation in Kieran Mulvey’s report for greater co-operation between local authorities in the area. “The inclusion of funding for the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Greenway is particularly important in terms of continued work on a crossborder basis and shows our commitment to New Decade, New Approach as set out in the Programme for Government.”
Decarbonisation The PfG recognises the role of transport in meeting Ireland’s emission
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD
reduction targets and the need to decarbonise the transport fleet. The document outlines a series of measures to be taken by the Government, such as: • using “a range of policy approaches” to incentivise the adoption of electric vehicles; • introducing a ban on the registration of new internal combustion engine cars and light vehicles from 2030 alongside a phasing out of diesel and petrol cars from Irish cities; • reviewing the motor tax regime in relation to new vehicles; • publishing an electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy; • publishing a public procurement framework for electric vehicles; • introducing a requirement that all urban buses be electric hybrid or simply electric; • legislating for e-scooters and ebikes; and • publishing a 10-year plan for the road haulage sector. In addition, the Government will also launch a new road safety strategy with a focus on reducing death and injury among vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists while consolidating existing road safety legislation.
Aviation and ports In the context of Brexit, Ireland’s ports and airports will assume an even greater importance in supporting the island’s connectivity and, therefore, its economic wellbeing. This has been underlined by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The PfG acknowledges “the huge value of our aviation sector in supporting economic development, international connectivity and tourism”. The
• establishing regional cycle design offices to support local authorities in expanding and enhancing expertise on active travel, thereby improving infrastructure and increasing participation;
“The scientific consensus is clear, we must cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to ensure we protect our planet and our country from the most severe impacts of global warming.”
Government’s two broad commitments in aviation are to deliver capital programmes to support services and ensure safety at Ireland’s airports while also supporting the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce emissions. The Government is also outlines its desire to “work with our port companies to ensure they have the capacity, finance and policy supports to deliver in the years ahead”. Therefore, the PfG commits to working with ports and airports to safeguard supply chains and access for tourism; to review the potential expansions in passenger and cargo capacity at all ports; and to ensure access to ferries for foot passengers. Given the challenges now facing the aviation industry, the Taskforce for Aviation Recovery made its final report to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton in July 2020. The report contains 12 recommendations aimed at achieving a safe reopening of air travel while recovering Ireland’s connectivity and facilitating an economic rebound. There are three key objectives within the report: 1. protecting public health and rebuilding consumer confidence; 2. rebuilding regional and international connectivity; and 3. saving jobs and supporting Irish business. Welcoming the report, Minister Naughton stated: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on our society and our economy, and the aviation sector has been badly affected. This Report is very timely and will assist the Government in finalising its approach to stimulating economic recovery and ensuring Ireland’s connectivity into the future.” 39
transport report Advertorial
By 2040 the population of Ireland is expected to grow by over 1 million to 5.7 million people. This growth, along with growth of the economy and employment rates, will drive greater demand for sustainable transport and the National Transport Authority (NTA) is currently working on a number of major investment projects, so that we will
This year is proving to be a very challenging one and there is no doubt that the way we work and the way we move around is likely to look very different in December compared to January and February. Nevertheless, taking a lead from the GDA Transport Strategy, the National Development Plan, and the Climate Action Plan, the
NTA will continue to look forward and to plan for the future transport needs of communities around the country with projects like BusConnects, Luas Expansion, DART+ and MetroLink.
It aims to overhaul the current bus
This will be achieved by:
BusConnects is a major investment programme to improve public transport.
â&#x20AC;˘ Building a network of new bus
system in our major cities through a 10year programme of integrated actions to deliver a more efficient, reliable, and better bus system for more people.
corridors to make journeys faster and
more reliable; • New network of cycle lanes/tracks;
Consultation Report for the initial network proposal in July 2018 and carried out a three-month public
• Redesign of the bus network to provide a more efficient network;
consultation through online and paper
• Development of a state-of-the-art ticketing system;
and email/hard copy letter submission
• Implementation of a cashless payment system;
survey respondents said that the original
• Simpler fare structure;
“much worse” for Dublin than the
opportunities. Nearly 60 per cent of proposed network would be “worse” or existing service.
On 28 July 2020, a public consultation for the extension of the Luas to Finglas was launched by our partners Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). Luas Finglas is the extension of the Luas Green Line from Broombridge to Charlestown via Finglas. It will add four new stops to the line and create a key public transport connection between the communities of Charlestown, Finglas
• New bus stops and shelters with better signage and information;
surveys, 33 public information sessions,
• Provision of bus-based Park and Ride sites in key locations; • New bus livery providing a common style across different operators; and • Transitioning to a new bus fleet with low emission vehicle technologies. BusConnects also includes proposed changes to fares and ticketing systems. The second biggest source of bus delays, after traffic congestion, is the payment process at bus stops. Payment of fares by cash is still commonplace, slowing down the boarding time. Even when using the Leap Card, the complexity of payment stages means a high percentage of passengers have to interact with the driver, with resultant delays at bus stops. At busy bus stops these delays can be for several minutes. Multiply by the number of busy stops on a route, and those delays accumulate to add significantly to the overall journey time. Under BusConnects we will simplify and streamline the process of paying for bus journeys. We want to make the fare system simpler, and we also want to make movement between different bus services seamless and easy, without financial penalty. This will require a move to a single “flat fare” approach in order to reduce the need to interact with the driver for fare payments.
The goal of the proposed network is to make public transport useful to more people to reach more destinations all over Dublin and to improve upon the first draft of the network. The overall region is divided into 29 local areas,
The NTA released the first Public
take place later this year.
organised by ‘spines’ that connect the routes to one another. A third consultation took place this spring, closing on 17 April 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The NTA has decided that there will be a further public consultation regarding the Core Bus Corridor Projects later this
NTA and TII have developed an emerging preferred route for Luas Finglas and are inviting comments from all stakeholders and members of the public on the proposed route.
As part of this process, cashless operation will be introduced on all buses, to remove the delays caused by cash payments. Currently over 70 per cent of fare payments are made by Leap card. As this increases, the transition to a cashless regime will become easier. BusConnects will incorporate the latest developments in account-based ticketing technology, potentially allowing use of credit/debit cards or mobile devices as a convenient means of payment.
Village, Finglas West, St Helena’s and Tolka Valley and the city centre.
Luas Finglas will be constructed mostly in grass track, an attractive innovation in Ireland, while a cycle and pedestrian path will be constructed along much of the line, providing family-friendly, sustainable, convenient access between northside communities and the city centre.
year. A final round of public consultation will
The emerging preferred route for the proposed extension is approximately 4km long, includes four new stops, a
cycle and pedestrian path along much of the route, a park and ride facility at Charlestown and an extension to the tram storage area at the Broombridge Depot. The route will provide interchange opportunities with bus and rail networks at most of the new stops it serves.
Luas Finglas will introduce transport interchange opportunities along the route. The park and ride facility at Charlestown will allow people to switch from their cars onto the Luas network. Passengers can then change to the Maynooth and Docklands rail services, including the future DART services, at
Broombridge where the railway station and Luas stops are co-located. Luas Finglas is complementary to BusConnects and switching to the bus network will be easy at Luas stops and in the city centre.
Luas Finglas aligns with several objectives of Project Ireland 2040, the Government’s overarching plan for the state. It enables compact growth, sustainable mobility, access to services like education and healthcare, and crucially, a transition to a low carbon society. In addition to extending the Luas lines, 26 existing trams were lengthened to 55m, adding 30 per cent capacity to each tram, and eight new 55m trams were delivered in July.
DART+ programme Details of the DART+ plan were recently announced outlining in broad terms the scope and breadth of the project. DART+ is a transformative railway project which will modernise and improve the existing rail network stemming from Dublin City Centre. It will provide a sustainable, electrified, faster, reliable, and user-friendly rail system which increases train frequencies and customer carrying capacity. It will create a full metropolitan area DART network for Dublin, with all of the lines linked and connected. This will
transform the rail system in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), delivering new DART services between the City Centre and Drogheda, Maynooth – M3 Parkway and Hazelhatch – Celbridge. DART Expansion will enable an increase in capacity network-wide from the regions to the GDA. Customer capacity and train service frequency on these lines will be significantly increased as a result of the programme. This will help to deliver a more efficient transport system, allowing more people to make sustainable travel choices that reduce their carbon footprint and prevent chronic road congestion helping to meet the goals set out in the State’s Climate Action Plan. The cumulative network effect of DART+
subject to Government authorisation and funding, will increase customer capacity from circa 26,000 customers per hour per direction (2019) to circa 50,00060,000 (peak) passengers per hour per direction under the National Development Plan investment, with future growth capacity potential of 80,000 passengers per hour per direction, subject to further fleet procurement. One of the major elements of DART+ is DART Maynooth. This includes electrification of the Maynooth Line from City Centre to Maynooth (approximately 40km), city centre enhancements at Connolly (platforms, junctions, and station modifications) to increase train numbers per hour, relocation of Docklands Station to a location adjacent to Spencer Dock Luas Stop to better serve all routes entering the city centre, provision of new grade separate pedestrian, cycle crossing and vehicle crossings where required (subject to assessment), development of an interchange station with MetroLink at Glasnevin serving both the Maynooth Line and Kildare Line, and construction of a new DART depot facility west of Maynooth for the maintenance and stabling of trains. In the coming weeks, a non-statutory public consultation on the plans will begin. A detailed plan for DART Maynooth will be published and feedback will be sought from members of the public, providing an opportunity opportunity to highlight the benefits of the plan to all communities along the line, and also an opportunity to identify where local concerns may arise, such as around proposed solutions for level crossings. The objective of DART+ is to offer customers a real quality alternative to private car transport, as part of wider plans to build sustainable transport across a range of modes. DART+ will offer increased train capacity and increased train frequencies. DART+ will offer a rail system which can operate at a frequency that meets projected customer demands. This will allow passengers to access the rail network at suitable locations along the network and be transported into the heart of the city centre for all trip purposes. Expanding the choice of public transport options is supported at national, regional, and local level, through various frameworks, policies, and guidelines.
25 minutes. It will change the way we travel — and how we live. In 2019, the NTA and TII published the Emerging Preferred Route for MetroLink in line with the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035. The proposed approach to delivering the overall metro system will be delivered in three stages: • First stage: would comprise the
moving forward in their respective stages in order to bring public transport goals to fruition, whether it is through public consultations, involvement with local authorities, or joint efforts with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and other statutory bodies. Whether it is increasing rail capacity, achieving climate change targets, promoting increased use of public transport, or supporting a growing
The delivery of DART+ is a central element to achieving a sustainable alignment between transport planning and proper long-term land-use development. Project Ireland 2040 and the associated National Development Plan 2018-2027 commit to investment in key sustainable transport projects, including DART+ , with the aim of reducing road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to a low carbon economy and concentrating land-use development along public transport corridors.
MetroLink TII is currently progressing MetroLink, the proposed high-capacity, highfrequency rail line running from Swords in Fingal, to the South City. MetroLink will link Dublin Airport, Irish Rail, DART, Dublin Bus, and Luas services, creating fully integrated public transport in the Greater Dublin Area. As well as linking major transport hubs, MetroLink will connect key destinations including Ballymun, the Mater Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin. Much of the 19km route will run underground, an exciting innovation for Irish public transport. Fingal is the fastest growing region in Ireland. Its population increased by 8 per cent between Census 2011 and Census 2016, more than twice that of the State overall. According to the 2016 Census, Fingal is the top county from which workers flow into Dublin city. Nearly 8,000 of the 20,000 workers in Swords commute to work there. Cars are used for 72 per cent of all trips in this sector and public transport’s share of trips is only 12 per cent, mostly concentrated on the coastal DART line.
MetroLink will carry up to 50 million passengers annually, cutting journey times from Swords to the city centre to
• Second stage: incremental improvements to the Green Line to increase its capacity up to 30 trams per hour (55 metres long); and
population and economy, the National Transport Authority is focussed on delivering a sustainable public transport system for all.
National Transport Authority Web: www.nationaltransport.ie Email: email@example.com Twitter: @TFIUpdates
• Third stage: connection made from MetroLink tunnel termination point onto the Green Line.
Dublin Airport, as Ireland’s main international gateway, handled a recordbreaking 31.5 million passengers in 2018. Dublin Airport supports 117,300 jobs in the Irish economy, and 19,200 of these are employed directly at the airport and its environs. Yet there is no rail connection to get either passengers or employees to our biggest transport hub. The proposed new alignment creates integration and connectivity between other transport hubs, such as Dublin Airport, Iarnród Éireann and DART.
development of the section from Swords to Charlemont, without connecting to the Green Line but continuing the required tunnel boring works to allow the future connection to the existing Luas line;
An application for a Railway Order is due to go to An Bord Pleanála early next year.
Summary The NTA is actively investing in and planning for a sustainable, accessible public transport network throughout Ireland. Despite the current challenges the country is facing, projects are 43
Transport and the Programme for Government The Programme for Government agreed upon by the grand coalition has promised that the new Government will “make active travel and public transport better and more accessible” to arrive at a “fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland”. eolas explores its proposals. In what has been touted as a major win for the Green Party during government formation negotiations, the Programme for Government (PfG) commits to a 2:1 ration in spending between new public transport infrastructure and new roads. There is also a commitment within the Programme to spend 10 per cent of the transport budget per year on pedestrian infrastructure, with another 10 per cent per year pledged to cycling infrastructure. Pooled together for the year 2020, this 20 per cent will amount to €360 million in public spending.
Public transport Most notable among the PfG’s public transport pledges are the commitment to review fare structures on these
services “to ensure that public transport is as accessible as possible, supports the delivery of services and incentivises off-peak travel” and the commitment to conduct a review of the funding and operation of the Local Link service within 12 months as the Government seeks to address the public transport deficit faced by regional and rural communities. The National Transport Agency (NTA) will be tasked with the development and implementation of a park and ride plan for the five cities of Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford in order to reduce urban congestion and travel times. The development and implementation of a sustainable rural mobility plan is also pledged, which will
see all settlements “over a certain size in terms of population, combined with employment or education places” will be serviced by a public transport service. However, the size requirement for these settlements has not been specified. In line with the National Planning Framework, public transport projects that improve rural and regional connectivity will be prioritised in the lifetime of the National Development Plan. It is also said that the Government plans to “explore potential synergies between different forms of transport and transport-related services funded by the State”. The provision of sustainable transport for schoolchildren is provided for with a
pledge to “accelerate” plans concerned with such and to complete the review of the School Transport Scheme in order to reduce car journeys.
Lastly, the national integration of public transport, featuring an integrated national timetable, one tag-on ticketing system and co-ordination between all bus and rail operators, is promised.
Bus and rail The Programme promises to protect existing rail servies by “continuing to ensure the level of payment require to operate the Public Service Obligation fleet is adequate to maintain and improve service capacity and frequency”. In keeping with the National Planning Framework, rail projects serving Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford on existing and unused line will be prioritised. The funding of safety works and improvements to the network is guaranteed, something that is of particular note given the ongoing process of both the expansion of the Irish Rail fleet and the electrification of the rail network.
also a promise within to address “pinch points” for buses and expand priority signalling and Real Time Passenger Information. Lastly, greater priority for buses is promised through the expansion of the Quality Bus Corridors and the consideration of the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit Services.
Decarbonisation of road transport
At the governance level, two actions are planned: the establishment of a Working Group to “utilise the modelling capacity of the NTA” as well as the travel data held by the CTE Group of Companies, the Central Statistics Office, NTA and others in order to identify potential and existing demand; and the establishment of a National Public Transport Forum involving the relevant stakeholders, along with the establishment of the Dublin Transport Advisory Council.
In keeping with the National Planning Framework, rail projects serving Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford on existing and unused line will be prioritised. The funding of safety works and improvements to the network is guaranteed, something that is of particular note given the ongoing process of both the expansion of the Irish Rail fleet and the electrification of the rail network. will also be required to be either hybrid or electric. E-scooters and e-bikes will also be legislated for, while a 10-year strategy to improve efficiencies and standards in the haulage industry in order to move it towards a low-carbon future has also been promised.
In terms of expansion, the commissioning of an economic evaluation of high speed rail links between cities and the consideration of the report on the future of the Western Rail Corridor, with “appropriate action” to follow, are promised, along with the enhancement of suburban and commuter rail across the country. Funding will also be ringfenced to ensure the quick repair and upgrade of train platforms, an issue that has drawn significant complaints in the past.
As Ireland attempts to address its laggard status with regard to carbon emissions and meet its 2030 decarbonisation targets, the decarbonisation of road transport will be key. To achieve this, the PfG promises to “use a range of policy approaches to incentivise use of electric vehicles (EVs) and encourage a shift away from petrol/diesel vehicles”. Examples of such approaches include the commitment to ban the registration of fossil-fuelled cars and light vehicles from 2030 onwards, which had already been made by the previous government but has survived into the new Programme. The current motor tax system will also be reviewed to ensure that it adequately penalises the Nox and SOx emitted per vehicle.
Criticism of the transport provisions within the PfG have largely mirrored the criticisms of the Programme in general: that they lack specifics, timetables and concrete goals. Commitments such as the querying of the cost of inter-city high speed rail, unquestionably needed regardless of cost, can seem like delaying tactics when interest rates are at zero and costs seem extremely unlikely to decrease in the near future. Promises to expand regional and rural connectivity are welcomed by all, but it is only when one realises that those promises are the only details offered that the amount of preparatory work is still required before the concrete work of actual expansion can commence and begin to impact the day-to-day lives of people in rural and regional communities.
Promises made for bus network improvements echo those made for rail, placing an emphasis on improving rural and regional connectivity. These promises include a pledge to “protect and expand regional connectivity” although no details are given on what form this expansion will take. There is
Both an EV strategy for the provision of charging infrastructure around the country, and a public procurement framework for EVs are promised for publication. By 2025, the PfG pledges, public bodies will only be allowed to purchase low or no-emission cars and light goods vehicles. All urban buses
The devil is in the detail, the maxim goes, and while the Programme commits the Government in spirit to measures that would be more than welcome in all quarters, it is only when these details emerge that we will be able to freely judge just what this PfG has done for transport in Ireland.
round table discussion
The future of mobility EY Ireland hosted a round table discussion with key stakeholders from across the transport sector on the future of mobility in Ireland. What are the most pressing priorities for Irish mobility today? Ferga Kane The integration of our different transport systems and the improvement of flexibility for users has been a key priority and this needs to continue. We must also continue to focus on giving the road network its due significance, recognising the integral role it plays in commercial mobility while considering
how we can attract users out of the car where they have viable alternative options. Finally, sustainability and ensuring we are building a sustainable transport system is an over-arching priority. Sustainability is key in relation to both climate change and the environment and also the social/user benefits and economic elements of our transport system. Anne Graham Our immediate priority is keeping public transport services operational and
Round table discussion hosted by
available for customers. The Covid-19 response saw a fall in passenger demand and that has raised challenges around fare revenue, which accounts for around 65 per cent of the costs of operating services. Additional government funding has been a requirement to keep services operational. With the extension of support to those commercial license services operating in many of our towns, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re also getting that funding to those operators to get those services back up and running. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re also assessing the demand for travel come September, with the reopening of schools, which will enable us to estimate the cost of operating services and gauge the level of subsidy we will need to keep those running. Additionally, the social distancing requirement has encouraged local authorities to rethink mobility in towns and village centres and so weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re funding a lot of projects in relation to the widening of footpaths and development of protected cycle lanes.
Roundtable Participants 1.
Seamus Egan has been Managing Director of Transdev since October 2018, having previously served as Performance Director and Contracts Manager. In December 2019 he oversaw the transition of Transdev to Luas operator and maintainer. Prior to Transdev he worked in the fields of mechanical and manufacturing engineering after beginning his career as an apprentice fitter/turner with Irish Rail.
Ferga Kane Ferga Kane is a partner in EY’s Government and Infrastructure Advisory practice, a post she has held since July 2019. A UCD graduate, she has almost 20 years’ experience in advising public and private sector clients on the development and financing of large infrastructure projects across a wide range of sectors including education; social housing; justice; health; transport; water, waste and energy (traditional and renewable).
Cathal Masterson Cathal Masterson is Head of Tolling and Emerging Mobility at Transport Infrastructure Ireland. He is a chartered civil engineer with an MSc in project management and prior to joining the Transport Infrastructure Ireland, he worked as a consultant with Jacobs Engineering and Booz Allen on a variety of transport projects for public and private sector clients.
Ray O’Leary Ray O’Leary is Assistant Secretary in Ireland’s Department of Transport, dealing with road transport. His area covers the Department’s investment, policy and oversight roles in relation to roads, and a range of areas relating to road haulage, freight policy, road safety and regulation of traffic generally. He previously worked in the Tourism Division and, prior to joining the Department, worked in the Department of Finance and the Department of the Environment.
Niall Hogan For ESB ecars, our immediate priority was to keep our network of 1,100 charge points across the island operational for those who needed it. Demand in the network fell by over 50 per cent in the weeks following Government restrictions. Our construction works in upgrading and expanding the network which had been paused during the height of restrictions have recommenced in line with government guidelines.
Niall Hogan Niall Hogan is Head of eMobility with ESB with responsibility for expanding and upgrading Ireland’s public EV charging network. He has previously held a variety of senior leadership roles in ESB including Group Strategy Manager, Finance Transformation Program Manager, Head of ESB’s Property function and General Manager of its external Telecoms business (ESBT). He is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (FCCA) with an MSc in Coaching from UCD.
Cathal Masterson We’re at mid-80 per cent levels of usual traffic volume on the road network so the financial pressures we envisaged in terms of decline in toll revenues which fund the operation and maintenance of the network might not be as severe as we initially feared. We’re also trying to keep pace with longer term trends such as increased public transport, more shared mobility and demand responsive services and to ensure that we prioritise the customer at the heart of our systems as they evolve.
Anne Graham Anne Graham is the CEO of the National Transport Authority. Anne previously worked with the Authority as Director of Public Transport Services on the regulation and provision of public transport services nationally. Prior to joining the NTA, she worked in the Dublin local authorities as a chartered civil engineer in the drainage, roads and traffic divisions; as a project manager on the redevelopment of Dublin’s O’Connell Street area and as an Area Manager in the South West area of the city.
Seamus Egan The Luas was designed to take people out of their cars. One of the most pressing priorities for us is supporting the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in avoiding a car-led recovery. The current signs are that car usage has recovered quicker than any form of public transport has. As transport operators, working with other operators and the authorities, we need to strategically address the perception of public transport with regards to safety in relation to Covid-19.
round table discussion
We recognise that a balance is required between the short, medium and longterm priorities. Currently our focus is on maintaining the services operated by the Department and supporting the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to operate their services. Equally, we’re working with the National Transport Authority (NTA) on the investment in roads and helping local authorities to adapt to a shift in a wider range of active travel. At the same time, we’re looking long-term at sustainable development. We have a challenging Programme for Government and a challenging climate change agenda and we’re also trying to respond in the context of increasing digitisation, electrification and connectivity to play our part in economic recovery plans.
Paul Pierotti Paul Pierotti is a Partner in EY’s Data Analytics and Emerging Technology practice. He previously worked as a Managing Director in Accenture Analytics, where he led the Irish practice across all industries. Prior to that, Paul led Accenture’s Government Analytics practice for the UK and Ireland. His client list covers Government, Financial Services, Utilities, Life Sciences and High Tech.
“One of the most pressing priorities for us is supporting the NTA and Transport Infrastructure round table discussion
Ireland (TII) in avoiding a car-led recovery. The current signs are that car usage has recovered quicker than Seamus Egan
any form of public transport has.”
Paul Pierotti Covid-19 will remain a part of our society and will influence our behaviours for the foreseeable future. Any outlook on the future of mobility will have to balance the need to ensure an operational transport network but also the likelihood of a prolonged reduction in demand, where only essential use should be encouraged.
What do you think will be the lasting impact of Covid-19 upon patterns of mobility? Anne Graham We’re tracking these trends constantly and Covid has seen a complete change in mobility patterns. The major change has been office workers working from home, which has almost eradicated the morning peak, often the basis of any transport system. We think working from home will continue, although not to the same extent, meaning a reduction in demand at peak time. However, longterm we believe travel demand will still grow and so we still require the major projects we have been planning for as part of the National Development Plan programme. We’ve also been tracking mobility patterns in other cities where they have
high levels of sustainable transport. In Copenhagen, for example, the return to the car has gone beyond pre-Covid levels and we’re concerned that Dublin and our other cities would follow these patterns. To counteract that we must improve the perception of public transport as a safe means of travel. We’re not yet sure whether increased walking and cycling levels will transfer into the commuter travel but it’s something we’re monitoring, recognising the opportunity that exists should the demand be there. Ray O’Leary Crises tend to accelerate existing trends and one of the challenges we face is establishing which trends are purely responsive to Covid-19 and may rebound and which ones will continue to accelerate; and to plan accordingly. Mobility patterns have shifted towards localised movement and we’re assessing how we can build on that and optimise this movement with land use planning, recognising that less than half of all travel is actually commuter based. What we don’t want to do is create different patterns of unsustainable mobility. Co-operation and recognition of the value of data will be important policy tools.
Ferga Kane Data is hugely important but it’s fundamental that the user is at the heart of future mobility plans. While looking at the data we must also look behind it to understand the consumer behaviours that drive actions. A huge uplift in walking and cycling in the early stages of the pandemic were recognised but I’ve been surprised by how quickly cars have returned to the road, even with the majority of office workers still working from home. So, there’s a communication element in how we counteract this trend to ensure that people aren’t easing back into their cars because it’s convenient. Niall Hogan In a very short space of time we recognised improvements in air quality and noise pollution reduction from the abandonment of petrol and diesel cars. I think that people have seen that big change is possible in a short period of time and I’d like to see a situation where customer choice would be a move to cleaner transport to sustain some of that pace of change but without the huge personal and economic cost that Covid involved. Failure to achieve this will mean another type of crisis in the not too distant future.
“Local authorities are heavily involved in the re-imagination of public space and the road system, which I hope will aid us when we further develop the BusConnects system and in our consultations to Anne Graham 48
develop more sustainable transport.”
“I’d like to see a situation where customer choice would be a move to cleaner transport to sustain some of that pace of change but without the huge personal round table discussion
and economic cost that Covid involved.” Niall Hogan Cathal Masterson Changing consumer behaviours are also interesting, in terms of mobility including for instance the rise in online commerce which is changing logistics and transport and which may also change how our urban centres function. We need to keep on top of all of these interrelated trends to ensure we’re encouraging the good and supressing the bad.
What opportunities now exist for enhanced sustainability transport? Seamus Egan The level of data that we are collecting and analysing, as well as the levels of collaboration that has been established between the authorities and the transport operators is unprecedented. Coming out of this we will have much better and more timely information about customer travel patterns and that presents opportunity. As a nation, we should be focussed on mobility as a core consideration of any development. Hopefully we’ll learn from having to retrofit mobility within the current transport environment and place mobility at the core of future developments.
element. Sustainability revolves around the social and economic impact of mobility as well. A sustainability focus requires a look above the vehicle or mode, at system sustainability and user sustainability. The question is: what impact is our transport and mobility system having on the quality of the life of the citizen? It’s a challenge but we can make progress through collaboration and the pooling of perspective and knowledge. Ferga Kane Opportunities exist as we seek to design sustainable mobility systems in response to evolving regulatory requirements, particularly around our focus on decarbonisation in response to the Climate Action Plan. The social outcomes of a sustainability focus, including connectivity, are very important and must be weighted equally with financial considerations. Operational sustainability is also key; the need to manage energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important across the transport network as is better resilience and greater responsiveness. These are all challenges, but they
present myriad opportunities for innovation as we seek to enhance the sustainability of our transport system and network. Niall Hogan It’s widely accepted that the electrification of transport is a key element of tackling climate change. We’re working to help drivers to make the choice towards clean transport. We’re doing our bit to accelerate that change by investing in and upgrading the public charging network for electric vehicles from passenger cars to commercial vehicles and electric buses. Anne Graham People are beginning to view our road space differently and are having an input into the conversation on how the road network should be used for the most sustainable forms of transport. Local authorities are heavily involved in the re-imagination of public space and the road system, which I hope will aid us when we further develop the BusConnects system and in our consultations to develop more sustainable transport.
“Sustainability is key in
relation to both climate
The new scope of the ministerial portfolio, combining the energy, sustainability and communications agendas, is both a challenge and an opportunity. We’re working across boundaries with stakeholders to enhance our shared policy objectives to ride the wave of technological change and to extract the social and economic benefits. It’s important to note that sustainability is not just about the environment, though it’s a critical
change and the environment and also the Ferga Kane
social/user benefits and economic elements of our transport system.” 49
“Better understanding of user behaviour and what’s going on on the network will help us develop the round table discussion
network going forward to meet all needs.” Cathal Masterson Cathal Masterson In TII, we’ve shifted our focus towards users and creating a much more multimodal integrated transport network. One of our recent tolling data sets surprised me in that it showed buses to be the heaviest users of our tolling network, above haulage. Similarly, we found that women are more likely to drive and to drive to work than men. Better understanding of user behaviour and what’s going on on the network will help us develop the network going forward to meet all needs.
How is transport becoming smarter? Paul Pierotti We have unprecedented access to a volume and breadth of data types across transport. Through the cloud, we are able to process this data for insights like never before. APIs also making it easier to connect different technologies and so enable unique and real time
services. These combine to mean that we are in a position today to be able to deliver smart transport in Ireland. There are three things we need to remember when reimagining our future smart transport system. Firstly, design services around the customer. Consumer demands continue to increase with new digital experiences. They enjoy a bespoke service from Spotify making recommendations based on usage and expect the same from others. We in transport need to recognise this expectation and build new, exciting services around the customer that also ignore organisational boundaries. Secondly, share data to enable collaboration and innovation. There are many organisations involved in transport and there is a real opportunity to increase and improve cross working by sharing data. This will provide deeper insights around related issues and help design better solutions for all. Thirdly, use these insights to intervene
Programme for Government and a challenging climate change agenda and we’re also trying to respond in the context of increasing digitisation, electrification and connectivity to play our part in economic recovery plans.” 50
Cathal Masterson There is more to be done on the data sharing side. We have been working with DTTAS on looking at the road haulage sector and pathways for decarbonising. While there are good options for passenger cars, haulage is a tricky sector and while there are pockets of very good data, it is not shared in a collaborative way across the sector, which means we don’t really know where the freight is travelling to and from on the network. There is a lot to work on going forward.
“We have a challenging
in real time. It is critical that these insights are embedded in front line services to provide targeted interventions and improve services. In most cases, that involves many targeted “nudges” to gently adjust behaviours towards the desired outcome. Make sure you thought through how you are going to industrialise such an approach in business as usual before going live.
There are two sides of it: taking the technology from the vehicle side, the cost of batteries, and therefore electric cars, is coming down. The range of models and choice is increasing, which will make adoption much easier. You’re also seeing it move into areas that would have been seen as being technically challenging, such as the electric buses. It’s about the customer and citizen. The kind of smart behaviours we see in our ecar connect app are customers using the app to start and stop their charge, saving their favourite or most used chargers to make it more convenient for them, checking their usage patterns and bills. That’s what people expect now, easily operated accessible information that is useful and makes their lives easier.
“There are many organisations involved in transport and there is a real opportunity to increase and improve cross working by sharing data. This will round table discussion
provide deeper insights around related issues and Paul Pierotti
help design better solutions for all.”
Ray O’Leary One of our challenges is that users assimilate our improvements very quickly, so our benchmark keeps moving up. We have enhanced the operations of the National Vehicle and Driver File, which is the backbone now for not only our vehicle registration, motor tax and driver licensing systems but a range of other systems, notably the Garda mobility app and we’re working on a number of legislative and technical changes so that the Gardaí can get more and more information about a vehicle in real time. These changes will make life ultimately safer for citizens every day. Another backbone of which we share with the local authorities is a system called MapRoad, a geographical information system for local authorities that has all the data on local roads that is used for road openings etc. Those kinds of backbones are essential for central government to allow agencies to create the gateways for user interaction.
of information to be available to them daily when they are planning their trips to allow them to make a choice, particularly in this era when social distancing is still a concern. Transport is becoming smarter and we definitely want to make much more use of the data we have. Seamus Egan We are currently about to trial a system called Flowly on the Luas. This a Transdev-owned technology where we will have sensors on trams providing us with real time data for passenger counts, demand and flow, the last of which will be new for us and very insightful. The system will be able to identify flow demands rather than just passenger numbers. We will also link this up with our fare collection system through an API that will give us an indicative rate of fare evasion. All the data and trends will have their greatest value extracted by collaboration between all operators and authorities.
Ferga Kane We need to focus on investment in the greatest use of data, that will help us learn more around consumer behaviours. We do still need the big infrastructure investments, but we also need to focus on those quick wins to create a better service and have the users buy in more to the development of the system. Data can help unlock some of those quick wins. Niall Hogan It may well be that the greatest transport investment is not transport at all, it’s fibre optic broadband, enabling all kinds of changes at societal level. Whatever investment we make, there is no silver bullet. It’s about showing customers that we can meet their needs through a number of modes with sustainable transport rather than unsustainable transport and making those sustainable choices easier for people.
Which specific investment will
I agree that incremental changes are necessary, while the big projects are also in operation. We have been planning for the move to an accountbased ticketing system, which will allow a much more flexible ticketing and pricing system; in the meantime we have developed a ticketing app which we are piloting at the moment, which is the move towards purchasing your ticket online and being able to display it on a mobile phone. We are beginning to understand more the benefit and the value of the data that we have in our organisation, both the ticketing and automatic vehicle location data. We use this for developing small improvements to the performance of operators in terms of punctuality and reliability. Customers are also looking for that level
deliver the greatest
BusConnects delivers for both bus and walking and cycling. It will have the biggest on-street impact in terms of changing the way people move around our cities. We need a bus system for our towns and cities that can be delivered in small steps for big return.
transformation in Irish mobility? Cathal Masterson We need to invest more time in cooperating and collaborating. Everything flows from that. Seamus Egan Ireland has a boom and bust economy cycle and we should plan our major projects in that context. Irrespective of a bust, we need to plough ahead with planning and tendering and get to turning the sod. Even if it breaks down then, we’ll be ready to go the next time the economy picks up.
Paul Pierotti Collaboration through data is a wonderful place to start. It allows us to understand some of the multidimensional issues. For example, today we saw that women drive to work more often than men, which shows us some of the inherent biases in our systems. It’s about building that infrastructure where we can share, collaborate and innovate with our data. 51
The future of greenways and active tourism The Waterford Greenway.
As active tourism grows and the decarbonisation of transport necessitates a shift from personal vehicles to walking and cycling where possible, greenways, blueways and walking and cycling infrastructure will take on a new importance in the decade ahead. Cycling and walking
reallocated for cyclists and pedestrians.
The Programme for Government’s (PfG) commitment of 10 per cent of every year’s transport capital budget to walking and another 10 per cent per year for cycling has come as welcome news as Ireland seeks to redress its transport imbalance and provide more avenues for active tourism and leisure throughout the country.
The Programme’s commitments for cycling and walking “will deliver a fiveyear, multi-annual funding programme linked with a specific target of new separated cycling and walking infrastructure which will be delivered or under construction by end 2024”. What shape this project will take and the specifics involved are not detailed within the PfG.
The PfG states that both cycling and electric cycling have “enormous potential to facilitate a high proportion of daily trips if we can provide an environment which protects and prioritises this mode of transport”. Along with the monetary commitments, the Programme pledges the immediate mandating of local authorities to carry out assessments of their road networks in order to determine where space be
The total spending on walking and cycling will also feature committed funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for active travel and greenways, along with the already agreed allocation of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure from the BusConnects programme. The PfG also promises to: mandate that local authorities to appoint a Cycling Officer
to carry out their assessments; establish Regional Cycle Design Offices co-located in the Regional Design Offices for roads to assist local authorities; mandate the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to work with schools, the Green Schools programme, local authorities and local initiatives in order to “dramatically increase” the number of children cycling and walking to school; widen the eligibility of the Bike to Work scheme; expand the Cycle Right programme for school children; and conduct a review of road traffic policy and legislation to “prioritise the safety of walking and cycling”. Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, who have routinely called for 10 per cent of the transport budget to be allocated towards cycling
infrastructure, welcomed the news of their funding demands being met. The Network said that they were “delighted” to see that the “government formation talks appear to have recognised this urgent need to invest in active travel”.
A 2019 study found that each kilometre driven by car in the EU incurs external costs of €0.11, while each kilometre cycled brings benefits of €0.18 and each kilometre walked brings benefits of €0.37, further incentivising the need to promote active travel.
Greenways In the realm of active travel, greenways can play a key role. In the PfG, the Government has committed to the development of an integrated National Greenways Strategy, with the “potential to transform modal shift, improve air quality and public health”. The Programme says that this commitment to cycling will allow the Government “to achieve the huge ambition of developing an integrated national network of greenways to be used by commuters, leisure cyclists and tourists”. A coordinated approach between government, local authorities and relevant agencies is promised in order to deliver on this goal. Notable projects mentioned within the PfG include a pledge to support the cross-border Sligo-Enniskillen Greenway and a pledge to continue the funding of longterm projects such as the Galway to Dublin Greenway, the Fingal Coastal Way and the extension of Waterford’s greenway into the city centre. Similarly, the PfG promises to “invest in and promote blueways and recreational
Spending on cycling had amounted to less than 2 per cent of the transport capital spending before the PfG, according the Cyclist.ie’s 2020 Budget submission; the Third Report and Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and the Climate Action Plan had all previously endorsed the increasing of this proportion to 10 per cent. On the funding, Cyclist.ie said: “Our expectations are that this funding will be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in out towns and cities so that we can grow cycling to levels common in many continental countries. We also urgently need to redress the gender balance in cycling (currently only 27 per cent of all persons commuting are female, as per Census 2016 data).” Runners on the Carlingford Omeath Greenway.
trails for the benefit of the local community and tourists alike”, along with the promised expansion of the Walks Scheme to a target of 80 trails. The first signs of progress with regard to funding for these types of projects following the formation of the Government came in July when Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan TD announced €4.5 million of funding for 26 greenway projects across the country. The funding was allocated under the Carbon Tax Fund 2020. Ryan commented upon the announcement that he was “delighted” to “support the Greenways Strategy and help local authorities prepare greenway projects to be ready for construction funding in the coming years”. The Minister made particular mention of his happiness in granting funding for greenway projects in Longford, Roscommon and Offaly, with the midlands area being supported by the Just Transition Fund. He also stressed the importance of the Sligo Leitrim Northern Counties Railway (SLNCR) Greenway “in terms of continued work on a cross-border basis”. Overall, 21 of the State’s 26 counties received funding boosts for various greenway projects, with SLNCR Greenway’s proposed 75km section from Sligo Town to Blacklion, Cavan
receiving €500,000. As the Minister stated, the funding awarded at this stage is pre-construction, with feasibility studies, preliminary design, environmental evaluations and similar stages of planning being the main focus for both new projects and proposed extensions to already existing greenways, such as the granting of €150,000 to Limerick County Council to conduct a feasibility study on a 22km extension of the Great Southern Greenway from Rathkeale to Patrickswell, through Adare. Other notable amounts of funding received include what is named as the Sligo Greenway, a 55.5km greenway from Cooloney, Sligo to Bellaghy, Cavan. The greenway was granted €300,000 for preliminary design and environment evaluation. The largest amount awarded was the €750,000 awarded to cover a feasibility study, route option selection, preliminary design, environmental evaluation, land procurement and planning process for a 26.5km section of the Boyne Greenway in Meath. Following the criticism of the Programme for Government’s lack of concrete targets and concerted plans of action, it appears that greenways and active travel are at least one area where progress has been prioritised and quickly accelerated. 53
Data, digitalisation and driving results for the connected customer in transport are saying is the cornerstone of how we deliver service. From customer insights and advanced data analytics derived from the customer contacts to external publicly available data sources such as social media monitoring, we can identify key topics and anticipate customer trends. This in turn supports better decision making in terms of shifting technologies or processes required to support the most effective and efficient customer journey. This allows greater opportunity to personalise the service experience, reduce customer touch points and ultimately reduce costs.
Digital enablement and self service
The way customers utilise the road network and public transport is evolving rapidly as we see the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic emerge, while the transport user is becoming more autonomous with less time on their hands. Abtran Chief Performance Officer, Aisling Deasy writes about the power of data, digitalisation, and delivering great service when it comes to driving results for the connected customer in transport. Digitalisation of services is happening globally across the transport sector and is reshaping the way customers engage and the way businesses models are developed and operated. Customers today expect an integrated, accessible,
Data-driven decision making Delivering great service is a never-
We have been working in partnership with several of our transport clients on programmes which are leveraging innovative use of technology, data, and insights to transform customer engagement. However, it is not simply about a technology implementation; it is about providing an end-to-end service that achieves better service outcomes. One example is the programme to develop the online platform for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Driving Licensing Service. The development of this technology ecosystem is transformative for time pressed consumers; however, it represents only one element of a wider digital transformation framework. This framework also encompasses enhancements to business processes and our operating model which we have developed in conjunction with the RSA and other clients.
ending process and our organisation and governance has evolved to ensure that we continuously monitor new trends
and affordable experience and to have
and adopt best practice. How we
more control and prompt access to
leverage data insights to both monitor
service information wherever and
service performance and gain true and
whenever they choose.
meaningful insight to what customers
This collaborative approach across the technology and customer service delivery teams enables the acceleration of digital adoption by making services as customer friendly and accessible as possible. By enabling customers to selfserve, we are supporting them to gain
to public services by citizens is key to the successful delivery of the eGovernment strategy. Covid-19 has provided an opportunity in terms of further hastening digital adoption. Customers want to adopt, and government must enable the development of the infrastructure and supporting legislation to meet these evolving needs.
Evolving customer support in a digital era We have recognised that in an era of always on service, there will always be a requirement for customer support. Providing a synergised and personal end-to-end experience for the customer can only be done through customer led process design.
The customer service representatives are the subject matter experts who support customers with queries on the exceptions and complaints, they are critical enablers to guiding customers towards being more autonomous and self-sufficient. It is vital for us to empower our people with tools and knowledge to resolve issues first time for customers.
Central to the continued growth of public transport in Ireland and the adoption of more sustainable modes of transport, is the development of a seamless and integrated customer experience. Customers want a consistency in terms of the service experience and payment points, regardless of the mode of transport. Providing this consistency will deliver greater adoption of public transport and result in a more cost efficient and convenient and accessible experience for the customer. Through our work with organisations including National Transport Authority and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, we have played a collaborative role in the delivery of a number of strategic programmes, including the roll out of the Leap Card integrated ticketing system and real-time customer information. JulieAnn McCann, who leads our professional managed services division, is very engaged with our clients in terms of monitoring transport trends both nationally and internationally and collaborating proactively on strategic programmes.
About Abtran Abtran is the leading home-grown provider of business process management services in Ireland. Founded in 1997, Abtran has connected with millions of customers on behalf of trusted brands across Ireland and the UK over the past 23 years. Headquartered in Cork, employing over 1,500 people, the company has multiple sites across Ireland, providing clients with a mix of outsourced, insourced, and fully managed services. Every year, we connect with every household in Ireland, process over 600,000 driving licenses and handle over 3.5 million inbound calls. At Abtran, we relentlessly pursue service excellence. We believe in being open and sharing know-how. We challenge what's best for the customer and never stand still. We are passionate about connecting data and advanced analytics to enable better performance, to empower our people and to create an environment where continuous improvement thrives.
Wider eGovernment strategy
If you would like to find out more about Abtran, please contact us:
Digital enablement in the transport sector is connected to a wider policy of integrating digital at government level. The widespread adoption of the Public Services Card and MyGovID infrastructure to support easier access
E: Info@abtran.com T: +21 230 1800 W: www.abtran.com Twitter: @abtranglobal
Customer support is evolving, both in terms of the customer experience and the customer support representative experience. Regardless of the channel of contact telephone, email, webchat, or even if it is a self-service activity, it still comes down to engaging with the customer in a consistent way and providing accurate and up to date information, based on the specific query and individual circumstance.
Fuelling growth â&#x20AC;&#x201D; connected customer journeys
access to the services they need, when they need it. This supports compliance to the process and ensures that the data provided is accurate, resulting in more efficient and timely process turnaround times for the customer. With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for further digitisation has accelerated even further and is already reshaping how we are engaging with customers.
Fundamentally, as a provider of services to the public sector, it is about how we make it easier for customers to access services and how we can transfer our know-how and experience to enable an outstanding service experience. This brings more opportunity for personalisation of communication and convenience. Keeping connected with the goals and objectives of our clients alongside trends and behaviours in the industry are critical.
While renewable technologies have accelerated the decarbonisation of electricity, the decarbonisation of transport remains more elusive. As other countries begin to formulate national hydrogen strategies, Ireland must consider how it unlocks the potential of hydrogen for mobility. The potential of hydrogen lies in its versatility. It can be integrated into the electricity system, blended with natural gas for heat and used to power fuel cell vehicles. The comprehensive opportunity for decarbonisation means that hydrogen is likely to form a significant component of the future global energy mix. There are three main types of hydrogen. Grey hydrogen is sourced from fossil fuels or biomass and can be decarbonised through carbon capture and storage to produce blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity. It is anticipated that there will be a large-scale transition from grey to blue to green hydrogen in the future. There are several barriers to the transition from fossil fuels to green hydrogen at GW scale. Firstly, the cost of production is determined by the price of renewable electricity and the cost of electrolysers. Within this, efficiency and scale are important factors. That being said, renewable electricity costs are declining. Secondly, green hydrogen poses logistical challenges, such as the location of hydrogen production facilities, alongside the subsequent storage and transport of the hydrogen.
The Future of Hydrogen
In the overview of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2019 report on The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities, Executive Director Fatih Birol writes: “The report finds that clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. It concludes that now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used.”
Internationally, Japan, which published its Basic Hydrogen Strategy in 2017, and Australia, which has produced several strategy documents, have pooled their efforts to develop the world’s first hydrogen fuelled ship. Meanwhile, the European Commission has emphasised the role of clean hydrogen in Europe’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. Indeed, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, announced as part of the New Industrial Strategy for Europe in March 2020 was launched in July 2020.
The IEA outlines that in transport, fuel cell costs and refuelling stations dictate the competitiveness of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, while hydrogen represents an opportunity in shipping and aviation where there are relatively few lowcarbon alternatives. The Future of Hydrogen report identifies the expansion of hydrogen in transport through fleets, freight and corridors as a near-term opportunity for its “clean, widespread use”. “Powering highmileage cars, trucks and buses to carry passengers and goods along popular routes can make fuel-cell vehicles more competitive,” it suggests.
In June 2020, the German Government finalised its own National Hydrogen Strategy, which maintains that “only hydrogen produced on the basis of renewable energies (green hydrogen) is sustainable in the long term”. The Strategy references the EU’s Covid-19 stimulus package which “provides for a further €7 billion euros to be made available for the market ramp-up of hydrogen technologies in Germany and a further €2 billion for international partnerships”. Under the ‘future strategic market of transport’ heading, the German Strategy indicates that hydrogen is an alternative in scenarios where the direct use of electricity is “not practical or technically
Credit: Hans Johnson
Hydrogen and Irish transport
not feasible”. It recommends “the demand-oriented construction” of refuelling infrastructure to enable hydrogen as an alternative in passenger vehicles.
A national strategy for Ireland
In the report, UCD’s Eoin Syron and Mary Doorly emphasise that the development of hydrogen as a green fuel to underpin a zero-emissions energy system requires both supply and demand. They recommend, therefore, that a market for hydrogen as a fuel be established. “The highest value for hydrogen as a fuel,” it says, “can be obtained when it is used for transport.” This necessitates both refuelling infrastructure and a fleet of hydrogen powered vehicles. Given the experience with electric vehicle charging infrastructure, this could take some time.
Hydrogen roadmap In late 2019, Hydrogen Mobility Ireland (HMI), an all-island, multi-stakeholder consortium comprising industry members and policy leaders published A Hydrogen Roadmap for Irish Transport, 2020–2030. The document represents the HMI’s ambition to “develop a hydrogen mobility strategy for Ireland, setting out a pathway for the introduction of hydrogen production sites, hydrogen stations and hydrogen vehicles between now and 2030”. The strategy identifies six main benefits that can be delivered for Ireland by 2030. 1. Hydrogen as a mass market, zero carbon fuel: Hydrogen can be produced with virtually zero emissions in its production chain. 2. Cost competitiveness: The cost of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure is decreasing, while the range in vehicles is increasing. Total cost of ownership could reach equilibrium with conventional vehicles as early as the mid-to-late 2020s.
Eoin Syron and Mary Doorly, UCD Energy Institute 3. No local pollutant emissions: The only emission from hydrogen as a fuel is water. 4. Use in heavy transport: Plug-in battery solutions may not be viable for long-range and heavy-use vehicles types, whereas hydrogen offers a potential solution to decarbonise trains, ships and aviation. 5. Direct economic benefits: Hydrogen can be produced domestically, meaning that unlike traditional transport fuels, Ireland will directly benefit. 6. Catalysing effect on other hydrogen applications: The experience garnered from an early transition to hydrogen in transport could benefit long-term applications in heating. However, to successfully compete with conventional vehicles, hydrogen vehicles require a total cost of ownership which is equal or less. Until economies of scale dictate otherwise, it is inevitable that initial hydrogen vehicles will be more expensive than their carbon combustion engine counterparts. The HMI suggests that this higher cost could be mitigated by a suite of policies, including purchase grants and tax exemptions.
Production The Hydrogen Roadmap for Irish Transport focuses on three pathways for the production of hydrogen in Ireland. 1. Electrolysers co-located with renewable electricity generators. 2. Electrolysers co-located with waste plants. 3. Large-scale reformation of natural gas alongside carbon capture and storage. A consultation seeking views in relation to the development of the Biofuels Obligation Scheme (BOS) for the period 2021 to 2030, including the level of renewable energy in the transport sector
in 2030 was held by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and closed in late 2019. Introduced in 2010, the BOS requires motor fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent an ascribed portion of national annual fuel sales. At the beginning of 2020, this obligation increased to 11 per cent by volume. The HMI’s consultation submission welcomed the proposal to include renewable hydrogen in the revised BOS.
In A National Hydrogen Strategy is Needed to Develop Ireland’s Hydrogen Potential, the UCD Energy Institute advocates the position that Ireland must now formulate its own hydrogen strategy and participate in the European Commission’s discussions on the opportunities for Europe as a whole.
“The highest value for hydrogen as a fuel can be obtained when it is used for transport.”
The update to the BOS will dictate the mix of hydrogen production in Ireland and the HMI maintains that a BOS that incentivises the production of green hydrogen will benefit the greenest production pathways. In turn, the HMI projects, this could encourage the development of 30 electrolyser sites during the 2020s, leading to the production of 100 per cent green hydrogen.
Infrastructure Simultaneously, the HMI strategy envisages captive fuel fleets, including buses, vans and taxis, operating within specific geographic locations. The geographic constraint and heavy use can guarantee a demand for fuel which can be supplied by a relatively small cohort of refuelling stations, improving the economics of this infrastructure. The first clusters of hydrogen demand, it says, will be developed in Dublin and Belfast as the island’s two largest population centres. In order to facilitate the free movement of hydrogen vehicles, a network of hydrogen refuelling stations will need to be rolled out across the island on a phased basis, matching demand and ensuring a business case. The HMI’s strategy for hydrogen refuelling infrastructure visualises an initial cluster of three stations in Dublin, before expanding to 80 stations providing basic national coverage. By 2030, it indicates, each of the island’s cities and major towns, as well as main connecting routes, will have clusters of hydrogen refuelling stations. 57
Decarbonising Ireland’s commercial fleet As Ireland’s transport emissions continue to rise, we face significant challenges to meet our emission reduction targets.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for transport is one of the key gas technologies in Gas Networks Ireland’s Vision 2050 document, developed in partnership with parent company Ervia, which outlines a pathway to reducing Ireland’s total carbon emissions and creating a net zero carbon gas network. Gas Networks Ireland is leading the development of a new, cleaner transport network, to support Ireland in achieving its carbon reduction targets and to give Ireland’s fleet operators sustainable energy options.
About Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) CNG is a proven alternative to diesel or petrol which can lower transport costs and reduce carbon emissions depending on the vehicle size, payload and route type. Switching from diesel to natural gas in transport can deliver immediate environmental benefits.
While Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and buses account for only 4 per cent of vehicles on Ireland’s roads, they account for 30 per cent of all emissions in the road transport sector.
CNG is natural gas which has been compressed to fit into a Natural Gas Vehicle’s (NGV) tank and is particularly suitable for use in commercial vehicles. There are an estimated 26 million NGVs in operation worldwide, and almost two million in Europe. The number of NGVs registered in Ireland has more than doubled in the last year.
Gas Networks Ireland’s vision is to develop a network of 150 filling stations throughout Ireland in the coming years. The Government’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) 202120301 also recognises the role of CNG in transport and has listed the development of the CNG fuelling network to support the uptake of CNG vehicles. With the development of nine additional public CNG stations underway, Ireland’s HGV and bus operators can now choose a cleaner fuel alternative. Gas Networks Ireland’s Head of Commercial and Corporate Affairs Ian O’Flynn and Managing Director Denis O’Sullivan with Gordon Lawlor, Managing Director of Circle K, and Aidan Doody of Harris Transport at the launch of Ireland’s first public CNG refuelling station at Circle K in Dublin Port.
1. Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (2020) – National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030.
Circle K In August 2019, Gas Networks Ireland
and Circle K launched Ireland’s first publicly accessible, fast-fill CNG station at Circle K’s Dublin Port premises, as part of Gas Network Ireland’s Causeway Project. Ireland’s second publicly accessible, fast-fill CNG station at Circle K’s Cashel premises is now open. Strategically located at Junction 8 off the M8 motorway, the station has the capacity to fill 50 HGVs a day with each fill taking no more than five minutes. Two additional stations at Ballysimon Road, Co. Limerick and Clonshaugh, Co. Dublin are also nearing completion and will open later this year.
Applegreen Earlier this year, Gas Networks Ireland entered an agreement with Applegreen to develop two publicly accessible, fastfill CNG stations in Portlaoise and Tipperary, commencing in Q1 2020.
Gas Networks Ireland is working with Panda to develop two publicly accessible, fast-fill CNG stations in Co. Dublin, one on the southside in Ballymount near the N7 and M50, and the other on the northside in Finglas close to the N2, M50 and M1. It is expected that both sites will be operational in early 2021.
Virginia International Logistics Gas Networks Ireland is working with Virginia International Logistics (VIL) to develop a private CNG station at VIL’s premises in Virginia, Co. Cavan. Gas Networks Ireland will install, maintain and operate the CNG equipment. Development on the project is underway with the CNG station expected to be in operation by the end of 2020. In October 2019, VIL became the first haulier in Ireland to complete a zero carbon HGV delivery to Europe. The trucks were fuelled by Compressed Renewable Gas (CRG) throughout the 1,121 km round trip, delivering a consignment of processed beef from Liffey Meats in Ballyjamesduff to Caen in Northern France.
Locally produced renewable gas is now flowing onto the network at Gas Networks Ireland’s purpose-built injection facility in Cush, Co. Kildare. A second gas injection facility is currently in the planning process in Co. Cork. These facilities will supply renewable gas for Ireland’s growing CNG fleet to switch to CRG – a carbon neutral renewable gas for transport.
The Causeway Project The Causeway Project led by Gas Networks Ireland has represented a significant step forward in delivering a sustainable alternative fuel for Irish transport. The development of the public refuelling stations, renewable gas injection facility and deployment of the CNG fleet has demonstrated the validity of CNG as a viable alternative to diesel for Ireland’s transport operators. This project is supported by a grant from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility Transport Fund and the Gas Innovation Fund, approved by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). Research is being co-funded and conducted by project partner, the National University of Ireland Galway.
The two stations will be located along the M7 motorway, accessible from both directions of travel, with one at Applegreen’s forecourt in Midway, Portlaoise at Exit 17 and the other located at Junction 27 at Applegreen’s premises in Birdhill, Co. Tipperary. Other potential sites are currently in discussion.
commitment to reducing its emissions and carbon footprint across its operations.
Panda Panda (part of the Beauparc group) plans to commission 45 NGVs as part of their new ‘green fleet’ over the next three years. The move is the first of its kind for a municipal waste operator in Co. Dublin and is part of the company’s
Achieving zero carbon transport In addition to CNG, the use of CRG in the same vehicle results in ultralow or zero carbon transport.
Gas Networks Ireland T: 1850 411 511 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.gasnetworks.ie/gasintransport
Mobility as a Service in Ireland
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the shifting away from traditional, personally owned modes of transportation towards mobility being provided as a service through the integration of public and private options. Given the need for substantial investment in mobility in Ireland, specifically in rural areas, it is of particular
The Programme for Government does not make specific mention of MaaS, but its focus on mobility, specifically in the forms of a new rural mobility plan and in the provision of improved mobility for students in higher and further education, should pair easily with a nationwide embrace of the user needs-based concept behind MaaS. MaaS typically consists of integrating public and private transportation into one gateway, where users can create and manage trips while paying through one account. The key behind the service is offering travel solutions that can specifically match a user’s given needs while moving people away from the individualised mode of car ownership. Planning would typically be done with a journey planner as part of the service that would offer various solutions and allow the user to choose at their convenience. Any reservations, i.e. taxis, ridesharing apps, or train tickets, would then be secured by the service and all payments due would be taken in one block. MaaS is still a relatively new concept, having only been conceived in 2014, but a 2017 White Paper by the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group on future Irish and EU research into the topic stated that the concept is “gaining prominence as a possible solution to the long-standing challenge of seamless mobility”. The appetite to embrace more communal forms of transport does seem to be present, with the National Transport Agency (NTA) reporting six consecutive years of growth in public transport passenger numbers. In 2019, passenger numbers were up 14 per cent from 2018 levels, while revenue figures rose by 11 per cent in the same period. Bus and train services have reached capacity, a problem the Bus Connects and MetroLink programmes will seek to alleviate. Whether or not the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restriction on passenger numbers delay these plans remains to be seen. The NTA are also in the midst of developing their Just the Ticket scheme, a MaaS-like integrated ticketing system designed to give users more choice. Just the Ticket will supersede the Leap Card system, starting with buses before expanding to rail nationwide. A 2018 survey by Amárach Research found that a “growing minority” are ready for the idea of MaaS in Ireland, but added the caveat that “only a tiny minority of Irish adults live in a household without a car, especially those living in Dublin or in the 25-34 age group, but four in 10 live in a household with two or more cars”. When asked if they would be interested in a car rental service for short trips as part of a MaaS programme, 48 per cent of all adults said they were interested versus 43 per cent who were not interested. These numbers fluctuated based on car ownership but even those with two or more in their household were evenly split at 46 per cent. It was also found that one in four car owners would consider giving up their car for an “affordable, available car rental alternative”, this included 31 per cent of people from two car (or more) households. The key takeaway from the survey is said to be that “Irish consumers are increasingly interested in a radically different relationship with their cars in future”. For MaaS to work and consumer behaviour to change, investment must follow this interest. 61
Rail at the heart of our sustainable future travel, development and economic activity, to meet climate action goals at national and international level, and improve quality of life for generations to come. In 2019, we in Iarnród Éireann carried a record 50.1 million passengers on our services, across Intercity, DART and Commuter, and trends were set to see yet more record highs successively this year, and in the years to come.
We are at a moment of unique opportunity to build a new future. Jim Meade, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann, outlines rail’s role in the recovery.
The nature of Iarnród Éireann’s day to day service delivery – as was the case for companies and industries all over the world – transformed virtually overnight in mid-March this year, as we went from the highest patronage ever seen on our rail network to asking our customers, other than those providing essential services, not to travel with us.
Policy makers, experts and analysts continuously have to grapple with the challenges posed by imagining the future we want as a society and economy, while addressing the immediate and urgent requirements of day to day service delivery. 62
However, as we rebuild from the global pause caused by Covid-19, the appetite for a more sustainable future for our society and economy, and the repeated pattern of rapid recovery from economic shocks demonstrates the importance of continuing with investment in mobility for our citizens and communities. There has never been a time when we have such a unique opportunity to facilitate a more sustainable pattern of
Project Ireland 2040 mandates a pattern of development which can see our rail alignments as the focus of development, and, with the support of the National Transport Authority and Department of Transport under Project Ireland 2040, our ambitions are much greater to meet the needs of the economy, society, and the communities and commuters we serve. At the heart of our plans is DART+, supported by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan. Put simply, this €2 billion investment will allow more trains to operate on all routes on our network, by building the capacity of the most congested sections in the Greater Dublin Area. It will see: •
The electrification of the Maynooth, Hazelhatch and Drogheda rail lines;
Associated works such as the elimination of level crossings on the Maynooth line;
Infrastructure works to allow more trains to operate, including at Connolly and Docklands;
Integration with other public transport modes including proposed MetroLink and BusConnects programmes;
A major expansion of our fleet, with up to 600 electric and hybrid train carriages to be ordered, resulting in almost 80 per cent of journeys on our network being delivered under electric power; and
A doubling of the carrying capacity of the Greater Dublin Area network.
Additionally, a programme to convert our existing Intercity railcar fleet to diesel electric operation is underway, reducing emissions, fuel usage, costs and noise.
Investment in infrastructure in the Dublin area will not only benefit Dublin commuter belt services, however. It will grow our ability to operate services right around the country. We are also ambitious to see journey time improvements on national routes, and targeted line speed improvement works are already taking place. We are also ambitious for our regional cities. The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) sets out major expansion plans for our successful Cork Commuter rail service within the wider Cork transport network. Up to eight new stations, and infrastructure works which will allow a 10-minute DART style frequency between Cork city and each of Cobh, Midleton and Mallow are envisaged, allowing passenger growth to up to 16 million over the life of the strategy, and with opportunities for accelerated delivery.
Waterford city centre is set for a transformative development at the North Quays, and Waterford’s Plunkett Station will be relocated to be part of an integrated transport hub under these plans. In Limerick, the completion of the city’s own transportation hub centred on Colbert Station will also boost services, and the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy will assess the
“With strong national policies on transport, planning, sustainability and climate change mitigation, we stand at a time of unique opportunity to shape a better future for Ireland.” opportunities provided by the network of rail lines around Limerick City. Project Ireland 2040, by strengthening regional cities, will provide a stronger environment for our national rail network to meet transport needs. Railways, more than any other form of public transport, rely on critical mass and higher density population centres to provide the economic case for investment, and the societal benefit. By developing strong cities to counterbalance Dublin, we ensure that the development of railways in Ireland in the future is truly national. As well as targeting improved journey times on the national Intercity network, we have also developed a specific strategy for the Dublin/Belfast Enterprise service, jointly operated with our colleagues in Translink. Both companies propose an expansion to an hourly service, and improved journey times on this key link between the two largest cities on the island. Looking to a longer-term future, this densely populated corridor is targeted to be the first electrified Intercity line on the island, building on the DART Expansion electrification to Drogheda. Higher speed services along the Belfast-DublinCork corridor are to be studied further under the Programme for Government.
As well as these service enhancement programmes, our future investment will also address key safety and maintenance requirements. Construction has begun on a new National Train Control Centre and in major safety investment programmes. Relaying of the Dublin-Cork line will improve service safety, performance and ultimately speeds. With strong national policies on transport, planning, sustainability and climate change mitigation, we stand at a time of unique opportunity to shape a better future for Ireland. We can look back at the challenges and crisis we have lived through in 2020 and reflect on the positive transformation we subsequently delivered for how we live as a nation.
In Galway, double tracking between Athenry and Galway would allow for a major increase in service frequency to build on previous growth in passenger numbers between the two stations. An interim measure of a passing loop and second platform at Oranmore would also allow us to expand to meet demand, and this will be evaluated further.
Improving access to services for all customers will also be at the heart of our investment plans. Accessibility for mobility and sensory impaired customers will be a principle of all station and fleet improvements, and our largest ever lift renewal programme is underway. Investment in park and ride facilities, and customer information will also make our services easier to access and to use.
Iarnród Éireann Head Office Connolly Station Dublin D01V6V6 W: www.irishrail.ie T: 01 836 6222 E: IENews@irishrail.ie Twitter @irishrail 63
Transport infrastructure and Covid-19: Never waste a crisis transport report
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis offers an opportunity to approach things differently in Ireland and this includes transport infrastructure. Dublinborn veteran broadcaster and presenter of the Newsroom
The former mayor of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was famed for his temper, his brains and for offering the phrase “never let a crisis go to waste”. He assumed his post alongside then President Barack Obama in the eye of the Great Recession in early 2009 as unemployment was soaring and GDP plunging. Sound familiar? Brexit was already throwing up a major headache for Ireland but now with Covid-19, this ‘shit just got real’. Of course, Ireland is not the only country with a public health and economic crisis. The real question is how will it respond? It could try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again in as many fields of life as possible by trying to restore everything to how it was nine months ago. That is the politically easy thing to do and is possibly the most likely outcome. But it could also stand back, with this new coalition and re-examine everything, particularly our infrastructure. In February 2020, I wrote a piece for the Irish Times suggesting that Ireland copies the example set by Japan, which building its high-speed rail network, known as the Shinkansen, in the 1970s. In that piece, I suggested building a brand-new rail network which does not follow the path of the existing railway lines on the island of Ireland but rather one which goes through less well-known towns and townlands and by building new towns
Credit: Conor Luddy
and cities around each stop. Little did I know that there would be a grand coalition featuring the Green party within a few months and that Ireland would be facing an economic crisis as big if not bigger than the financial crisis of 2009/2010. I also didn’t know that Michelle O’Neill, the deputy First Minister in the North, would also actively support the building of a high-speed line stretching from Belfast to Cork, just as I had. Now is certainly the time to think big and to think long-term. Borrowing costs are effectively zero and are unlikely to rise in the next decade at least. We need to build homes for our citizens, and we must consider weaning ourselves off our dependency on Dublin as a source of all major employment. One of the great benefits of lockdown has been the widespread adoption of ‘working from home’. If you're lucky enough to have avoided Covid-19, have a job, a medium-sized house with a garden and a decent broadband signal, lockdown hasn't been too bad for you. It’s also brought into sharp relief how easy it is to do things differently, when urgency requires. Why spend three hours of every working day commuting to a city centre office for at least one-third of your life when you don't need to? Instead you could live in rural Ireland and enjoy a superior family life in a cleaner and safer environment. But that
does not mean that we shouldn’t build the necessary infrastructure to move people and goods around quicker and cheaper. After all, high speed rail is not just about commuting, it’s also about removing our dependency on cars and making the country more accessible. As the old CIE advert goes, ‘let the train take the strain’. Of course, it’s not enough to simply build a fast railway line, the infrastructure should also contain whatever the next generation of highspeed broadband fibre may be, so that we can all have speedy video calls and upload fat files in microseconds from the garden shed. Energy efficient houses must be built, and shops and schools provided for burgeoning new towns. And before you say that the NIMBYs won't allow any such construction, consider the way in which the Irish Government requisitioned private hospitals in a matter of hours during the peak of Covid-19. Consider how quickly our Naval Service and even Croke Park were pressed into action and how the economy was quasi nationalised at short notice, all in the national interest. It can be done where there’s a political will. The longer we postpone decisions to think big and act fast, the less likely that anything like this will be built. And remember every other developed nation on earth will be thinking the same thing right now. ‘We gotta beat that competition.’
Ireland’s ITF Presidency ITS Secretary-General Young Tae Kim.
Ireland, through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, has assumed the 2019/20 Presidency of the International Transport Forum (ITF). This has marked a full circle moment after creation of the ITF by the 2006 Dublin Declaration. The Presidency of the ITF revolves annually among member countries; Ireland taking up the role in 2019/20 means that the country has chaired the Council of Ministers of Transport and the Transport Management Board meetings that have taken place so far during its yearlong tenure and will also play a key role in the organisation of the ITF’s Annual Summit, which had been due to take place in late May in Leipzig, Germany but was postponed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a statement confirming the postponement of the Summit, ITF Secretary General Young Tae Kim said that the decision had been taken through consultation with the member countries, led by Ireland. A new date for the Summit has not yet been set and the likelihood of Ireland getting to stage the Summit that it will have played a key role in organising during its presidency does seem to be under threat. The concentration of ITF meetings in Dublin began in November 2019 as Ireland officially took up the mantle of
the presidency. Transport Research Committee meetings, Task Force 2020 meetings and the first meeting of Task Force 2021 were all held at that time among other committee meetings. Ireland had previously held the presidency of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), from which the ITF was established. The ITF’s founding, which made the ECMT a worldwide organisation by making full-time members of previous associate members such as Japan and the United States, was done through the 2006 Declaration on the Development of the ECMT, colloquially known as the Dublin Declaration. Further non-European countries have joined since, such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, who are serving as one of Ireland’s vice presidents, along with the United Kingdom. The ITF currently consists of 60 member countries, with one of the most notable stories of Ireland’s presidency so far being the approval of Brazil’s application to become an observer country within the forum.
Upon their ascension to observer membership, Secretary General Kim said that the ITF were “keen to learn from the country that gave the world one of the great transport innovations of recent decades: Bus Rapid Transit”. Other notable actions have included the publication of reports such as the Corporate Partnership Board’s Safe Micromobility report that found escooters to be safer than cars and motorcycles – a finding that will be welcomed by the new Irish Government given the Programme for Government’s commitment to the provision of escooters – along with the release of the Transport Climate Action Directory, an online database of more than 60 climate change mitigation measures for transport and the evidence base needed to gauge their effectiveness. The database is now available for public use and is specifically aimed at supporting countries in the first revisions of their nationally determined contributions for the 2021 Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT, TOURISM A N D S P O R T : Who’s who Ministers Eamon Ryan Minister for Transport and Communications Networks and Climate Action Eamon Ryan TD is the Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport. He was appointed to this role in June 2020. Eamon Ryan was elected to represent Dublin Bay South in the 2020 general election, having gained the seat in the 2016 general election. He had originally been a TD for Dublin South from 2002 until he lost the seat in 2011. He has previously as a Government Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources during the Fianna Fáil and Green Party coalition government. The Minister leads the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in serving the country, its people and the Government.
Hildegarde Naughton Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics Hildegarde Naughton TD is Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. She was elected to represent the Galway West constituency in the 2020 general election, having also won her seat in 2016. She has served on a number of Oireachtas committees including the Future of Healthcare, and Budgetary Scrutiny. She was appointed as the chair of the Communications, Climate Action and Environment committee in 2016.
Senior management Ken Spratt Acting Secretary General of the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport
Deirdre Hanlon Assistant Secretary, Public Transport Sustainability and Climate Change
The Secretary General of the
leading the Sustainable Mobility brief in
Department of Transport, Tourism and
the Department. This work spans three
Sport is responsible for implementing
areas: the public transport sector (bus,
Deirdre Hanlon is the Assistant Secretary
rail, light rail, taxi); active travel (walking
the Department's mission and high-level goals. Ken Spratt’s experience in governance stretches back to 2000. He has held
and cycling); and the climate challenge for the land transport
senior positions across various Irish Government departments, the
Council of the European Union, the International Energy Agency and the Irish Embassy in Washington DC. Having been Assistant Secretary General in the Department since January 2016, Spratt was named Acting Secretary General in July 2020.
Senior Management (cont) Deirdre O’Keeffe Assistant Secretary, Maritime and Strategic Research and Analysis Division Deirdre O’Keeffe is the Assistant Secretary with responsibility for Maritime Transport, including the Irish Coastguard, for the Strategic Research Analysis division and for the Department’s Internal Audit function. Deirdre joined the management roles in the Departments of Justice, Education, Marine and Finance, as a Statistician in the Central Statistics Office and as a Director/Secretary to Fáilte Ireland.
Ray O’Leary is the Assistant Secretary dealing with Roads and Road Safety. He also has administrative responsibilities for the Air and Rail Accident Investigation Units which operate independently of the Department under EU and international law. His area covers the Department’s investment, policy and oversight roles in relation to roads, and a range of areas relating to road safety and regulation of traffic generally, including bodies such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the Road Safety Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
Department in February 2015 having previously served in senior
Ray O’Leary Assistant Secretary, Roads and Accident Investigation Unit
Transport agencies and semi-state actors Anne Graham Chief Executive Officer, National Transport Authority Anne Graham was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the National Transport Authority in January 2015. Prior to that she served as the Authority’s Director of Public Transport Services. Anne is a Chartered Engineer and holds an MBA from Dublin City University. She has worked with the Dublin Local Authorities as a Civil Engineer, as Project Manager on many projects and as an Area Manager in the South West area of Dublin City.
Denis O’Sullivan Managing Director Gas Networks Ireland Denis O’Sullivan is the Managing Director of Gas Networks Ireland. Previously Head of Commercial with the company, he had responsibility for managing, developing and delivering the business’s commercial growth and innovation strategies with key focus on maximising the utilisation of the gas network and diversifying its use with gas in transport and renewable gas.
Seamus Egan Managing Director Transdev Seamus Egan is Managing Director of Transdev in Ireland. He has a history of working in the light rail, medical devices and electronic manufacturing industries. He has been with Transdev since 2006, having previously acted as their Contracts Manager and Performance Director. He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Dublin Institute of Technology.
Jim Meade Chief Executive Iarnród Éireann Jim Meade was appointed Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann in May 2018. He had previously been Director, Railway Undertaking since 2013 responsible for all passenger and freight services. Jim leads the management team in ensuring that the railway is operated and maintained in a manner that prioritises safety for passengers, employees and third parties.
Sam Waide Chief Executive Road Safety Authority Sam was previously Executive Director of Operations and Board Member of the Business Services Organisation within Northern Ireland’s Health & Social Care Service before being appointed Chief Executive of the RSA in June 2020. Prior to his current position Sam’s career has spanned private and public sectors in the UK and Ireland where he held positions of increasing responsibility with BMW Group, PWC Consulting, Publicis Sapient Global Markets and BAE Systems UK.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT, TOURISM AND SPORT:
Transport agencies and semi-state actors (cont) Stephen Kent Chief Executive Officer Bus Éireann
Stephen Kent has been CEO at Bus Éireann since November 2018, having acted as Chief Commercial Officer for five years before that. Prior to joining Bus Éireann, he held key management positions in C&C and Waterford Crystal, along with roles at Guinness Peat Aviation, Bank of Ireland and Waterford Foods.
Dalton Philips Chief Executive Officer daa Dalton Philips became Chief Executive of daa in October 2017. Prior to joining the company, his roles included Chief Executive of Wm Morrison plc., Chief Operating Officer of Canadian retailer Loblaw Companies and Chief Executive of Brown Thomas Group. Among other roles, he was also a Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group, the global management consultancy.
Mary Considine Chief Executive Officer Shannon Group Airport Authority, Shannon Commercial Properties and Shannon Heritage and supports the growing aviation cluster through the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) brand. She was the former Airport Director and led the successful separation of Shannon Airport from the daa in 2012 leading to Shannon Airport becoming independent on the 31 December 2012.
Ray Coyne Chief Executive Officer Dublin Bus Ray Coyne has been with Dublin Bus since 2006, having served as their Chief Executive Officer since Jul 2015. As project manager for Network Direct, he was responsible for the strategic redesign and implementation of the main public transport network in Dublin, the largest revision of a public transport network in Europe. The implementation has proven to be successful resulting in improved financial stability, increased customer usage and improved product understanding for customers.
Eamonn O’Reilly Chief Executive Dublin Port Eamonn O’Reilly has been Chief Executive at Dublin Port since 2010. Prior to joining Dublin Port, he had previously served as chief executive at Portroe Stevedores, the Dublin Portbased cargo handling business. He also held the role of group development manager of Portroe's parent company, Doyle Shipping Group, during that time.
Pat Keating Chief Executive Officer Shannon Foynes Port Company Pat Keating has been with the Shannon Foynes Port Company for 19 years, having served as Chief Executive for 14. Prior to this, he worked across the financial industry with Citi, Bank of America, Irish Life and PwC.
Conor O’Dowd Chief Executive Officer The Port of Galway Conor has been CEO of the Port of Galway since November 2018. Prior to this, he worked as an Audit Director for KPMG for almost 20 years.
Brendan Keating Chief Executive Port of Cork Brendan has been Chief Executive at the Port of Cork since December 2002. A graduate of NUI Galway, he was City Manager for Limerick County Council for four years previous to his current role.
Stephen McCarthy Chief Executive Officer emovis Stephen McCarthy is responsible for overseeing emovis’s operations in Ireland as it provides innovative solutions in the area of transport and mobility to clients. Previously he was the Head of Transition Management in emovis, with responsibility for transitioning new mobility solutions to Ireland from the company’s international markets.
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Countries such as South Africa, India and Malaysia were among those who halted issuing visor visas, while countries such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand suspended visa-free travel reciprocity. As lockdown measures have been eased in many countries, the resumption of a high level of air travel has been dependent on both science and the political decisions of governments worldwide. South Africa, for example, recently made moves to restart its tourism industry, but with domestic travel only permitted. Minister for Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that the “decision to open the country’s external borders will be based on an assessment of scientific evidence”. Ireland’s gradual reopening had operated upon similar lines, with “staycations” encouraged both as a way to avoid differing transmission rates in other countries and as a way to aid the local tourism industries so badly affected by the pandemic. Measures such as these were of little use to the air travel industry in a country as small as Ireland, where domestic air travel is low. The first steps to recovery for international air travel to and from Ireland began in July, but this
immediately sparked controversy and worries of a second wave with reports of tourists, specifically Americans, failing to observe quarantine measures that the Government was not monitoring, and some establishments within the tourism industry refusing to serve them as a result. “Travel bubbles” or “air bridges”, where states reach mutual agreements to open their borders to each other but keep them closed to other countries, seem to be the way that air travel will slowly resume. Countries have also moved to encourage travel to and from other countries where the virus has been tackled well, with the Irish Government’s Green List — 10 countries from which arriving and returning tourists would not be required to quarantine — being an example. Requirements for Irish citizens to quarantine for two weeks after visiting any country other than the 10 on the Green List, which does not include popular destinations such as France, Spain or the United States, will have also frustrated the air travel industry, with it unlikely that workers who have returned to their office will be able to access the amount of time off require to both travel and quarantine upon return.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, air travel ground to a near halt as some countries paused the issuing of visitor visas and others suspended visa-free travel reciprocity. The air travel industry will now be seeking avenues to recover from its biggest crisis since
The airline industry is internationally suffering its biggest crisis since the 11 September 2001 attacks, which prompted worldwide fears about safety and impacted the numbers of those travelling (2002 saw a fall to 1.63 billion passengers worldwide from 2001’s 1.66 billion) and led to furloughs, redundancies and consolidations across the industry. Similar, if not worse, is predicted now, with British Airways (BA) having furloughed 22,600 staff at one point and announced plans to make at least 12,000 of its 42,000 strong workforce redundant. BA’s parent company, the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) reported losses of €535 million in the first three months of 2020. In July, Irish Airline Pilots’ Association President Evan Cullen told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid19 response that it was unsustainable for Aer Lingus (also under the IAG umbrella) to continue spending €1.5 million per day with little revenue in return. Cullen pointed to the state aid received by BA and Iberia, IAG’s Spanish airline, a point that may come as an acknowledgment that the future of the airline industry may well be in the new coalition’s hands.
One team: Team Luas
Transdev Dublin Light Rail Ltd Managing Director Seamus Egan.
Following the securing of the contract by Transdev Dublin Light Rail Limited to operate and maintain the Luas, Managing Director Seamus Egan speaks to Owen McQuade about the integration of a newly structured organisation, the Advertorial
Covid-19 response and the introduction of Lean efficiencies. The decision to award Transdev the Operation and Maintenance contract for the Luas by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) came after a 15-year delineation between the operator, Transdev, and the maintainer, most recently, Alstom. The contract, which came in to force on 1 December 2019, brought with it 70
wholesale changes within the organisation, which has been operating the Luas light rail network since 2004, as it sought to not just transfer Alstom employees to Transdev but create a fully integrated team through sweeping reorganisation.
initiated a significant change process,
Egan explains that in the six months until the contract became active, following the conclusion of the international tender process, Transdev
roof, which sounds like a simplification
including a communications strategy and input from change experts to support the mobilisation. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The top line was that we had brought maintenance and operations under one of process. However, our approach was much more integrated and complicated than that,â&#x20AC;? he explains.
“We haven’t just joined the two organisations together. Instead, we’ve created brand new work structures where many areas of the business have been integrated, facilitating the creation of new roles and changes to those existing roles.”
“We recognised that there were different cultures and we were sensitive to the perception that Alstom’s maintenance and STT’s security staff were joining an existing organisation. We wanted to make it clear that the new Transdev, after 1 December 2019, was a new working environment and that even existing Transdev staff were moving to a new organisation post-contract award. We’ve been emphasising that it’s now one culture, one team: team Luas.” Egan explains that preparation work included the scoping of each individual role and the necessary adjustments to jobs to best meet the new working environment. The consequence was the creation of opportunities for people to progress but also vacancies, which Transdev are actively seeking to fill.
The Operation and Maintenance contract was granted for six years, plus an option for five additional years. Under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations, Alstom and Veolia employees, with responsibility for ensuring maintenance works for the Luas network, and STT security staff joined around 350 staff of Transdev already presiding over the management of 42km of tracks, three depots and 73 light rail vehicles. Staff numbers of the new organisation are 600.
“We haven’t just joined the two organisations together. Instead, we’ve created brand new work structures where many areas of the business have been dovetailed, facilitating the creation of new roles and changes to those existing roles.” have physically expanded that control room to a Network Management Centre,
Highlighting how Transdev has initiated major changes rather than simply adjusted its processes, Egan adds: “We didn’t just base integration on the scope of the new contract. Our bid team reviewed the previous 15 years and took an explicit decision to build the organisation from a greenfield site perspective.”
between control and maintenance. This
which includes not only traffic supervisors but also duty asset controllers, serving as an interface
has facilitated greater levels of collaboration and co-ordination between operations and maintenance to drive efficiencies of the service. “Additionally, we put a representative of the Luas Customer Service Centre in
“The switch has been both interesting and challenging but it will pay dividends, ultimately for the customer over the next six and hopefully 11 years.”
An example Egan points to is Transdev’s new look Network Management Centre, a significant change from the legacy control centres, which housed only traffic supervisors. “Our preparation work identified gaps between the control centre and maintenance staff, customer care and the management of our customer agents. To address that disconnect we 71
recognition of the risks, associated with what was then happening in other parts of the world, to its continued delivery of services. “In early February we included Covid-19 in our risk register, meaning that we anticipated changes to our timetables, potential high levels of absenteeism and a shut down. It meant that when the nation had to respond as a whole, we were ahead of the curve somewhat,” he explains.
Operationally, Transdev initiated deep cleans of their trams and terminuses and immediately rolled out remote working for staff where possible. Once lockdown commenced, Transdev launched an intensive management and communications programme, including twice-daily meetings of Transdev’s executive team, its head of safety and the communications manager.
“The culture we want to create is one where every member of staff feels that they are delivering for the customer.” the Network Management Centre, allowing for the distribution and gathering of real time information to and from customers in relation to disruptions.”
levels of co-ordination through greater efficiencies and I believe the Network Management Centre will be key to operations going forward.”
Also now positioned in the Network Management Centre is a Luas Duty Manager, a new role created by Transdev to ensure that a senior manager is onsite 24/7 with responsibility for the delivery and performance of Luas services.
“Again, implementation of the plan was challenging but we’re already recognising the benefits of greater
Understandably, Egan’s transition year of 2020 has been somewhat disrupted by the effects of the global pandemic. However, he is confident that the organisation’s past and forward planning will enable it to deliver on their ambitions. Egan credits Transdev’s early
Transdev oversees around 48.2 (2019) million passenger journeys across the expanding network, composed of the Red (20km) and Green (22km) lines in Dublin. Globally, it operates 23 light rail systems in eight countries and in 2019 was awarded the €330 million contract for Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail Project in Sydney, Australia. 72
The result was that not only was Transdev able to keep open a regular line of communication with staff, but was also responsive to staff concerns and queries. In parallel, Transdev participated in an unprecedented process of integrating its operations with the NTA, TII and the other transport operators. “We needed a cohesive integrated approach across all public transport operators and met with them three times a week, to ensure that we were learning from one another and that information coming from the Department was being disseminated in an efficient and timely fashion. “Those meetings are continuing and those relationships are important to ensure that we are responding accordingly to the various challenges that have and continue to arise.” Egan’s assessment is that all transport operators deserve credit for their role in maintaining levels of service throughout lockdown. However, he reserves specific praise for his own staff: “I’m particularly proud of Transdev staff because we have not reduced our timetable and I think we’re the only light rail operator across Europe not to do so. It’s a testament that our staff maintained the service and played their role in transporting essential workers.” Describing the operations of Transdev as at a “new steady state” since April, Egan stresses that he and his team are not complacent about future risk. “As part of our risk management, we’re preparing our response to a potential second outbreak [of Covid-19]. We recognise that just because we haven’t
had an outbreak within Transdev that it doesn’t mean we can’t do better and so, we’re constantly revisiting our operations and plans. News of outbreaks elsewhere have brought home the potential risks of complacency and we’re striving to ensure that that’s not the case.”
As Ireland emerges from lockdown, and more greater levels of normality resume, Egan is eager to drive forward with Transdev’s evolution. In line with the re-organisation, he has ambitions to continue the role-out of continuous improvement of delivery to the customer. “The culture we want to create is one where every member of staff feels that they are delivering for the customer. When staff are appreciated, supported and are given autonomy to complete processes that’s when huge efficiencies are created.” Egan’s model of Lean, which he has initiated across Transdev, is based on a model he has seen successfully rolled out across other industries, specifically medical devices. Transdev has identified nine local ambassadors across the business, offering them training and support in leading Lean projects. The Managing Director explains that offering high levels of autonomy, as well as ringfenced budgets for initiatives, will drive the championing of Lean processes across the organisation. “We’re still in an early phase of our Lean approach but I have ambitions to roll it out across the entire organisation. I want everyone to feel that they own the scope of their work and, if they can contribute to making that more efficient, that they have the authority to come and pitch it and that we support them in getting that done.” Egan highlights that Transdev’s operations of the Luas have been historically efficient, however, he recognises that opportunities still exist.
“We’ve already seen this initiative drive improvements in relation to, for example, our processes for maintenance examinations. We’ve also rolled out training to our HR department, safety department and training to duty
“I see Lean processes as key to our future operations. We’ve assumed many advantages to this over the lifetime of the contract, so we’re pushing hard on it.”
Future Turning to the future, Egan highlights that the remainder of 2020 will continue to see the organisation transition. However, he stresses that all work will be towards the goal of delivering the best customer service and optimising operations to improve customer satisfaction. Outside of the Luas, Transdev, as a private company, have in the past bid for other transport operations and while it’s not currently on the “strategic
horizon”, Egan says that it’s something they might re-visit in the coming years. “We’ll also be keeping an eye on MetroLink, which we see as vital to the development of Dublin and where we feel there is an opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past. The 2009/10 recession saw Metro North paused indefinitely but I feel that, even in a recession, as a nation we should continue to plan and work on large infrastructure projects, to the point where they are ready for going out to tender. “In the context of Ireland’s boom and bust economy, we must be ready to go in that moment when the economy picks up. “What we have heard so far from the Minister, that the MetroLink is still on the cards, is good news and we hope that the Department and the Government proceed with it.”
Profile: Seamus Egan
“A steering group involving myself, some of our Executive team, Transdev Global Lean Corporate team and the local Lean ambassadors meet regularly and ensure that those ambassadors know they have our full support and assurance that this is how we are driving the organisation forward.
managers. This training is being led by a local Lean co-ordinator and backed up by the ambassadors.
Managing Director, Transdev Dublin Light Rail Ltd Seamus Egan entered the labour market in 1990 as an apprentice fitter/turner with Iarnród Éireann. After qualifying, he studied Mechanical Engineering at DIT before joining the Galwaybased medical device company Medtronic. In 1999 he joined HP as a process engineer and then moved to Project Manager (in addition to Contracts Manufacturing Management) in a seven-year period. Seamus joined Transdev as Contracts Manager in 2006 before moving on to be Performance Director. In 2018 he was appointed Managing Director. Seamus is married to Ruth with three children, a son Jake and two daughters Aislinn and Aoibhín both of whom have profound disabilities and complex medical needs and who require 24/7 medical care. This has given him a sharp interest in accessibility issues across the transport network. Outside work he likes to relax by playing music. 73
Electric vehicles: Learning from Norway’s lead Norway’s fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) is the largest per capita in the world, with the market share of plug-in cars having reached 55.9 per cent in 2019. As Ireland looks to heavily invest in EVs, eolas analyses how Norway did it. As of 31 March 2020, there were 390,367 light-duty plug-in EVs registered as in use in Norway. These consisted of 268,962 all-electric cars and vans and 121,405 plug-in hybrids. Since December 2019, Norway has had the largest European stock of light-duty plug-in vehicles, and the world’s third largest, behind only China and the United States. The country was the top selling plug-in market in Europe from 2016 to 2018. Norway’s progress in addressing the balance of EVs to fossil-fuelled vehicles has not been halted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Pure EVs made up almost half of the country’s car sales in the first
half of 2020, accounting for 48 per cent of all new car registrations from January to June, an increase on the 45 per cent recorded in the same period in 2019 and the 42 per cent recorded over the whole of 2019. The data from the Norwegian Road Federation showed the 48 per cent to be a record proportion despite a Covid-inspired fall of 24.3 per cent in overall car sales. The electric Audi e-tron was the most popular car in the country during the period. EVs make up just 3 per cent of new cars worldwide according to the International Energy Agency, with Norway by far the largest market.
Making the 48 per cent figure even more impressive is the fact that it accounts only for purely electric vehicles, while the worldwide 3 per cent also includes hybrid plug-ins. Despite this, perhaps as a sign of the ambition that exists within Norway when it comes to EVs, the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association has criticised the level as insufficient if Norway plans on meeting its goal of all new cars sold being zero emissions by 2025. The organisation has said that in order to be on track for this goal, sale levels should be over 50 per cent at this stage. Norway’s target is notably sooner than many European
counterparts: Britain plan for the same to be done in 2035, France have same goal for 2040 and Ireland’s new Programme for Government has pledged to ban the registration of fossilfuelled cars and light vehicles from 2030 onwards.
12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000 2,000 0 2011
The Nissan Leaf hatchback battery EV was Norway’s best-selling new car model in 2019, which marked the first time in any country that a purely electric car topped the annual sales of passenger cars. 2018 analysis carried out by McKinsey and Company designated Norway as the only country in the world in the third stage of a disruptive trend with regard to EVs, meaning that the country had already reached a critical mass of EVs and that EV disruption in the country had become inevitable.
Electric vechicle charging stations in Norway, by type, 2011–2018
Registered cars in Norway by type of fuel, 31 December 2019
Norway’s fleet is also acclaimed as one of the cleanest in the world since roughly 98 per cent of the country’s electricity supply comes from renewable sources, predominantly hydropower. In 2017, Norway reached its 2020 target of average fleet CO2 emissions (85g/km) for new passenger cars three years early as a result of the country’s success with EV adoption.
4% 4% 46%
How did they get there? The road to Norway becoming a world leader in the adoption of EVs as a primary mode of public transport began in the 1990s, with the national government actively supporting a shift in car consumption since that time. Switching to EVs has long made sense especially in Norway, where hydropowered electricity means that a shift away from fossil-fuelled cars can have an even greener impact than it would in countries whose supply is still dependent on non-renewable sources. The first government incentives for the purchase of EVs were introduced in 1990: an at-the-time temporary exemption from Norway’s high rates of vehicle purchase tax that became permanent six years later. Norway did not have the same relationship to cars as most countries in Europe did at that time, cars were still considered a luxury item and taxed highly. The scrapping of the vehicle purchase tax for EVs meant that their prices dropped to that of their fossil-fuelled counterparts. In the following years, EV drivers were given the right to park for free in select municipal car parks, exempted from
VST and road tax, allowed to take ferries without a ticket and allowed to drive in public transport lanes. Company electric cars are also taxed at a lower rate than fossil-fuelled company cars. With driving personal cars a highly taxed mode of transport in Norway, Oslo was and is still known for its expensive road tolls and parking changes. EVs were exempted from these in 1995 after A-ha singer Morten Harket (of “Take on Me” fame) and the leader of the environmental group Bellona refused to pay the tolls and parked illegally where possible in an electric Fiat Panda. The car was eventually impounded and auctioned to cover the costs, but the stunt had been successful in having the charges scrapped for EVs. These incentives have changed over the years: those wishing to use public transport lanes must now be carrying at least one passenger and a 50 per cent rule was introduced in 2017, which allows local authorities to now charge EV drivers up to 50 per cent of regular
parking fees, road tolls and ferry prices. Tax reductions were also introduced for plug-in hybrids in 2013, but it has been pure EVs that successive Norwegian governments have focused on. Once the initial goal of 50,000 pure EVs had been reached in April 2015, the decision was made to extend incentives until 2017 to continue progress. Reforms such as the 50 per cent rule then began to appear after this. Norway has also been noted for its extensive investment in EV charging infrastructure: in 2011, there were 3,123 charging ports in the country, all but 18 of them standard and publicly owned. By 2018, this number was 10,711, including 7,910 standard and publicly owned spots. For Ireland, or any other country trying to follow Norway’s lead, the lesson appears to be the old adage for a new age: if you build it and make it affordable, they — the drivers making change to EVs — will come. 75
Credit: Lucas Miguel
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has commenced the initial phase of its next generation ticketing programme through the limited introduction of a pilot mobile ticketing app. The project is aimed at modernising the ticketing experience in the State, evolving the Leap Introduced as a pay-as-you-go, reloadable contactless smart card, the Leap Card was launched in December 2011 by Transport for Ireland (TFI), the consumer facing brand of the NTA. By late 2016, over 2 million cards had been sold and by early 2018, this figure had surpassed 3 million. Today, 80 per cent of all TFI journeys are completed using the card. Now, within the lifetime of the NTA’s Integrated Implementation Plan 20192024, the Authority anticipates that the Leap Card scheme will reach saturation point, with the use of cash on buses coming to an end. Simultaneously, existing on-bus ticketing equipment is reaching its ‘end of life’ and the NTA is working with service providers to develop “appropriate plans to refresh this equipment”. As such, next generation ticketing is an NTA project aimed at renewing ticketing equipment and payment methods on a phased basis, beginning with urban bus services. Internationally, other transport agencies are well progressed in next generation ticketing strategies, removing the requirement to use a specific card for public transport journeys or to carry cash, therefore enhancing customer experience. For example, Transport for
London has began transitioning away from the Oyster Card since 2012 and in Sydney, Transport NSW supplanted the Opal Card with alternative means of payment in 2019. The NTA is proposing the introduction of a new account based ticketing (ABT) system which incorporates open payments. This means that passengers are provided with greater option, enabling payment through contactless debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as electronic tokens (using QR codes). This will remove the requirement for tourists or visitors from elsewhere in the State to source a smart card at the outset of their trip. The new system would also introduce a new 90 minutes multimodal fare. Another advantage of an ABT system is the absence of interaction between drivers and passengers, negating the second biggest factor in bus journey delays, next to traffic congestion. For instance, cash payments still account for around 20 per cent of all journeys. Likewise, in the absence of flat fares, a significant number of passengers using the Leap Card still require interaction with the driver. The new system would introduce cashless operations and all self-service ticketing, while removing
the need to pre-load a travelcard (ABT provides choice to either pre-load or post-pay). Meanwhile, a proposed be-in/be-out model could even replace the need to tag on/tag off on public transport journeys. Location-based technologies can potentially be used to track an individual’s journey before a back office team then calculates the fare, applying best value. In 2019, the NTA awarded a €3.6 million contract to Cubic Transport Systems Ltd. for the development of an app which would enable commuters to purchase and display a range of tickets on mobile devices. In August 2020, the NTA launched a pilot mobile ticketing app on Bus Éireann Route 133, Wicklow — Bray — Dublin, representing the initial phase of the next generation ticketing programme. NTA CEO Anne Graham said: “Subject to trial, this mobile ticketing app will gradually be rolled out to other Bus Éireann bus services as well as being extended to other operators across the country.” In the meantime, the NTA states: “The migration to new technologies will be managed carefully and must ensure the benefits and strengths of the Leap scheme are maintained throughout the period of migration.”
Water and the Programme for Government Some of the more notable promises contained within the Programme for Government (PfG) agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green party with regard to water include the retention of Irish Water as a publicly owned utility and the delivery of the €8.5 billion capital funding programme committed to in Project Ireland 2040. Ireland’s water infrastructure has long been a target of criticism, with boil water notices around the country an all too common occurrence. The PfG states that “water infrastructure deficits impact on the provision of safe and secure drinking water, lead to pollution and environmental damage and presents a challenge in achieving sustainable development across urban and rural Ireland”. The document commits to “continued investment in infrastructure” in order to “ensure continued supply of good quality drinking water and appropriate treatment of wastewater to protect our waterways”. The new Government outlines three ways by which it plans to achieve this: the retention of Irish Water in the public ownership as a national, standalone, regulated utility; ensuring
that Irish Water is given enough funding to “make the necessary investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure”; and the mandating of Irish Water to develop plans to “ensure security of supply and sufficient capacity in drinking and wastewater networks to allow for balanced regional development”. Chief among the mechanisms by which this funding and continued investment will be delivered is the funding of Irish Water’s capital investment plan on a multi-annual basis and the deliverance of the €8.5 billion funding package that was committed to in Project Ireland 2040. Projects included under this €8.5 billion plan include some that have already begin and other that are in the offing: the Vartry Water Supply Scheme; the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment
Plant; the Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project; the Athlone Main Drainage Project; the Belmullet Sewerage Scheme; the Killala, Foxford and Charlestown Sewerage Schemes; the Enniscorthy Wastewater Treatment Plant; the North Docklands Sewerage Scheme; the Donegal Group B project, which includes new sewerage schemes in Killybegs, Bundoran, Glencolumbkille and Convoy; the Kerry Central Regional Water Supply Scheme; the Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project, which will abstract water from Parteen Basin in the Lower Shannon and transport it to the Greater Dublin Area and the midlands; and the Greater Dublin Drainage Project. The PfG also commits to supporting the take up of Irish Water’s Small Tows and Villages Growth Programme 2020-2024,
“which will provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in Irish Water’s capital investment plan”, using the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and further support for “continued investment” in reducing leakage across the network, although it is not specified how that support will be provided.
In terms of drinking water, the PfG commits to two key measures: the development of a scheme between local authorities and Irish Water that will provide water fountains nationwide in order to reduce plastic bottle litter; and the continued funding of upgrades to wells. Wastewater is also given two key measures to be undertaken, but again no funding mechanism or totals are specified. It is simply said that the new government “will continue to help fund upgrades to domestic wastewater treatment systems, including septic tanks” and will “review and work to improve the inspection regime for the 500,000 domestic wastewater systems”. Safety standards comprise a large chunk of the water section of the PfG, with the provision of safe drinking water and proper wastewater said to be a “priority for government”. Seven main measures through which this provision will be ensured are outlined: ensuring that Irish Water progresses works to reduce the number of schemes that remain on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Remedial Action List; supporting Irish Water’s programme to remove lead piping from the public supply; ensuring the State complies with the EU Water Framework Directive; expanding programmes such as the Agriculture Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme and “work with farmers, industry and advisory services to protect and deliver improvements in water quality”; launching a new revised
Criticism of a lack of concrete details on planned courses of action from the Government has been a constant since the details of the PfG were made public and the water provisions within are no exception to the non-committal language littered throughout, as can be seen in the pledge to “fully consider the review from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to Irish Water’s proposed approach to the Water Supply Project for the Easter and Midlands Region”.
“Safety standards comprise a large chunk of the water section of the PfG, with the provision of safe drinking water and proper wastewater said to be a ‘priority for government’.” River Basin Management Plan in 2022 “drawing on a collaborative approach between all stakeholders”; ensuring Irish Water develops drinking water safety plans in order to protect abstraction sources and reduce public health risks such as Trihalomethane exceedances in treatment plants; and continuing to support the Local Authority Waters Programme and expand the Community Water Development Fund. Group water schemes are also mentioned, with the Government committing to supporting the National Federation of Group Water Schemes to “ensure that issues of quality and security of supply are addressed” and to the continuation of funding for multiannual funding programmes to protect water quality in group water schemes. Research in the shape of “a range of research projects to explore innovative ways of improving our water
infrastructure and reducing consumption” are also pledged. Finally, in terms of environmental measures, the PfG is mainly concerned with conservation and energy use. With regard to conservation, the Government pledges to: continue the free allowance of water to every citizen; implement the recommendations of the Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services in relation to excess usage; advocate at the EU level for more water and energy efficient white goods; and conduct a feasibility study into how further assistance can be offered to low income households in order to have them make the switch to more water efficient appliances. In terms of energy, the Government commits to “review the electricity requirements of water and wastewater treatment plans and carry out a series of pilot projects to incorporate onsite renewable energy generation”.
Safeguarding our water for our future
A single public water utility to secure future growth which is an enormous amount of money to manage. The structures we have in place are good and robust. With projects this complex we are constantly learning, and we continue to improve our ability to forecast and balance our portfolios. This is a huge undertaking that requires a lot of focus internally and externally.” The utility has achieved a lot in seven years with 174 drinking water schemes removed from the EPA Remedial Action List between 2014 and 2019, 47 water treatment plants and 101 wastewater treatment plants built or upgraded, 15 areas that had no wastewater treatment connected to new plants, improvements were completed on a further 35 areas and 1,905km of water mains and 220km of sewers were laid or repaired.
Seven years into its existence, Irish Water faces into a significant decade as the country deals with ageing infrastructure and increased water demand. Managing Director Niall Gleeson discusses these challenges and the importance of water to supporting Ireland’s economic growth with eolas.
Ireland’s public water infrastructure has suffered from inconsistent investment and a service delivery model that made it very difficult for local authorities to plan and deliver long-term improvements over recent decades. The repair and upgrading of Irish Water’s treatment plants and networks requires a multibillion-euro investment programme over many years. The government established single public water utility has built on the capability and expertise developed in local authorities over many years along with wider water sector and utility expertise from Ireland and elsewhere. Its long-term plans to upgrade and develop water infrastructure extend to 2030 and 80
beyond. Significant continued investment is still required to support the economy and protect the environment. With a portfolio of more than 400 capital projects and 40 national programmes, €3.9 billion investment to date and a further projected spend of €5 billion up to 2024, Irish Water has been exceptionally busy across its brief. “Managing this scale of investment is a big responsibility; the procurement process, how we deal with our supply chain and ensuring we deliver our projects is a huge body of work,” Gleeson says. “Irish Water is spending upwards of €800 million annually on capital projects,
Yet there is much left to do, not least the urgent need to address leakage rates around the country. Leakage stands at 42 per cent nationally and 37 per cent in the Greater Dublin Area. “There are very few other industries where you could accept 42 per cent of your product going down the drain, literally,” Gleeson says. “That is not where we should be but it’s due to lack of investment over many years. In the past, water was cheap to produce and it was less expensive to produce more water than fix the leaks. That has turned on its head now because demands are so high.” €400 million was invested in leakage reduction between 2016 and 2019, and a further €500 million will be invested between 2020 and 2024 on works that combine mains replacement, pressure management, valve and meter replacement, targeted leak repairs and data improvements to achieve maximum savings. “We need to focus on the infrastructure and on new supply, but we also need to get the leakage rate down,” Gleeson expands. “We’re targeting around 20 per cent in the next 10 years, which for a country with our Victorian infrastructure, is a reasonable standard, but it’s a massive ask and spend.”
Safeguarding our water for our future
The current structure for service delivery is not as efficient as it could be, Gleeson says. Completing the transformation of Irish Water to a standalone single public water utility, in line with government policy, is critical to the successful delivery of Irish Water’s operations and investment, Gleeson says. “Irish Water manages day-to-day operations through 31 service level agreements (SLAs) with local authorities that ensure we have continued to provide service to our customers since 2014 due to the dedicated people working in local authorities and in Irish Water,” he said. “Operating under this structure has become more difficult over time as we face increased operational challenges to improve and expand water services. Irish Water is one step removed from the direct delivery of the service which makes it more difficult to have a standard approach meaning operations are less effective and efficient than they could be.
“Consistency and certainty of funding are key to delivering our investment plans.” know what’s happening across the sites, we can be consistent and more efficient. “The single public utility is also a good opportunity for local authority staff to develop their careers in water services,” Gleeson explains. “We want to provide better training, apprenticeship programmes specific to water, diplomas and master’s degrees, but that will only really come about when we can operate as a single utility. Irish Water is separating from its parent company Ervia and we are continuing to engage with all relevant stakeholders through the Workplace Relations Commission to progress the full transfer of day to day operations into Irish Water over time,” he says.
and uncertainty adds challenge when managing such a large project portfolio. We will continue to build and enhance our supply chain competency, with a particular focus on on-site safety. We are an open organisation and these challenges provide an opportunity to learn and improve. We will keep learning and keep improving but remain focussed on our responsibility to deliver the services and investment the country is depending on.”
W: www.water.ie Twitter: @irishwater Facebook: Irish Water Uisce Éireann LinkedIn: Irish Water
“Irish Water has a strong relationship with its local authority partners who have continued to deliver services during Covid-19 restrictions. Gleeson says however that the full transformation to a single public utility would benefit all involved: “The SLAs have their limitations both in terms of operations and opportunities for Local Authority staff. We know there are vast inconsistencies around how things have been done before. Having a single efficient way of doing things led through a single utility capability means we can implement standard procedures, we
“This makes it very tricky when you don’t have a lot of spending flexibility from year to year. “We are planning a fiveyear programme and need to be able to manage a five-year budget to deliver our projects. We cannot divert capital investment to deal with emerging needs and government funding comes in the form of an annual budget. Multi-year budgets, or even a 10 per cent plus or minus allowance, would allow us to carry over projects, deal with emerging needs and keep committed projects moving. I understand the concern around keeping budgets on track, but we are regulated by the CRU who oversee our spending. As long as we get the strategic funding plan allowance numbers, we will work with that,” he explains.
Concluding, Gleeson re-emphasises: “Given the critical dependence of our economy on water services, we have to manage the demands of a growing economy while keeping our existing assets working well. Investment takes time to deliver and we still have challenges in many parts of the country. Consistency and certainty of funding are key to delivering our investment plans 81
Flood management Recent flooding in Leitrim, west Cork and Kerry has brought Ireland’s flood management provisions into focus once again. eolas examines legislation and emergency measures currently in place and the forecast for how much flooding Ireland will be forced to deal with as sea levels rise. A new study, ‘Projections of global-scale extreme sea levels and resulting episodic coastal flooding over the 21st century’, published in the Scientific Reports journal, has predicted that rising sea levels, storm surges and high tides will put an extra 23 million people under threat from coastal flooding by 2050 even with relatively ambitious and successful cuts to emissions. The study identifies ‘hotspot’ areas throughout the world, of which northwestern Europe, including Ireland, is deemed one of the most vulnerable. The worst-case scenario outlined in the paper, where emissions are not cut and rising sea levels are not actively tackled, would put €12 trillion worth of coastal assets under threat by 2100. In the report’s projections, extreme sea level is predicted from green (lowest) to red (highest) and Ireland’s coasts have a heavy concentration of orange, the
second worst projection. This, however, is not as dire as the coasts of nearby Britain and France, which are themselves predominantly orange but dotted with red throughout, particularly France’s north coast and Britain’s south coast. Ireland’s coastal projections do not feature a single red marking. The importance of adequate flood mitigation measures will have already been on the minds of those who populate the halls of Irish governance after the Supreme Court ruled in July that the semi-state ESB was guilty of negligence with regard to the extensive flood damage caused to buildings on the campus of University College Cork in 2009. Four of the five presiding judges found that the ESB had liability for the flood damage as the case was an exception to the principle of an individual not owing a duty of care to prevent harm to another caused by a third party. The wider implications of this
ruling for the ESB’s liability coming from its management of the State’s hydroelectric dams, coupled with the threat of rising sea levels, could come to shape the State’s costs and reaction to flooding within the country. Flood risk management falls under the auspice of the Office of Public Works (OPW), with the office responsible for the implementation of the EU Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks, which was passed into Irish law in 2010. Coastal protection and coastal flooding measures also lie with the OPW, having been transferred from the then Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 2009. The OPW’s roles in this area include: undertaking risk assessments associated with coastal flooding and erosion; provision of an advisory service for coastal flooding and erosion to support annual coastal protection funding, the Catchment-based Flood Risk
Credit: Scientific Reports
Regional areas showing the projected flooding associated with a 100-year return period extreme sea level event for 2100.
Assessment and Management (CFRAM) and to inform policy development; and maintenance of the coastal protection schemes constructed under the Coastal Protection Act, 1963.
Drainage Acts and the EU Directive also introduced the OPW consent measures for the creation of mitigation measures such as watercourses, embankments, weirs, and brides.
Through the CFRAM, the OPW carried out the largest ever flood risk study in Ireland, with 300 areas believed to be at risk of further flooding surveyed, and in 2019 then Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin “Boxer” Moran published 29 Flood Risk Management Plans, which included 118 additional flood relief schemes. Since 1996, 42 flood defence schemes have been constructed throughout Ireland, protecting an estimated 9,500 properties. Eight further schemes are currently under construction, with another 26 currently in the design/development stage.
The OPW has also prepared a Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for Flood Risk Management in line with the National adaption Framework and the Climate Action Plan. The Plan’s objectives include: enhancing understanding of the potential impacts of climate change for flooding and flood risk management; adapting flood risk management practice to effectively manage the impacts of climate change; and aligning adaptation with regards to flood risk across sectors and wider government policy.
The Arterial Drainage Acts of 1945 and 1995 provide the OPW with the powers needed to improve drainage and agricultural land and undertake localised flood defence schemes to reduce threats in urban areas. The Arterial
Flooding has again struck through 2020, mainly around Ireland’s west coast, with €20,000 worth of emergency funding having been made available to businesses in Kenmare, Co. Kerry after flooding in July after heavy rainfall resulted in damages to businesses and houses and left one family in Sneem temporarily homeless. After visiting
Kenmare, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD said that he was “pleased to confirm the OPW’s commitment to progressing a €5.43 million flood relief scheme for Kenmare, for which funding has already been secured”. Flooding has also heavily affected Co. Leitrim twice in 2020, with the River Shannon’s water levels breaching quay walls in Carrick-on-Shannon in February and the River Bonet and the Glenariff River flooding areas in north Leitrim in July. The former required the undertaking of urgent drainage work by the OPW, while the latter required an allocation of over €38,000 in emergency relief by the OPW. “This flooding is no longer a one in 10 year event,” Leitrim County Councillor Felim Gurn stated to the Leitrim Observer in July; if predictions are accurate, they will become even more common, making the kind of investment seen in Kenmare’s relief scheme both the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of something much bigger. 83
Addressing Ireland’s flood Investment in the coming decade
The EU Floods Directive requires Member States to cyclically assess their flood risk and plan to manage that risk. In the first cycle, the OPW’s Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme assessed, mapped and in 2018 published Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) for 80 per cent of Ireland’s primary sources of flooding. The maps and plans for each of the 300 studied communities – that are home to almost two thirds of our population – are available to view on www.floodinfo.ie
Tidal flood defence works nearing completion in Clonakilty.
Flooding poses a significant risk to many lives, livelihoods, properties and our environment. Those who have experienced flooding events have witnessed its devastating impact. Over the past decade, the Office of Public Works (OPW), Ireland’s lead agency for flood risk management, has assessed and mapped the majority of Ireland’s flood risk. Over the coming decade the OPW, in partnership with Local Authorities, will deliver some 150 flood relief schemes to protect 95 per cent of properties at significant risk from flooding, writes John Martin, Head of Flood Project Management.
The OPW takes a robust, evidencebased approach to identifying potential flood relief solutions. This includes assessing, to an internationally recognised standard, the current flood risk and potential future risk arising from climate projections. The design of flood relief schemes today, that are future proofed through adaptation for climate change, is a key challenge for the OPW.
just hope to build its way out of flood risk
So too is the reality that Ireland cannot
Overall CFRAM and the FRMPs identified that: • 34,500 properties have a 1 per cent chance or more of experiencing a flood event (‘100-year’ flood) in any year; and • 95 per cent of these properties have already been, or can be, protected against these flood events from both the 45 flood relief schemes already completed and continued investment in 151 additional schemes. The evidence provided by CFRAM supports the Government’s €1 billion planned investment to complete the 151 schemes through the National Development Plan as part of Project 2040. Since May 2018, the OPW has trebled the number of flood relief schemes under design and construction, in partnership with Local Authorities, from 33 to 92. This means that the OPW and Local Authorities have completed, or are now actively working on, projects to protect 80 per cent of those properties to be protected in this decade.
and climate change. A multi-sectoral approach is required, including avoiding building on flood prone areas and having flood warning systems in place that can help our communities to be resilient and prepared to respond to a flood event. To address this, the OPW is tasked by Government to co-ordinate a cross sectoral approach to managing Ireland’s
All schemes are designed and constructed in line with best international practice, meaning they protect against the significant floods commonly called the ‘100-year’ flood. The design of and investment in schemes is informed by detailed environmental assessment, public consultation, economic appraisal and are subject to full planning consent processes.
Completed flood defences in Fermoy during 2015 floods.
Instream flood defence works under construction in Clonakilty, 2019-2020.
Clonakilty Flood Relief Scheme Clonakilty has been flooded by its rivers and the estuary on numerous occasions, including significant flooding in June 2012. The flood relief scheme, due to be completed later in 2020, will protect some 300 properties. The scheme includes engineered river flood defences throughout the town centre; and tidal defences, including road raising, along the estuary. The scheme also relies on reducing the size of floods by providing a flow control structure and natural storage area for heavy rainfall upstream of the town. The scheme has been built to allow for operational and structural variations into the future to allow for predicted increases in flood risk due to climate change. A strong emphasis through collaboration with Cork County Council is to improve the public realm in the town. The scheme’s finishes are sympathetic to the surrounding environment, with strong focus on natural stonework and locally sourced architectural finishes. Completed flood defence works in Bray.
The OPW supports the use, wherever appropriate and feasible, of natural flood
Protecting communities through
The OPW and Local Authorities recognise that there are many local flooding problems that are best met through local solutions. The OPW’s Minor Works Scheme provides up to €750,000 to Local Authorities to meet 90 per cent of the cost of engineering solutions to local flooding issues. Since 2009, the OPW has funded €39 million for some 600 completed projects that are protecting some 7,000 properties. Approximately two thirds of these are outside of those areas studied by the CFRAM Programme.
forecast a flood event. Overseen by the
Cross-sectoral approach to flood risk management The Government recognises three policy pillars to managing Ireland’s flood risk through the Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group:
investment in schemes. Prevention by avoiding construction in flood-prone areas. The CFRAM flood maps provide robust analysis to inform the planning decisions by Local Authorities. Preparedness by planning for a flood event. This needs data and systems to OPW, Met Éireann is implementing a development plan to introduce Ireland’s National Flood Forecasting Warning System. Future proofing this multisectoral work for the increased risk from climate
The long-term goal adopted by the OPW on climate adaptation is to promote sustainable communities and support the environment through the effective management of the potential impacts of climate change on flooding and flood risk. To that end the CFRAM Programme did not just assess and map today’s flood risk and impact; it also assessed and mapped future risk using the accepted projections for climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including both the mid-range, 0.5m mean sea level rise and the high end 1 metre mean sea level rise scenarios. In that way, all OPW flood relief schemes are now designed so that they are adaptable in the future to provide the same level of protection (as today) against future climate change impact. The OPW’s Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for Flood Risk Management sets out 21 actions and its approach to addressing climate change impact to flood risk management. It was was approved by Government in October 2019.
management measures such as natural water retention measures. Developments in this area and opportunities for use of such measures in schemes are closely monitored and assessed. Equally, working with Local Authorities, the OPW aims to integrate flood relief schemes with wider public realm opportunities, to enhance the societal and environmental benefits to communities, a recent example of which can be seen in Clonakilty.
change aims to ensure today’s decisions and investments lead to sustainable communities and outcomes that benefit this and future generations.
T: 046 942 6000 E: email@example.com W: www.opw.ie
Water quality Rivers water report
eolas outlines some of the key statistics behind an overall decline in surface water quality which has been recognised as needing attention in the new Programme for Government.
net decline in the quality of river water bodies
A 4.4 per cent decline in surface water bodies since the 2010–2015 assessment has been almost entirely driven by a decline in quality of river water bodies. Despite relatively minor increases in water quality in coastal waters and lakes, an assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the water quality in Ireland between 2013– 2018 shows that river water quality is getting worse, highlighted by a substantial increase in the number of river bodies in poor status. A continuing decline in the proportion of high status surface water bodies, down from 12.9 per cent in 2007–2009 to 8.5 per cent in 2013–2018 is in parallel to an increase in the proportion of poor status surface water bodies, which increased from 14.8 per cent to 17.9 per cent over the same assessment periods. Groundwater bodies showed a 1 per cent improvement, up to 92 per cent in good chemical status.
Surface water ecological status
110 increase in water bodies of poor status since 2007–2009 assessment
seriously polluted bad status river water bodies, having been at 6 between 2010 and 2015
35.8% of river sites
net decline 47.20% Moderate, poor or bad
failing to meet the environmental quality standard for phosphorous 52.80% Good or high
of river sites have increasing nutrient concentrations
Change in surface water ecological status between 2010–2015 and 2013–2018 100%
50.5% of lake water bodies in good or high ecological status
improvement in lakes of good or high quality since 2010–2015
of lakes failing to meet the environmental quality standard for phosphorous
of lakes with increasing total phosphorous concentration
Water bodies: Changes in Water Framework Directive status
Percentage of water bodies
43.8 44.6 44.2
2013-18 Statistical source: Water Quality in Ireland 2013–2018, EPA.
Ecological status of river water bodies 2013â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2018 Bad
of groundwater water report
bodies in good chemical and quantitative status
Transitional and coastal waters
Around 38 per cent of transitional water bodies have high or good ecological status compared to 62 per cent in moderate, poor or bad status. Around 80 per cent of coastal waters are in high or good status, higher that the EU average of 55 per cent. As well as the 47 transitional water bodies that remain unchanged in status, 13 declined and 10 improved. 11 coastal water bodies improved, while nine declined and 22 remained unchanged.
6.5% increase in the percentage of groundwater sites with average nitrate levels greater than 25mg/L NO3
Almost one-quarter of transitional and coastal water bodies failed the environmental quality standard and assessment criteria for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN). The average total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads have increased by 16 per cent and 31 per cent respectively, since 2012â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2014.
Changes in transitional and coastal water ecological status class since 2015
22 13 9
9 No change
Decline by 1 class Transitional waters 88
Improve by 1 class
Improve by 2 classes
Statistical source: Water Quality in Ireland 2013â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2018, EPA.
Data centre water usage
Planning documents show the extent to which data centres could require water usage in times of peak demand. One data centre in Dublin filled that it could use up to 4.5 million litres of water a day, although such volumes would only be necessary for around 5 per cent of the year. Of Amazon’s large network of data centres in Dublin, permission sought for a centre in Dublin 17 stated it could use 296,000 litres of water a day, a facility on Belgard Road could use 319,680 litres per day and one in Blanchardstown could use 328,8000 litres per day, according to the Sunday Business Post.
Plans by the coalition government to develop “efficiency standards for equipment and processes” of data centres could include tighter controls around water usage levels in areas of limited capacity. The Programme for Government pointed towards stricter regulation of equipment and processes, “particularly those set to grow rapidly, such as data centres”. Although not specifically mentioned, likely to be included in any new standards will be greater consideration for the levels of water being used to cool data centre technology, particularly in areas where capacity is limited, such as in greater Dublin. Greater Dublin is currently home to the majority of the 55 data centres currently in operation in Ireland, with an additional 30 having already received planning permission. Capacity issues in the water supply to greater Dublin, during prolonged periods of dry weather, have become more publicly recognisable through the implementation of hosepipe bans in recent years and the National Development Plan included a fresh emphasis on the development of the
Shannon pipeline, the project aimed at delivering the infrastructure to carry excess water from the River Shannon to Dublin. It’s understood that the growth of the number of data centres, something the Government has actively encouraged, is putting pressure on the water supply. The average data centre uses a lower estimate of 500,000 litres per day, according to figures gathered by the Sunday Business Post. This figure has the potential to rise to 5 million litres per day, although this is very rare. The use of water by a data centre depends greatly on the type of cooling system the centre uses. Facebook’s data centre in County Meath, for example, used 395 million litres of water in 2019 and the site is currently is being significantly expanded. Facebook claim that its data centres are among the most water-efficient facilities in the world. Facebook’s site is still under development.
Ireland’s naturally cool climate has been a major selling point by the Government to attract large multinationals to invest in hosting their data centres here, however, climate change has meant warmer and drier summers and increased requirements for cooling. Peak use of water in data centres is usually limited to a small number of days within the calendar year. The Programme for Government recognises the impact deficits of safe and secure drinking water can have on achieving sustainable development across urban and rural Ireland and pledges to “ensure Irish Water is sufficiently funded to make the necessary investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure”, while also mandating “Irish Water to develop plans to ensure security of supply and sufficient capacity in drinking and wastewater networks to allow for balanced regional development”. Although it does not draw a direct link between its plans for water supply improvements and regulation of data centres, the Programme for Government, under its outline of a Green New Deal states that in delivering regulation driving climate action it will develop: “Efficiency standards for equipment and processes, particularly those set to grow rapidly such as data centres.” Such standards will likely seek to relieve any future pressure data centre expansion will pose to water supply capacity. 89
Reflections on a new Water Abstraction Regime impossible to get a licence for an abstraction which is unsustainable, e.g. if there is no water available for abstraction or if the amount available is unreliable, although there should be circumstances where exceptions must be made. At present there are thousands of abstractions in Ireland and nobody quite knows if they are sustainable at all. Until recently, there was no data base, never mind a reliable data base, of current abstractions and their location or volumes, and the 2018 Regulations attempt to address this issue.
The EU Water Framework Directive required member states to introduce regulatory abstraction regimes for water. Ireland has not yet done so and is in breach of the Directive. An Abstraction Bill has been contemplated by the Government for some time and its publication is imminent, write Danielle Conaghan and Yvonne Scannell of Arthur Cox. In contemplation of legislation regulating abstractions, the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018 required people abstracting ground or surface water to register abstractions exceeding 25 cubic metres (25,000 litres) or more
each day. The 25 cubic metre threshold is designed to make abstraction regulation manageable by exempting small abstractions from registration. It is likely that abstractions above this threshold will require licences in the near future. It will (or should) be almost
When the new Abstraction Bill is published, questions will arise about the rights of people to abstract water or to continue to abstract water. The right to do so under common law is complicated and is subject to the overriding power (and now duty) of the State to regulate abstractions. This duty arises from the Stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s obligation to promote sustainable development, to ensure respect for the human right to water and to comply with the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive. But regulation must be reasonable and proportionate and have a solid scientific basis. One can foresee some challenges to regulatory decisions refusing or limiting abstraction rights to those who have long enjoyed them. The State owns all water subject to certain rights vested in others when the Constitution was enacted. But even if a person could claim those vested rights, the State still has the power to regulate them. It is to be hoped that the State will set up a regime that will encourage those with vested rights to affirm them and if they are not affirmed within a reasonable
period, that the legislation will provide that such rights will revert to the State with provision for just compensation. The clarification of rights to groundwater will be essential if we are to have a geothermal energy industry. A lack of clarity on this issue has paralysed any attempt to set up carbon neutral geothermal energy facilities.
Will it be possible to argue that rights have been abandoned by non-use or that the new statutory right to abstract applies only to the quantities abstracted in the recent past or to those who had vested rights to abstract but not to those who merely abstracted without any proprietary right to do so? Or will the Bill state that unused rights will lapse? One can envisage some provision being made for grandfathering some existing abstraction rights or for permitting them until alternative water sources have been identified, particularly where abstractions for public water supply is concerned.
Presumably, public rights will trump
private rights. Will climate mitigation targets be relevant in allocating abstraction rights thereby enabling, for example, priorities to be given to abstractions that do not facilitate high (or higher) carbon emissions? The answers to all these questions will be fascinating. Whatever the new Bill contains, one must hope that the regulatory regime designed will be effective and efficient and free from the excessive bureaucracy that characterises existing regulatory regimes. Lessons must be learned from the forestry and planning consenting regimes. The legislation should be easy to understand. Getting licences should ordinarily be a one-step process. Applicants should be able to determine in advance with reasonable certainty whether their applications are likely to succeed. General binding rules (GBRs) instead of licences might be required for certain (or possibly most) abstractions thereby reducing the regulatory workload and the transaction costs for abstractors. There has been a general reluctance to allow for GBRs in Ireland. These are much more efficient than licences and particularly suitable for abstraction regimes. But one result of Brexit (when we no longer have the advantage of English regulatory models and legislation to emulate) might be to
require the use of GBRs. The Regulator (presumably the EPA or An Bord Pleanรกla) must be adequately resourced and properly equipped to make timely decisions within a mandatory timeframe. Nobody can wait long for water. Abstractors must be incentivised to use water efficiently. Private law issues (ownership rights/prescriptive rights claims) should not be allowed to clog the system and prevent or delay important abstractions. It should be possible to isolate these from the regulatory authorisation needed to abstract. One hopes there will be provision for mediation. It is possible that such powers might help reduce the enormous amount of expensive environmental litigation. The forthcoming Abstraction Bill is an opportunity for the State to deal with troublesome aspects of water law which are inhibiting progress and sustainable development. This Bill will be an opportunity to imaginatively create a modern and efficient abstraction regime for a precious natural resource.
There are also likely to be conflicts between the human right to water and the obligation to ensure sustainable development or between various persons claiming abstraction rights from the same source. How will the State prioritise the rights of various claimants? Will there be adequate scientific information on existing sources to enable the just allocation of different quantities of water to different abstractors? Will the quality of waters in a water source be relevant in the decision-making on abstraction? Or will the regime deal with quantities and yield only? What will happen when there is an urgent need for public water supplies but the available water supply is being used by other users? In drought conditions, will abstractions for public water supplies be given priority over others?
It will be interesting to know how the proposed Bill will deal with abstraction rights that have not been exercised for some time and are arguably abandoned (e.g abstractions for mills) or with abstractions that are currently smaller than historically exercised. Presumably, one of the ways of identifying these was the requirement to register them under the 2018 Regulations that merely required persons abstracting (implying currently abstracting) water to register.
Danielle Conaghan T: +353 1 920 1082 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Yvonne Scannell T: +353 1 920 1134 E: email@example.com
Safeguarding our water for our future
A draft framework plan to manage drinking water supplies for next 25 years water report
and reliable treated public drinking water supplies. This Plan, which arises from needs identified in the 25 year Water Services Strategic Plan, is firmly grounded in national and EU policy and legislation outlined in the Water Services Policy Statement, Project Ireland 2040, the National Planning Framework, the Water Framework and Drinking Water Directives and the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland.
Ireland is not a water stressed country. Two days of rainfall provides enough water to meet public water demand for an entire year. However, the rainfall that replenishes rivers, lakes and ground water sources, is unevenly distributed across the country and across the year, with most of it falling in the least densely populated areas.
The plan aims to achieve a balance between the water that is available and the treated water that is needed over the next 25 years. Like Ireland’s water supply network, the National Water Resource Plan, is not limited by county or city boundaries and it will aim to provide a consistent level of service, reliability, quality and sustainability to every customer regardless of where they live in the country. The Draft Framework National Water Resources Plan, due to be published shortly for public consultation, sets out the information and methodology Irish Water will use to identify deficiencies and need across the water supply system and potential solutions to address them through capital investment, demand management and improved operation of existing assets. The plan will identify:
Rain everywhere but not a drop to drink
Our national public water infrastructure has suffered from decades of inconsistent investment. A fragmented service delivery model meant that under resourced local authorities had to maintain services to customers without the ability to plan long-term improvements or investments. The resulting challenge now faced by Irish Water is that it does not have sufficient raw water available or the appropriate infrastructure to match the demand for treated public drinking water throughout the year. Water sources are stretched by a 92
growing population, a changing climate and an environment under increasing pressure. The disruption to public water supplies from severe weather and droughts in recent years and the demand from economic growth have further highlighted the lack of resilience in public water infrastructure and the urgent need to have a clear strategy for securing and sustaining it for the future.
We have to future proof our systems Irish Water has recently completed work on Phase 1 of its first National Water Resources Plan which sets out how Irish Water will manage long term demands to ensure availability of safe, sustainable
The water quantity that Irish Water can provide;
The water quality that Irish Water can provide; and
The performance and operational efficiency of Irish Water’s asset base.
A three-pillar approach The approach to solving supply-demand balance challenges for public drinking water supply comes under three pillars: lose less, use less and supply smarter. 1. Lose less: This pillar focuses on reducing water lost through leakage and improving the efficiency of Irish Water’s distribution networks. It
Safeguarding our water for our future
includes the actions that improve the understanding of leakage and how to reduce it, and the tools required to help find and fix leaks.
2. Use less: This pillar focuses on water conservation and activities to help understand water use habits, to encourage behavioural change and to promote water efficient devices and appliances for customers at home and at work. 3. Supply smarter: This pillar focuses on improving the quality, resilience and security of public water supplies through infrastructure and operational improvements and developing new sustainable sources of water.
Public consultation and engagement are key Extensive engagement has been undertaken by Irish Water with a broad range of stakeholders to bring the National Water Resources Plan to this stage. The draft framework plan will now be published for full public consultation in two stages, both of which will be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. Phase 1 is the National Water Resources Plan Framework which will include the methodology Irish Water will use to develop the plan, including how it will assess quantity, quality, and reliability and how it will address sustainability. It will also include its options assessment and preferred approach development processes and an assessment of needs for all public water supplies. It will be accompanied by an illustrative case study to show how the methodology is applied to a study area.
Phase 2 is made up of 4 Regional Water Resource Plans that will apply the NWRP Framework Methodology to the water supplies within that region and develop Plan level Preferred Approaches for the supplies in these areas. Each regional plan will be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment.
Leakage reduction is a challenge for every water utility. It is a long-term commitment not a short-term intervention and it is central to Irish Water’s approach to achieving supply demand balance for drinking water supply. Irish Water has developed the first national long-term dedicated leakage reduction plan that combines mains replacement, pressure management, valve and meter replacement, targeted leak repairs and data improvements to achieve maximum water savings. Current Leakage rates are 42 per cent nationally and 37 per cent in the Greater Dublin Area. Between 2014-2020 (Q2) Irish Water saved 441 mega litres per day (MLD) in gross water savings. 76MLD has been achieved in Dublin in the last 3 years. This progress needs continued focus to be sustained. Like on every water network, new leaks happen every day. Drought and severe weather negatively impact leakage savings by causing further bursts on weak pipes due to pressure changes. Successful and efficient reductions in leakage are often achieved through unseen work like pressure management, valve replacement and data improvements. The long-term target is to reduce leakage below 20 per cent and this is being supported with a strong funding commitment from government that must be maintained. €400 million has been invested since 2016 and a further €500 million will be invested in the next five years. Additional capital funding provided in the Governments Covid-19 stimulus package will target further priority leakage reduction work across the country.
Phases 1 and 2 combined will make up the overall National Water Resources Plan which will be reviewed on a cyclical basis.
economic growth. Proactive steps must be taken now to ensure there is enough water for future generations.
The right plan for the future
W: www.water.ie Twitter: @irishwater Facebook: Irish Water Uisce Éireann LinkedIn: Irish Water
The National Water Resources Plan will highlight the big challenges that exist for public water supplies across the country. More importantly however it will also identify preferred approaches that can be supported by public policy and future investment. Without a long-term plan to address these serious problems, there will be a substantial shortfall between the amount of water available and the amount Ireland needs to safely sustain
Consultation on Phase 1, starting in 2020 will last for eight weeks and all submissions and observations will be taken into consideration in finalising the NWRP Framework.
A key focus on leakage reduction
East coast water demand reaching breaking point Concerns about the east of Ireland’s water supply – especially that of the Greater Dublin Area – have been raised for several years now. With Covid-19 having placed further demand on a system already pressurised by a growing population and climate concerns, plans are afoot to increase the water supply to the region in various ways. In 2018, Irish Water warned that the Dublin region’s water supply was “on a knife edge” as it was using 600 million litres of water per day, exactly its limit of daily water production. At that time, the national water utility said that it was monitoring the situation in Dublin, County Louth, Mullingar, and Athlone after decreased water pressure was reported in Skerries. In 2017, extra supplies needed to be sourced for Mullingar by Irish Water. At the time, Eamon Gallen, Irish Water’s general manager, said that the longer days and higher temperatures of summer days lead to increased water usage and thus extra pressure on water production, pressure that is multiplied in coastal areas such as Skerries when day-trippers to nearby beaches places further pressure on the water network. While these issues were of concern in 2018, they have been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic, where ‘stay home and wash hands’ orders have coupled with the staycation trend that followed
the alleviation of some lockdown measures, placing further stress on the east coast’s strained water infrastructure. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Irish Water has issued advice to households to conserve their water usage. In May 2020, the utility said that households were using 20 per cent more water – an extra 24 litres per person per day – when compared with February levels. This Covid-19 era increase mirrors the water usage increases also seen in the UK. The utility added that the closure of commercial premises had offset the increases somewhat but still advised that people conserve water at home where possible, given that athome water usage accounts for threequarters of water usage in Ireland.
Current infrastructure Eight water treatment plants currently serve the Greater Dublin Area: Srowland, Monasterevin, Leixlip, Rathangan and Ballymore-Eustace in County Kildare,
Bog of the Ring on the Meath-Dublin border, Vartry in County Wicklow, and Ballyboden in Dublin. There are reservoirs in Stillorgan, County Dublin and Pollaphuca on the Kildare-Wicklow border; Pollaphuca being a raw water reservoir that feeds the nearby Ballymore-Eustace plant, while Stillorgan is a treated water reservoir, receiving water processed in nearby Vartry and Ballymore-Eustace before dispersing it through its networks of pipes to homes and businesses. Ballymore-Eustace is the biggest water treatment plant serving the Greater Dublin Area, accounting for 52.1 per cent of its overall water supply. The plant underwent a major stage of improvement in 2013, when a €100 million investment increased its production capacity from 252 million litres per day to 310 million litres per day. An unexpected and rare change in the characteristics of the raw water meant that water restrictions were required during an international web
In December 2019, Irish Water completed the €35 million LeixlipSaggart Watermain project, connected two of the main water treatment plants in the Dublin Region Water Supply Area (Leixlip and Ballymore-Eustace) and has increased connectivity of the water supply in the GDA. This involved the construction of a 7km water main which enables water to be transferred from Leixlip (via Peamount) to Saggart as well as the construction of a 40 million litre per day (MLD) Pumping Station. The completion of this project has increased Irish Water’s ability to distribute treated drinking water in the GDA, improved the resilience of the water network supply in Dublin, as well as Increased connectivity of the water supply in the GDA. The remaining 47.9 per cent of the Greater Dublin Area’s water supply is made up by: •
Leixlip (29.2 per cent): Upgrade works are currently being carried out on Leixlip’s aging plant, with the filters upgrade to be completed by the end of September 2020, while the Ultraviolet (UV) upgrade is scheduled for completion by Q1 2021. Customers using the Leixlip plant have been hit with boil water notices at times during these upgrade works. The new plant at Leixlip was opened in 2002 at a cost of €42.4 million. Leixlip currently serves upwards of 600,000 premises. Vartry (11.7 per cent) Vartry has been operation for over 150 years, reaching back to the 1860s as Victorian Dublin pivoted away from the use of the Royal and Grand canals for water supply. A major upgrade to the Vartry Water Supply Scheme is underway. In 2019, a new pipeline link was commissioned to replace a 150-year-old tunnel in danger of collapse, securing the water supply for more than 200,000 people in north Wicklow and south Dublin. Construction is well advanced on a new water treatment at Vartry and a new covered reservoir at Stillorgan, these upgrades are due to be completed in 2022.
Srowland (3.4 per cent): Opened in October 2013.
Ballyboden (2.3 per cent): A major upgrade to the associated reservoir has recently been completed.
Rathangan, Bog of the Ring (both 0.5 per cent) and Monasterevin (0.3 per cent): All operating efficiently with no upgrades required, according to Irish Water.
Future expansion The Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands Region, will be the first major comprehensive upgrade to Ireland’s “New Source” infrastructure in the region in over 60 years. The water infrastructure in the region is struggling to meet current needs and there have been several significant and costly outages in recent years. The WSP-EMR will ensure the long-term water supply needs of the region are met in a sustainable manner, to 2050 and beyond. Following extensive studies, investigations, and nonstatutory public consultation the Parteen Basin scheme was selected as the preferred option to deliver this major New Source. The scheme comprises the abstraction of water from the lower River Shannon at Parteen Basin in Co. Tipperary, downstream of Lough Derg, with water treatment nearby at Birdhill. Treated water will then be piped 170km to a termination point reservoir at Peamount in County Dublin, connecting into the Greater Dublin network. Supplies of treated water will also be made available to Midland communities along the route. The Water Supply Project will meet the increased economic and population needs of the Greater Dublin Area and the Eastern Midlands Region including the housing needs of our growing population in addition to supporting balanced regional development and Foreign and Direct Investment. The WSP-EMR will also provide increased resilience in the system against loss of supply,
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Irish Water has issued advice to households to conserve their water usage. In May 2020, the utility said that households were using 20 per cent more water – an extra 24 litres per person per day – when compared with February levels.”
summit in the city, in late October 2013, when 1.5 million residents and the 10,000 visitors from the worldwide tech industry had to endure a week of restrictions that left them without water from 7pm to 8am daily. Further upgrade stages have been completed since 2013, which will prevent this issue from happening again, but ongoing investment is needed to maintain good production at Ballymore-Eustace.
contamination/pollution events or risks arising from climate change. Leakage reduction is a high priority for Irish Water, however water saved from fixing leaks is not enough to meet a future demand. The reality is a combination of leakage reduction and the development of a new source is necessary to meet the water supply requirements of the Region. Irish Water is currently progressing the preparation of a planning application for the Project, including an Environmental Impact Assessment Report and Natura Impact Statement to An Bord Pleanála and an abstraction licence application to the EPA. Irish Water is also progressing the construction of a water main between Srowland Water Treatment Plant in Co. Kildare and Ballymore-Eustace. This will allow for up to an additional 18 MLD of treated water to be transferred from Srowland WTP, increasing water supply to Kildare and the wider GDA. Irish Water is also currently working in partnership with Fingal County Council in upgrading the existing aging water mains which supply the Howth area. These upgrades are part of a €21.7 million investment in Water Supply Schemes across North Co. Dublin. Some of the benefits will include improved security of the drinking water supply, support to economic and social development the area, as well as reduction in leakage. Irish Water has significantly ramped up investment and operational activity on finding and fixing leaks and renewing and rehabilitating old pipework, with very positive results over the past few years. Leakage rates in the Greater Dublin Area are now 37.5 per cent. In addition, Water Conservation campaigns have targeted high-usage customers and sectors and have raised public awareness of the value and scarcity of water. 95
The value of economic regulation of the water customer service levels which will support Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy and citizens. Ultimately, the bill payer (be it the customer or the exchequer) demands value for money.
Equity The CRU is responsible for approving Irish Waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charges to customers across a number of areas. At its core, charges need to be equitable and not unduly discriminate between customer classes (e.g. metered and unmetered customers) or lead to undue crosssubsidy between different sectors (e.g. domestic and non-domestic sectors).
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the independent economic regulator of the public water sector in Ireland. We act at all times to protect the public interest and, since 2014, we have regulated the activities of Irish Water, who provide public water and wastewater services to homes and businesses across 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. While a focus on efficiency and equity is a key part to the role of the CRU, this complements our customer protection focus for all utility customers. 96
Through economic regulation, Irish Water are challenged and incentivised to reduce costs and deliver increasingly efficient operations and high levels of customer service. At the same time it is recognised that Irish Water must invest in a balanced and sustained manner as they transform Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s water and wastewater systems to ensure that they comply with environmental standards, and meet the capacity requirements and
Prior to the establishment of Irish Water, customer charges were managed separately across 34 local authorities and 10 town councils. This led to a wide variety of charge types and charge structures, in many cases anomalous, from county to county. The establishment of a single integrated water utility in the State opened up the opportunity to rationalise and deliver simpler, more equitable charging regimes. The CRU has overseen the introduction of these new policies in the areas of connection charges, nondomestic tariffs and excess use charges.
Connection charging In 2018, the CRU published a decision on a new national connection charging policy for Irish Water customers. The new charging regime is designed to give customers a consistent level of connection service regardless of where in the country that customer connects to the water and/or wastewater network. It delivers a national, harmonised approach to connection charges with a focus on customer benefits in terms of transparency, accessibility, simplicity and equity.
Non-domestic tariffs Historically, Irish Water’s non-domestic customers (including mixed-use customers) have been subject to a wide range of pricing levels, categories, methodologies, and billing arrangements. This has resulted in over 500 separate charges across Ireland.
Excess use charges The CRU published its decision on excess use charges in 2018. This followed the removal of domestic water charges and, to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, the subsequent legislation for charges for households with the highest water use. At its core, the charge encourages households to conserve water and, where possible, identify and fix leaks in their water supply. Households that use more than the free allowance of 213,000 litres will be charged for use on a volumetric basis, unless they are entitled to additional allowances or exemptions. The charges have been structured so as to ensure equity for customers, including those that have a meter and can track their usage, and those that do not.
Cost efficiency The CRU challenges Irish Water to look, year-to-year, for economic efficiencies that will benefit customers. The utility must provide more for less – it must constantly seek to provide greater service and quality to its customers at a lower cost.
Revenue controls establish efficient costs for delivering a set of outcomes and outputs, taking account of the maturity of the utility. The CRU benchmarks Irish Water against comparable utilities to establish what should be the cost of providing services and building new infrastructure. We also provide incentives for Irish Water to achieve operating and investment efficiencies. Incentives provide management with focus for their actions in areas that will improve performance. These benefits are transferred to customers in the longer term. Similarly, the CRU may claw back inefficient spend that happened in one regulatory period by reducing the budget in a subsequent period. The threat of having to operate with a reduced budget acts as a powerful motivator to operate efficiently and to innovate to the benefit of the customer.
full five-year revenue control (RC3) period. Despite the constraints placed on Irish Water at its creation, it has managed its business reasonably well, driving down costs. Historic underinvestment has meant serious deficiencies remain in its asset base and there is a clear compliance deficit across water and wastewater. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (July 2020) found that 1.1 million people in the State are served by treatment plants that are at risk of failure. It also warned of the lack of resilience in the system as a whole. Despite this, the CRU notes the progress that has been made in the past few years and the important role that regulation and good governance has played in establishing a single public water utility. The CRU accepts that Irish Water still faces significant challenges with respect to improving the quality and security of the public water and wastewater services in Ireland and providing a better level of service to customers. We will continue to challenge, monitor and hold Irish Water accountable to its customers into the future.
For the most part, the highest household water users have leaks on their property and advance notice of the excess usage charge will provide customers the opportunity to either fix the leak themselves or avail of Irish Water’s ‘first fix free’ scheme.
The necessity for cost efficiencies must be balanced against other principles, e.g. a stable environment for the utility to operate, environmental compliance and sustainability for current and future customers of the utility. In August 2020, the CRU finalised its decision on Irish Water’s operating and capital expenditure for the five-year period 2020-2024. This is known as a revenue control, i.e. a regulatory contract whereby Irish Water commit to delivering a set of outputs and outcomes in return for a certain level of funding, for the five-year period.
The CRU published a decision on a new Non-Domestic Tariff Framework in July 2019. The new charges will be rolled out over the coming months. The CRU worked closely with Irish Water to deliver a policy for a harmonised suite of tariffs for non-domestic water and wastewater customers with a focus on equity, simplicity and transparency for the circa 180,000 businesses that are connected to Irish Water’s network. Around half of these customers will see immediate bill reductions. Nevertheless, a core element of the framework is a set of transition arrangements for customers who will see significant increases in their water charges.
“Charges need to be equitable and not unduly discriminate between customer classes.”
Further details on these key policy decisions and further information on the customer protection role of the CRU can be found at www.cru.ie
Irish Water has now commenced its first 97
Storms cause rise in seaside bacterial levels water report
Dublin, with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council first putting a temporary bathing advisory warning in place and then replacing that with a prohibition warning as a result of “an increase in the levels of bacteria found in the bathing water as a result of overflows from the Irish Water wastewater network”. The prohibition notice was lifted the following week after the bathing water quality had “returned to ‘good/excellent’ status”. Waterford County Council was also forced into issuing prohibition and advisory notices for several of its beaches; Dunmore Councillors Strand, Dunmore Lawlor’s Strand, Tramore Beach and Pier, Boatstrand, Ardmore, Newtown Cove and Baile na nGall were all hit with prohibition notices, while advisory notices were put in place at Bunmahon and Stradbally. The majority of these were lifted within the week, with restrictions at Sradbally, Tramore and Baile na nGall remaining.
Swimming bans and advisory notices have been put in place across many popular beaches throughout Ireland after poor water quality was reported following heavy rain in August. With the Covid-19 pandemic and the gradual lifting of movement restrictions prompting a ‘staycation’ trend in Ireland, beaches around the country have been in heavy use throughout the summer and into August. However, many beaches and swimming points across counties Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Kerry and Galway were among those affected after the heavy rainfall of Storm Eileen prompted water quality concerns. Swimming was banned at four beaches in Wexford: the blue-flag holding Ballymoney North beach, green coast beach Booley Bay, Morris Castle near Kilmuckridge and Duncannon. The bans
were put in place after routine testing by Wexford County Council’s bathing water sampling programme uncovered E. coli and Intestinal Enterococci breaching mandatory levels of the bathing water at all four beaches. Technical staff from the Council investigated the matter, with the initial expectation that the rainfall was at least partly to blame for the high levels of bacteria in the water. The bans were lifted the following week after further testing by the Council found the water to be back to its “usual excellent standard”. Similar occurred at Seapoint Beach in
West of Waterford, Kerry County Council was forced to bring in swimming bans at Fenit beach and diving board area, Inny beach in Waterville and Waterville town beach due to water samples showing high levels of E. coli at the county’s beaches. The restrictions at Fenit were lifted later within the same week. In Galway, a bathing prohibition notice and prior warning notice were issued for Ballyloughane and Grattan beaches respectively due to “the possibility of an increase in the levels of bacteria in the bathing water over the coming days due to forecasted increased rainfall and possible activation of storm overflow”. For Ireland’s seaside communities and tourism economy, the hope will be that the autumn’s inevitable increase of rain does not come in such heavy downpours, leaving strands and water quality unaffected and things returning to their new normal as soon as possible.
Connectivity and future of work report
Connectivity and the future of work connectivity and future of work report
Ireland’s connectivity priorities include the roll out of the National Broadband Plan, transposing EU legislation, 5G and cyber security. Now, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, these priorities have acquired greater resonance in terms of connectivity and the future of work. National Broadband Plan The objective of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is to facilitate access to high speed broadband for schools, homes and business regardless of geography. The NBP network will provide a minimum download speed of 500Mbps in homes and 1Gbps for commercial premises. It is being pursued through combined commercial investment and State intervention in rural areas regarded as being commercially unviable. The NBP contract, signed in November 2019 and approved by the European Commission in the context of EU State Aid rules, came into effect in January 2020. The high speed broadband network will be deployed and operated by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to over 540,000 premises in the next 25 years. As per the contract, the State’s investment over this period is capped at €2.977 billion. NBI is tasked with delivering high speed broadband to the ‘State Intervention Area’ which comprises 537,596 properties (as well as those yet to be constructed), 1.1 million people, 54,000 farms, 44,000 non-farm businesses and 695 schools. Work has commenced and over 90 per cent of premises in the State are expected to have access high speed broadband by 2024. Progress can be tracked via Eircode on the NBI website. The first fibre-to-home connection is anticipated to occur in Q4 2020. The NBI has a target of connecting over 115,000 premises by the end of 2020, with between 70,000 and 100,000 connected every year until final rollout. In the meantime, 300 broadband connection points (BCPs) will be advanced in year one of the NBP. BCPs will provide WiFi in schools, libraries and sports facilities across the State to support remote working. Within local authorities, communities are being consulted by broadband officers to ensure that the BCP locations deliver optimal benefit. Marketing of the sites is undertaken by NBI and Vodafone. The pervasiveness of the Covid-19 pandemic has extended to the NBP which has been impacted in several ways. These include: availability of accommodation for contractors; access to certain buildings, including schools and sports facilities; import of overseas supplies; and recruitment of personnel. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) suggests that state intervention in the NBP will provide several benefits. These include: • employment and entrepreneurship within the State Intervention Area, including the expansion of existing businesses; • enhanced opportunity for remote working as an enabler of rural communities; • improved health outcomes through the remote monitoring of older and vulnerable people; • access to innovative educational tools; • more efficient agricultural practices; • reduced carbon emissions and a more balanced regional growth; • augmented tourism; and • smarter travel.
European context The development of electronic communications through the Digital Single Market (DSM) was a pillar of the previous European Commission aimed at facilitating access for citizens and businesses. The DSM is projected to contribute a potential €415 billion to the EU economy each year, creating significant employment. Currently. only two proposals remain outstanding from its legislative programme of 30. These are ePrivacy Regulation and the Cyber Security Competence Centre. Within the new Commission, the new Executive Vice President for Digital, Margrethe Vestager, will manage the overarching digital policy contained within Shaping Europe’s Digital Future paper. The European strategy has three pillars: technology that works for people; a fair and competitive digital economy; and an open democratic and sustainable economy. Meanwhile, the EU Directive which established the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) was adopted in December 2018 and consolidated existing electronic communications network regulations, aligning them with recent technological developments. EU member states must transpose the EECC into national legislation by 21 December 2020.
connectivity and future of work report
Citizen connectivity is a core objective of the EU. This means that all citizens and businesses should have access to high quality connectivity and enhanced choice of digital services to guarantee democracy, pluralism and social cohesion within the EU. As such, the EECC has four key objectives. 1. 2. 3. 4.
The promotion of connectivity, access and adoption of very high capacity networks by all citizens and businesses. The promotion of competition in electronic communications networks and services. The development of the internal market for electronic communications networks and services, radio spectrum and connectivity. The promotion of EU citizen interests, including security, protection and accessibility.
There are several key elements of the EECC, including its broader definition of electronic communications services (ECS). The EU has broadened the scope of regulation around ECS to include internet access services, interpersonal communications services (ICS) and services comprising the conveyance of signals. Chat services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are likely to meet the definition of ICS and therefore ECS.
Cybersecurity Published in December 2019, the current National Cyber Security Strategy for 2019 to 2024 is a “broader and more comprehensive” document than its 2015 predecessor. Informed by the operational experience of the National Cyber Security Centre, the document was developed in consultation with five stakeholder groups. The new strategy recognises Ireland as a leader within the EU “in terms of the uptake and use of digital technologies” and aims to ensure that it continues to “safely enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution and to play a full part in shaping the future of the internet”. As such, the Government intends to take several steps to “protect our nation, to develop our cyber security sector, and to deepen our international engagement on the future of the internet”. This means protecting the State, its citizens and its critical infrastructure from cyber security threats, developing the capacity of the State in managing these challenges and engaging nationally and internationally to support “a free, open, peaceful and secure cyber space”. The strategy contains 20 specific actions to be taken, including: further development of the National Cyber Security Centre; undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment of the current vulnerability of critical national infrastructure; and reinforcing Ireland’s diplomatic commitment to cyber security.
5G The Road to 5G Networks: Experience to Date and Future Developments paper, published by the OECD, indicates that the fifth generation of wireless networks, or ‘5G’, “holds potential to stimulate innovation and meet the increasing demands of the digital economy”. Ultimately, it suggests, 5G could be revolutionary. Its potential hinges on the speed of its roll-out and its subsequent adoption. In recent times, public concern about the supposed health impacts of exposure to 5G (or increased exposure to non-ionising radiation) has increased to the extent that several local authorities have passed motions stating their opposition to the rollout of 5G infrastructure. The DCCAE indicates that its 5G policy is grounded in evidence. “International organisations such as the World Health Organisation assess that there is no established scientific evidence to support any adverse health effects to individuals below the exposure levels set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP),” the Department emphasises. Such exposure levels are “well above” the frequencies being considered for 5G. In compliance with their spectrum licences, operators must not exceed exposure levels set by the ICNIRP. In collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which monitors and advises the Department, DCCAE is working to develop a relevant communications strategy. 101
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The future of work Discrimination However, on the broad assumption that the threat of Covid-19 is something we will all have to work alongside for some time to come, numerous challenges are thrown up that as yet do not have clear answers. For instance, employers evidently now have to take an even greater interest in the health of their workforce when entering a communal workplace. To assess whether an individual employee is able or suitable to return to a communal workplace, employers are potentially opening themselves up to issues of discrimination, if they base this solely on medical fitness, under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015.
With the future so uncertain as a result of the global
turmoil caused by Covid-19, it is now more important
In addition, there are reports of a growing body of evidence that Covid-19 may have long-term effects on the health of some people who have been infected with the virus. Employers should familiarise themselves with their obligations to employees with disabilities, which could include "long Covid" sufferers. Where an employee suffers from a disability which compromises their ability to work, the employer is obliged to provide reasonable accommodation to that employee to enable them to participate in the workforce. These measures could include reduced hours, working from home or part time working.
than ever to consider what the future holds for the workplace. Workplaces come in many different forms, whether that be the traditional office setting, a construction site, a specialist workplace, or what has become necessary to so many, the home office, write Sandra Masterson Power, Partner and Head of Employment and Benefits and Paul Gough, Associate Advertorial
specialising in employment law, at Beauchamps. As workplaces adapt to the current challenges and the specific requirements, the question arises as to whether existing legislation is fit for purpose and whether employers and employees are adequately prepared for a changed way of working. Most employers will have already taken
significant steps to address the requirements placed on them and their workforce by Covid-19, which have been addressed by Beauchamps in recent posts on our website, including employers' health and safety obligations, practical steps to be taken and the need for increased and better communication with employees.
Data Privacy Concerns Equally, with the need for systemic tracking and tracing of the spread of Covid-19, there are new considerations around employees' privacy and data protection, which will change the relationship and flow of sensitive information between employees and employers. The imperatives for
The Data Protection Commissioner has stated that â&#x20AC;&#x153;data protection law does not stand in the way of the provision of healthcare and the management of public health issues; nevertheless there are important considerations which should be taken into account when handling personal data in these contexts, particularly health and other sensitive data." While the virus remains in circulation employers will be faced with the challenge of balancing the individual personal rights of their employees against the right of their employees to a safe working environment. This will necessitate ensuring that the use of personal employee data by employers does not go further than is necessary to protect these interests.
Programme for Government Putting aside the various issues caused by Covid-19, the new coalition's Programme for Government contains a broad commitment to "support remote working" as part of the proposals to deliver a "better life for all", with policy proposals such as a commitment to invest in broadband nationwide and changing tax arrangement to encourage working from home, that may also have a significant impact on the future of work in Ireland. Tied to this broad objective is wording around a "better work-life balance" and a "right to disconnect" â&#x20AC;&#x201C; how these policy objectives are realised is significant and indicates potential for considerable change in the future of work in Ireland, with all the likely legal considerations.
Conclusion Employers are having to address novel and unique situations regarding their workplaces. Much of the current
legislation regulating working conditions was put in place over twenty years ago, long before innovations that enable working from home, and certainly was not drafted with the unique circumstances of Covid-19 in mind. The test for employers is to manage employees within the terms of existing legislation in these exceptional times. Our team has addressed these concerns with employers since the commencement of the pandemic and continues to provide a solutions-based approach for clients. We are also working with clients to plan for future working, whether that involves planning around Covid-19 or putting in place protocols and arrangements for working from home, and we will be monitoring the rollout of the Programme for Government with interest.
Sandra Masterson Power Partner & Head of Employment, Beauchamps DD: +353 (0) 1 4180985 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is not just issues directly associated with the physical working environment that are being altered by Covid-19. The future of work in Ireland, which has increasingly moved towards more family-friendly working practices, as demonstrated in proposals contained in the new coalition government's Programme for Government, is now being challenged due to the realities of childcare in a fluid and uncertain working environment. While there are challenges ahead around children returning to school and the spread of infection, parents and guardians are required to be adaptable in their approach to childcare to accommodate the uncertainties of childcare, schooling, as well as their own work requirements, whether they are in a communal office or working from home. Employers and employees should begin planning a long-term approach for possible planned and un-planned school closures if the
virus is discovered in a school or childcare facility. If an employee is not ill but is unable to attend work, then there is generally no obligation on an employer to pay the employee during that time.
connectivity and future of work report
employers of providing safe working environments for their staff challenge existing concepts of the responsibility between employee and employer with regards to sensitive information. Importantly, there are questions around the responsibility of an individual employee to be transparent with their health. Employees should be reminded that not only is it in the interests of their co-workers and their families to disclose any possible contact with the virus, under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, employees also have an obligation to protect their own safety and health, as well as the safety and health of their colleagues and failing to disclose exposure to the virus may breach that obligation.
Paul Gough Senior Associate, Employment, Beauchamps DD: +353 (0) 1 4180974 E: email@example.com
connectivity and future of work report
Facilitating remote working in the health sector Disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been pervasive and the Government’s subsequent public health policy heralded a sudden pivot to remote working. Ciarán Galway speaks with Assistant National Director for Digital Organisational Change within Health Business Services in the HSE, Maria O’Loughlin about the innovative responses to this new way of working from within the health sector. When the Covid-19 crisis emerged, it was a scenario without precedence in the history of the State. Efforts were taken nationally and indeed internationally, to prevent the further spread of the virus. As a result, the Irish Government encouraged all employers to facilitate employees to work remotely where possible. “When faced with the government instruction of having as many employees working remotely as possible, the organisational challenge required us to approach it from both a technical and a cultural perspective,”
O’Loughlin explains, adding: “In response, the HSE collaborated with TU Dublin and Enovation to devise a tailored online training solution to support staff in their transition to remote working.” Health Business Services (HBS) is the business division of the HSE tasked with providing high-quality business services and solutions globally across the health sector. Operating behind the scenes within the HSE, HBS plays a fundamental role delivering frontline services connecting, supporting and supplying colleagues, customers and
clients across the Irish health sector. Throughout the pandemic, there has been an increased awareness of the services provided by HBS. These range from HBS Procurement, tasked with sourcing and supplying critical PPE, to HBS Finance, closing out the deals put in place by Procurement, and from HBS Estates, rapidly expanding the capacity of health units across the country, to HBS HR, spearheading the national effort in terms of recruitment along with other business support programmes. “These teams were critical from a shared services perspective so it was
vital they were enabled and supported to work remotely quickly,” the Assistant National Director outlines. A significant majority, of these health sector employees had never worked from home before. “They were all office based and so weren’t enabled, from a technical perspective, to simply lift a laptop and head home. They were very confident and comfortable in an office environment but working remotely was a completely new environment and a considerable transition.
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Technical The first challenge, therefore, was ensuring that staff could work from home from a technical perspective. O’Loughlin and her team worked closely with the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OoCIO) within the HSE to facilitate HBS staff with the required technology. “It had to be done quickly to ensure that there was no downtime between our business as usual and having our staff set up at home. We also worked with the OoCIO, who created instructional videos for staff to walk them through this process as well as providing telephone and online support. When providing this technical assistance, it became obvious that we needed to look at cultural supports for engaging and collaborating with staff, as well as supports for managers, in other words, we had to ask, ‘what does the future of work look like for us’?”
Cultural After a strong engagement on the technical aspects of remote working, O’Loughlin and her team were faced with a cultural challenge. HBS then moved beyond simply supporting people who had received their laptops and other equipment, instead focusing on managers and leaders, as well as facilitating peer-to-peer support in remote working processes. At this point, the Assistant National Director was introduced to the School of Management team at Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), including Head of School Paul O’Reilly and lecturers Maébh Coleman, Rowena Hennigan and Marian Jennings. “Maébh and her colleagues had previously been looking at a remote working module for the university itself. It became a question of how to take that module, tailor it to the HSE and then utilise it to support people
“When faced with the policy of having as many employees working remotely as possible, the organisational challenge required us to approach it from both a technical and a cultural perspective.” Assistant National Director for Digital Organisational Change within Health Business Services in the HSE, Maria O’Loughlin undertaking critical jobs within the health service,” she reflects. Prior to Covid-19, remote working within HBS was defined by individual members of staff working from outside their designated office as and when required. “The scenario now is a completely new way of working; the future of work. It is brand new and it comes with its own cultural complications as well. Across the entire healthcare service, no matter what someone’s discipline is, there was a requirement that they were confident in delivering their work from home,” O’Loughlin illustrates.
Remote working module The HSE sought to produce a remote working module that could be readily implemented to deliver practical advice on a very user-friendly platform. “We worked with TU Dublin to incorporate the Government’s guidance and contextualise the module in order to incorporate as much relevant information as possible. The module ranged from workplace ergonomics to managing the new way of working with dependents in the house. Within six weeks, the module was made available to staff,” she says. In collaboration with Irish e-learning solutions company Enovation, a €1 million online training module was
created and then offered to health sector staff working remotely. Deployed in May 2020, the course was available to all healthcare workers, north or south and TU Dublin facilitated students with a €500 fee waiver. Those who enrolled were then given three months within which to complete the course. “We had great support from TU Dublin in discerning how we could utilise and interact with different learning environment scenarios. Both Enovation and TU Dublin waived their feeds, providing their services pro bono to help support healthcare staff.” The launch attracted a huge uptake with almost 1,000 people from across the health sector registered in two days. At the close of registration, over 2,500 staff from across over 150 HSE departments, alongside employees from state bodies and charities, registered to undertake the module. Students ranged from administration staff to GPs and occupational health therapists to surgeons.
Online graduation Those transitioning through the module were able to take up and drop the module as and when suited. After completing the course, the HSE students were awarded a Level 6 CPD Special Purpose Award in Remote Working.
connectivity and future of work report
“The pandemic forced many organisations and workplaces to rethink their traditional workplace models and explore how they could facilitate homeworking. In turn, initiatives like this have developed to build the capacity and confidence of those working from home.” An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD
“The feedback we’ve had has been incredible. People found it to be practical and easy to integrate into their new working environments. We had the online graduation in July 2020 and An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin delivered an address at this. 1,000 HSE healthcare personnel graduated, meaning that it was the largest programme graduation that TU Dublin has ever had,” O’Loughlin notes. Congratulating those who had successfully completed the remote working course, An Taoiseach paid tribute to HSE staff and health workers. “HSE and health workers have played a critical role during this pandemic and the dedication and commitment which you have demonstrated during these difficult months will never be forgotten. Today’s graduation was born out of Covid. It is an example of how people and organisations have had to adapt and respond to this unprecedented situation “The pandemic forced many organisations and workplaces to rethink their traditional workplace models and explore how they could facilitate homeworking. In turn, initiatives like this have developed to build the capacity and confidence of those working from home. The success of this programme is remarkable,” he said.
Collaboration For HBS, from both a technical and a cultural perspective, collaboration has been a significant enabler in the Covid19 era. O’Loughlin expresses a commitment to continue along this journey, with the aspiration of developing sustainable solutions to support learning and development for staff and organisations.
Having launched the online training module, the HBS team were also developing remote working guidelines for staff which were then distributed among staff, alongside enhanced peerto-peer support structures. “We then pulled together a programme of work across HBS and OoCIO examining the future of work. While the technical is important, culture also has great significance. This is about collaboration and innovation as well as the health and wellbeing of staff. “That work is ongoing, and we are collaborating with different organisations, including Grow Remote, DCU and Qualtrics on creating a programme of work that will highlight areas of support needed by staff, departments and organisations by linking to a remote working maturity model that is in development by Grow Remote. There is a clear understanding that this is not specific to health or even specific to Ireland as we all attempt to navigate this new way of working,” she emphasises. The idea behind the programme would be to create a benchmark that any organisation could use, so not just HBS, not just the HSE, but organisations across the public sector and indeed the private sector could avail of the learnings. “We’re in the process of bringing that survey to fruition and aim to test it within HBS. From an organisational perspective, the rationale is to ensure that individuals receive sufficient support while remote working. After this point, pulse surveys could be used to measure developments and improvements against the maturity matrix,” O’Loughlin elaborates.
Digital transformation Pre-Covid-19, HBS was aware of the positive impact of digital transformation, while also being cognisant of how it influences the way it works, its processes, as well as its collaboration and innovation. “In the past, we have delivered other programmes of work which we will now re-examine from the future of work perspective,” O’Loughlin asserts. For instance, alongside the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, HBS developed the Ambassadors for Future Health Skills Programme. This was a foundational skills programme for digital literacy, delivered to small groups by a trainer, within the HSE, and comprised a HSE contextualised programme of work. “Now, we’re looking at that programme and pivoting it to Covid-19 applications. Beforehand, we were delivering a foundational skills programme, now we’re revising this to consider teaching staff how to use Microsoft teams, how to access the social media platforms we use to update Covid-19 news, how to download the Covid-19 app and more.” she adds. While acknowledging that remote working is not an option for every job, O’Loughlin emphasises that the Covid19 pandemic has demonstrated its effectiveness, when utilised appropriately. “This is a new way of working that has been rapidly embraced all over the world, we now need to ensure that our people are not only surviving but are actually thriving in this new environment. Now is the time to be committed in building and progressing a meaningful culture that will retain and attract the professional and skilled workforce required to power our organisation,” she concludes.
Lessons for the Future of Work from the Covid-19 Crisis standing over people and watching what they are doing.”
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Trust is a two-way street, and in the early crisis, management were reliant on the trust of their employees. In high-trust organisations, they had confidence that their leadership team would act in their interests, giving management the time and space to think through what would be necessary to work through the various phases.
Communication as a core foundation
The scale and pace of the Covid-19 crisis can be difficult to grasp in its entirety. Practically overnight, organisations of every kind across the country (and indeed the world) were forced to find ways of ensuring business continuity while protecting employee health, with no easy toolkit and no set timeline, writes Cathal Divilly, CEO of Great Place to Work Ireland. In essence, recent months have served as a large-scale natural experiment: accelerating trends such as remote working, distance learning, and flexible working arrangements. Implementing these changes have required the leverage of significant levels of trust between managers and their teams, as well as highlighting the importance of effective, relevant, and targeted communication.
Organisations who had already made a commitment to developing a high-trust culture were better placed to navigate their way through the extreme uncertainty of the pandemic’s early days. The shift into new methods of working required managers who could trust that their teams were getting the job done without looking over their shoulders. In some cases, this may have meant flexibility around core hours. The shift from presenteeism to productivity prioritised the ‘job done’ over the ‘hours worked’.
By focusing on the development of a high-trust culture built on a foundation of timely targeted communications, organisations can ensure they maintain performance while developing agility and flexibility for uncertain times. What is your organisation doing to ensure it ‘locks in’ the lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis? Cathal Divilly is CEO of Great Place to Work Ireland. Great Place to Work believe that anywhere can be a great workplace and are dedicated to helping organisations of every kind develop hightrust, high-performance cultures.
The carefully thought out strategies that our organisations took time to draft in January 2020 have, for the most part, become redundant. We must all accept that even when things return to some level of normality, it won’t be the ‘normal’ with which we were familiar just a few months ago. Instead, now is the time to reflect on recent experience, and draw out key lessons to ensure our organisations are stronger and more resilient for the future.
Trust is a key currency
Never has a good flow of authentic, honest communication been so critical to business continuity as it was earlier this year. Rumours and misinformation have a tendency to spread quickly in uncertain times, so organisations that kept employees informed with honest, authentic and, critically, relevant information ensured their teams were kept up to speed without being overloaded. Going forward, it is essential to ensure that key communications are cascaded throughout the workplace, and that the senior team and people managers are aligned on these messages.
T: 01 678 8438 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.greatplacetowork.com
The research of Colin Hughes (Head of the Graduate Business School, TU Dublin) on building trust in virtual teams is timely in this regard. “It’s not just about team members trusting the leader. It’s about the leader being confident enough to trust team members without seeing them. Trust in members’ self-efficacy definitely comes into it. It’s not about 107
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The future of work: European trends A new report published by the European Political Strategy Centre examines the key European trends shaping the future of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how they are accelerating labour market transformations, what people do for a living and where and how they make that living. ‘10 Trends Shaping the Future of Work in Europe’, published by the European Political Strategy Centre in November 2019, “zooms into some of the biggest opportunities and challenges facing Europe as it transitions into a new world of work”. At the time of the report’s publication, the EU had a population of 513.5 million, 331 million of whom were of working age, and 241 million of whom were in employment. 60 per cent were in full-time, permanent employment, with 13 per cent part-time and permanent. The remainder were either self-employed or in temporary employment other than 1 per cent defined as “other”. Services continue to dominate the job creation market, with an already dominant share of 68 per cent in 2008 having increased to 72 per cent by
2018. The shares of both industry and agriculture in job creation have fallen accordingly in the same time span, from 27 per cent to 24 per cent and from 5 per cent to 4 per cent respectively. Between 2012 and 2018, employment rates have grown in every age group from 15-19 to 70-74, for both men and women and across those defined as having low, medium and high levels of education. The first of the trends identified is the redefinition of the “very concept of work”, with technology and new business models said to be fundamentally changing this area. The report says that “digitisation and automation, together with the sustainability imperative, are reshaping labour market needs across all sectors”, with job creation having been primarily driven by technological
change in the 21st century. The two largest growth subsectors from 2000-2016 were IT, science and engineering and “other high-skilled” jobs, both of which are predicted to have the highest growth rates until 2030. Skilled manual jobs, on the other hand, have suffered contraction and are predicted to continue to do so. The online platform economy is also a notable disruption; non-existent 10 years ago, 10 per cent of the EU’s adult population have now used online platform as a source of income at least once. Despite this, EU enterprises have been found to be slow to integrate digital technology, with only three sectors (travel agencies, computer programming and telecommunications) having over 50 per cent of enterprises with a high digital intensity index score.
The second trend cited is that of nonstandard work’s rise and the need for a new social contract to meet the challenges presented by it. Nonstandard work (such as freelancing, contractors and zero-hours contracts) has accounted for almost 60 per cent of employment growth since the 1990s. 50 per cent of the European workforce is now engaged in non-standard work.
The third of the trends identified is the wage squeeze, the decline of “middlepaying” jobs. The proportion of employed people at risk of poverty in the EU has risen from 8.3 per cent in 2010 to 9.4 per cent in 2017, while “those in high-wage jobs and/or with other sources of income (property, capita) weathered the [post-2008 financial] crisis much better”. Fourth in the trends cited is the state of constant transition workers now find themselves in, where lifelong learning is the expected norm. With higher levels of education in Europe than ever before, the school-to-work transition (employment rate of people who graduated in the last three years aged 25-39) is on the rise but still behind the levels seen before the brunt of the 2008 financial crash was felt. Job changes have become more frequent than ever, while one-in-five people now consider it likely that their skills will be outdated within five years. The report says that a “significant conundrum” is now emerging: one where skills needs have never been more complex, requiring more training, but a more transient workforce means employers are less likely to invest in such upskilling. The fifth trend is one which may be treated as a given by digital natives: that digital skills are now considered a basic skill. ICT skills are increasingly reported as a need in all jobs, with the percentage of workers reporting low intensity of ICT use having fallen from 64 per cent to 43 per cent from 2005 to 2015, but in 2017 35 per cent of the EU’s active labour force still lacked basic digital skills and over 10 per cent had no digital skills at all. Over 70 per cent of European firms
supply a portable device to at least 20 per cent of their workers, which has led to a culture of ‘workism’, the connectivity and future of work report
The report says that union membership being low among such workers means that their fundamental working rights are challenged, and that the monitoring of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights will be “crucial” in this regard.
“One-in-three enterprises now
expectation that people will always be available to answer work messages at the least.” report that a lack of skill is “hampering” their investment strategies. The report says that not only is the lack of digital skills in Europe limiting current growth, the “repercussions down the road could be severe”. Sixth in the trends is the increasingly overlapping nature of work and leisure time. One-in-three enterprises now supply a portable device to at least 20 per cent of their workers, which has led to a culture of ‘workism’, the expectation that people will always be available to answer work messages at the least. Fatigue, anxiety, stress and sleeping problems are all reported to be on the rise, whole “there is a growing recognition of burnout as a result of work pressures”. Seventh in the trends is the prevalence of robots and algorithms in the workplace, with the human/machine work split projected to go from 71 per cent/29 per cent in 2018 to 58 per cent/42 per cent by 2022. The report warns that rules and guidelines will be needed to guard against the “risks and potential misuses of AI”, which could in itself create new human roles “such as algorithm bias auditors or chief trust officers”. Eighth among the trends is the stalling of progress in addressing the gender divide. 67.4 per cent of women aged 20-64 are employed in the EU28 (this study was conducted at a time when the UK was still a member of the EU), a 5 per cent increase on the last decade, but still 11 per cent behind the men’s rate.
The average pay gap in the EU was 16 per cent in 2018, compared to 17.1 per cent in 2010. Women are far more likely to be in part-time, non-standard, and/or low-paid jobs; 38 per cent of women with two children are in part-time employment while just 5.4 per cent of men with two children are. Ninth in the trends is the tendency now for people to work longer as life expectancy in Europe has increased to 81 years. 57.1 per cent of people aged 55 to 64 were in employment in Europe in 2017, with one-in-10 65 to 74-year olds also still economically active. The average retirement age still remains below the official age in most member states and significantly so in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Poland. There remains the worry that this will eventually place significant pressure on Europe’s social security infrastructure. The final trend cited is Europe’s failure to attract the “world’s best talent”. The report states that, when compared with similar economies such as the US, Canada and Australia, the EU “attracts fewer highly skilled migrants”, although 40 per cent of the migrants in Europe are overqualified for the jobs they work. The EU’s migration is also much more based on family reunions and humanitarian reasons when compared to those similar economies. “More rapid labour market integration” for these migrants is said to be key to addressing this issue, along with the key point thar arises over and over again throughout the report: investment in training and education. 109
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Supporting the move to a digital economy electricity. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is a core part of Ireland’s infrastructure. While this awareness was already growing, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that and telecoms networks and digital platforms kept key parts of the economy functioning since the start of the pandemic. “That has ramifications for us as a regulator. It is more important than ever that we as regulator make decisions that allow for network investment so everyone in Ireland can enjoy connectivity of adequate quality. There has, for example, been a steady constant improvement in the competitive matrix. Competition has been a key tool in attracting investment into the sector. We have also been investing in understanding the resilience of networks.
ComReg Chairperson Commissioner Garrett Blaney outlines the telecoms regulator’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, how an effective regulatory framework is the basis of future network investment and the trend towards wider digital regulation. The Covid-19 crisis has underpinned the investment in both mobile and fixed telecoms networks, Blaney outlines. “They coped well and if the planned investment over the next five to seven years comes to fruition – and the National Broadband Plan is a key element of that – coupled with the investment plans of individual 110
companies, we are on track for the Gigabit economy,” he indicates. This will put Ireland in a good position compared to other countries across Europe and, from a regulatory perspective, the challenge is to support this. There is now a broader realisation that telecoms networks are a vital service, akin to other utilities such as water and
There is also a link to decarbonisation that hasn’t been explored enough. With increased homeworking throughout the crisis we are seeing a decarbonisation dividend. But there are also aspects that I can see, looking back on my previous experience as an energy regulator. “With the rollout of smart meters, broadband will be a key component of new forms of smart energy use to homes. The release of the 400 MHz spectrum by ComReg has supported the development of smart energy grids and it is one clear link between the two sectors,” Blaney explains. At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, ComReg released additional radio spectrum to boost mobile phone and broadband capacity on a temporary basis. While the crisis has slowed some radio spectrum awards across Europe, ComReg has continued preparations for its next multi band spectrum award while making some of this bandwidth available in the meantime. “We also worked with the telecom retailers on a seven-point charter to
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support customers in these challenging times. We saw that with the Covid crisis everyone pulled together. Meanwhile, our own staff have been fantastic in responding to the crisis. ComReg has been in fully remote operation since mid-March, using video conferencing technology from day one,” the ComReg Chairperson details, adding: “We have had virtually no one in the office for five months now and yet we have been able to deliver on our published work plan. It shows that remote working has been a gamechanger in terms of the future working environment. Five years ago, we would not have been able to do this. The technology was not there. That is a testimony to my predecessors and the wider industry.”
Digital Regulation The Telecom sector underpins the digital economy, but there are new areas where regulation may be needed. “Together with other economic regulators, we have started to look at digitalisation in a broader sense. Digital, along with decarbonisation, are the two key areas within which the European Commission is working. Ireland is an important digital hub in Europe. We have the opportunity to influence that evolving regulatory framework at a European level,” Blaney suggests.
New Code At the same time, the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) is currently being transposed into Irish law. The Code establishes an entirely new framework for telecoms regulation in Europe. It replaces a series of existing EU directives first adopted in
2002. Among the key objectives of the Code are to promote connectivity to high capacity networks, further strengthen the internal market for telecoms and to provide greater consumer protection. “It’s important that we all deliver this by the end of 2020 as required by the European legislation and that ComReg gets additional enforcement powers to ensure compliance. Enhanced enforcement powers for ComReg has been specifically called out in the recent Programme for Government,” Blaney notes.
Future Looking to future, ComReg’s priorities will be consistent with those at the outset of 2020. Primarily, this means ensuring that investment plans have the right regulatory framework, particularly regarding any players with significant market power, while also ensuring they are making services available on a reasonable basis to all market players.
“All the core components of good regulation are now even more important as Ireland moves to full access for gigabit services in the next five to seven years. This will require significant investment and a regulatory framework to facilitate that investment. The National Broadband Plan is hugely important. It is a very significant project and we have to ensure that the regulatory elements are in place at the right time. “The broader digital regulatory agenda will become increasingly important and closer collaboration between the various regulators is becoming a feature of the regulatory landscape. In Ireland, we have the advantage of being a small country which makes that collaboration much easier,” the ComReg Chairperson concludes.
“The European Commission is now considering future digital regulation including a new Digital Services Act, new competition tools and the European approach to artificial intelligence. Ireland’s involvement in helping frame that regulation will be important in demonstrating our leadership in digital regulation. With most of the technology companies having their European headquarters in Ireland, we are at the vanguard of digital regulation for Europe. For example, the Irish Data Protection Commission effectively guards digital data protection for Europe where Ireland is the country of origin for many of the big tech companies. Having clear and consistent digital regulation will underpin future investment in Ireland as well as protect European citizens.”
“There is now a broader acceptance of telecoms networks as an essential service, akin to other utilities such as water and electricity. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is an essential part of Ireland’s infrastructure.”
T: +353 (0)1 804 9600 E: email@example.com W: www.comreg.ie
Connectivity and future of work statistics Data gathered by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) provide some insight into the experiences of work, commuting and connectivity both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, giving some indication of likely future trends.
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Work during Covid-19 Of respondents to the CSO’s May 2020 survey:
47% experienced employment impacts
Of those that had employment affected:
started working from home
12% increased their hours of working from home
experienced a change in their working hours
Of those that had been made unemployed:
expected to return to the same job
Respondents aged 15+ life effects of Covid-19 (%) Employment affected Childcare issues
More contact with family via telephone, Skype, etc.
Sex Male Female
Of respondents to the CSO’s June 2020 survey:
19% extremely or very concerned about their employer’s ability to provide a safe work environment
of those working from home did not have a suitable workspace with adequate equipment
70% reported no change in their net income since the introduction of public health restrictions
Effect on employment status by age group (%) Age group Temporary layoff Loss of employment 15–24
of respondents aged 35–44 had childcare challenges
59% had increased family contact via electronic means
Source: CSO Ireland Note: Figures calculated from 47 per cent of respondents whose employment was affected by Covid-19.
Connectivity Households without internet access: Reasoning for lack of access, 2019 (%) 52
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9 Do not need internet
Lack of skills
Access to internet elsewhere
Broadband Equipment internet not costs too high available in area
Access costs too high
Information Society Statistics Households report for 2019 indicates:
of household internet access was provided by fixed broadband
of internet access was provided by mobile broadband
91% of Irish households have internet access
12% of internet users use home smart technology
Households with internet access by region and type, 2019 (%) State South-West South-East Mid-West Mid-East Dublin West Midlands Border 0
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Urban and Rural Life in Ireland 2019 found that:
workers and students commuted in 2016
of commuters cycled in cities
of commuters cycled in rural areas
average commuting time in 2016
Working from home Proportion of population working from home by area type, 2016 (%)
7.8 4.7 2.1
Satellite urban towns
Independent urban towns
Urban and Rural Life in Ireland 2019 found that:
Rural areas with Rural areas with high urban moderate urban influence influence
95,000 9.8% of people in highly rural/remote areas worked from home
of workers aged 35–44 found it difficult to work at home with family around
Respondents aged 15+ effect of Covid-19 on remote working (%) ABLE TO WORK
workers worked mainly from home in 2016
Highly rural/remote areas
Started remote working
UNABLE TO WORK
Increased remote Employer unable to Work unsuitable working hours facilitate remote working for remote working
Source: CSO Ireland Note: Figures calculated from 47 per cent of respondents whose employment was affected by Covid-19.
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National Broadband Plan: Ups and downs The roll out of the National Broadband plan (NBP) has brought with it both good and bad news, with the blow of the inevitable Covid-19 delays softened by the revelation that the connections eventually enabled will be over three times faster than originally planned. After years of delays with regard to planning and procurement, it would, perhaps, have been wishful thinking to expect the NBP to be rolled out seamlessly after the contract for the project was formally awarded to the National Broadband Ireland (NBI) consortium led by Granahan McCourt, including KN Group, Secto and Actavo. Yet even the most ardent of critics of
the previous governmentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; actions around the plan and the delays in the roll out of a scheme that has been in the offing since 2013 could have predicted that the next delay in the NBPâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long story would be caused by a pandemic. It has fallen to Department of Communications officials to brief new
Minister Eamon Ryan that the Plan has become yet another casualty of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The briefing informed the Minister that recruitment and accommodation difficulties for contractors caused by Covid-19 are among the most pressing of issues facing the projected timetable for the rollout.
The target of the NBP is to connect approximately 540,000 premises across Ireland to high speed broadband across a seven-yar long rollout. Targets within that overarching objective include having 115,000 premises connected by the end of 2021, with 70,000–100,000 connected each year thereafter. However, the briefing for Minister Ryan does also contain the welcome news that the Department and NBI are together exploring the feasibility of premises not due to be connected until years six and seven on a shorter timeline than originally envisioned.
As was revealed by the Irish Independent in July 2020, the NBP has also seen its hardware vastly upgraded, with the speed of connection due to be rolled out to the 540,000 premises now set to be over three times faster than originally planned. The original basic speed planned for the NBP rollout was 150 megabits per second (Mbps), but this has now been upgraded with NBI
Speaking upon the formal announcement of the improved speeds, NBI executive chairman David McCourt said: “Since the global Covid-19 pandemic struck in Ireland over six months ago, many people’s lives have changed significantly and we are much more reliant on digital connectivity than ever before. Today’s announcement to increase our minimum speeds empowers every person, every school, every farm and every business in the intervention are to gain access to truly world-leading speeds.”
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delivering high speed broadband for the
the recruitment issues are also raised, with recruitment said to be “more difficult online”, but officials also say that “mitigation measures, where available, have been taken to minimise the impact”.
Also relevant to the pricing of the upcoming scheme is the possibility of
The NBP has also seen its hardware vastly upgraded, with the speed of connection due to be rolled out to the 540,000 premises now set to be over three times faster than originally planned. The original basic speed planned for the NBP rollout was 150 megabits per second (Mbps), but this has now been upgraded with NBI stating that the basic package will now be launched with speeds of 500Mbps. 90 per cent of premises within the State are due to have their connections to high speed broadband by the end of year four of the rollout, but now there is the possibility of that final 10 per cent having its waiting time cut down, with subcontractors Eir, eNet, Actavo and KN Circet said to have commenced planning and development on behalf of NBI. 300 public WiFi Broadband Connection Points are also due to be rolled out in various locations in order to facilitate connectivity in areas where homes and businesses are waiting for connection. The briefing by officials informed Minister Ryan that deployment of the NBP has continued “in line with the advice provided by the Government and HSE during the Covid-19 event and key mobilisation and design activities continue to be progressed”, but it is admitted that “Covid-19 has impacted the delivery of the NBP Programme”, specifically the “efficiency of the design process and the development of the operational environment processes and tools”. Accommodation availability and
stating that the basic package will now be launched with speeds of 500Mbps. The package, expected to be priced at €40 per month, will now enable rural premises to be connected an internet speed quicker than most city-based or high-speed connections.
cuts to wholesales rates by ComReg,
NBI will operate as a wholesale provider, meaning that packages will be delivered to retailers and sold by them among other, rival internet packages. The increase in speeds is believed to be due to a recent price cut by Eir that placed their 500Mbps service at the same price as their 150Mbps service. Underlying prices for the NBP are tied to those offered by the country’s largest operators, which includes Eir, and as such NBI was left with little choice but to provide faster speeds at a cut price.
cent to 5.61 per cent, a move that is
under pressure from the EU. As the NBP is prepared for roll out, much of it on infrastructure leased from Eir, the regulator has said it will review the weighted average cost of capital rate and consider reducing it from 8.18 per projected to cost Eir at least €125 million in leasing poles alone, not taking further additional revenue loss from the other infrastructure it leases to private operators. In June 2020, NBI named Nokia as its major supplier in the deployment of the plan, with Nokia providing 100 per cent of the active equipment required, with the fibre-to-the-home network based on next generation passive optical
500Mbps is not in the upper range of broadband speed that fibre-to-thehome networks like that being rolled out by the NBP are capable of providing, but as well as being over three times faster than the original plan, it is also over 10 times faster than a typical mobile broadband connection.
network technology. With it having been confirmed by NBI that Carrigaline, County Cork will be the first townland to connect to the high speed network later this year, it appears that years of delay and frustration are coming to an end and progress is finally set to begin. 117
New .ie registrations surge as businesses move online in response to the Covid-19
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The significant digital growth suggests that businesses and entrepreneurs recognise that an online presence is essential in order to maintain and grow revenue writes David Curtin, CEO of IE Domain Registry, the company that manages .ie, the preferred online address for business in Ireland.
According to our latest .ie Domain Profile Report, new .ie registrations in the first six months of 2020 grew 26 per cent compared to the same period last year. The strong year-on-year growth in new registrations can be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Over 40 per cent of new .ie registrations on the island of Ireland occurred in the two months of May and June, as businesses
responded with online services, following the Government’s ‘work from home’ order which closed most of the country’s business premises. Overall new registrations in Ireland during Quarter 2 increased 56 per cent year-on-year. As a reliable forward economic indicator, this is a clear statement of intent by Irish business. With main streets temporarily shut down, the increase suggests that more companies, self-employed business
owners, and independent professionals have gone online since the lockdown to maintain their revenue streams, stay in contact with customers, and expand into new markets. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a noticeable effect on new .ie registrations across virtually the entire country. 31 of the island’s 32 counties recorded an increase in the first six months of 2020.
Consumer preference Buying Irish has always mattered to consumers. Our SME Digital Health Index 2019 research revealed that 81 per cent of consumers believe that buying Irish is important. The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has created a sense of solidarity amongst consumers who know that without their support, many Irish businesses will never reopen. This has encouraged consumers to look closer to home for goods and services and support Irish businesses through this challenging period.
Data currently available suggests that Covid-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. Until an effective treatment or vaccine is found, social distancing, queues and capacity limits are here to stay. Businesses all over the world are likely to be engaged in some form of restricted trading. Consumers are aware of this, and online shopping offers them a way to avoid inconvenience and crowds. Covid-19 has, for now, made many wary of in-store shopping. Consumers are also more open to interacting with professional services online through virtual consultations in areas such as banking and finance and health, with online medical consultations on the rise. Before Covid-19 was a reality, most consumers wanted the option of an “omnichannel experience”, where their 118
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SMEs’ ability to cater to consumer choice and comfort by providing online and instore shopping or face-to-face experiences, will be key to the country's economic recovery in 2020 and beyond. Businesses should make every effort to access e-learning opportunities from organisations such as the Local Enterprise Offices and access available government funding to assist them in their digital development. SME representative organisations have successfully demonstrated to government that SMEs truly are the backbone of the Irish economy and an unprecedented amount of funding has been made available to support them.
Power of a uniquely Irish .ie online address shopping needs are met by a seamless combination of traditional main street retail, online, and e-commerce. This has accelerated in the current Covid-19 environment. SMEs who are flexible enough to facilitate both will attract more customers and be able to better compete with international online retailers. The same can also be said for those providing services and B2B businesses. For example, if someone is looking for an architect or solicitor, they will check online and gauge the company on the quality of its website. Video conference tools, such as Zoom, are proving to be a good substitute for the personal touch in selling the professional service, while Covid-19 prevents physical meetings. SME websites and promotion of their online services will be critical in encouraging consumers to transact with them.
SME response The significant increase in .ie registrations indicates that all business owners and entrepreneurs, in cities and in regional parts of the country, understand that having a trusted, uniquely Irish online presence is absolutely crucial in a time of lockdown, when nearly all physical premises are shut and footfall is extremely low or nonexistent. Having an online presence means that these businesses can stay in contact with their customers, build on their relationships, and, most important of all, continue to sell to them through an online store, click-andcollect service, or appointment booking systems.
1: Central Bank Annual Report 2019 2: https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/future-business-survey-aggregated-data
Without face-to-face, physical interaction at the checkout, online stores need to prove to consumers they can be trusted to carry out a transaction in good faith. Many Irish businesses use trusted .ie domains for that reason as all .ie registrations are manually reviewed to ensure they have a valid connection to Ireland. We have seen many businesses demonstrating how they can rapidly innovate digitally and respond in a crisis. Business groups and government must support SMEs by ensuring there is continuous investment in digital tools and skills countrywide to ensure Ireland’s long-term economic success. Properly equipped to meet consumer demand, small businesses can play a major role in re-energising Ireland’s post-Covid-19 economy.
T: + 353 (1) 236 5400 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.iedr.ie
However, according to our SME Digital Health Index 2019 research only a minority of Irish SMEs (32 per cent) can actually sell online despite online spending being the norm among Irish consumers. E-commerce is worth a great deal to the Irish economy with the Central Bank estimating that Irish consumers spent €16 billion online in 20191, a figure that has risen consistently over the last decade. Our research has shown some SMEs are slow to move online, citing not enough time, that they are already doing enough online, lack of digital skills and that the array of choices can be confusing. Covid-19 has forced consumer purchasing habits to change. Many businesses have responded and quickly adapted to this and moved online or enhanced their online presence in order to survive. The Future of Business Survey2, run by Facebook in collaboration with the World Bank and the OECD surveyed SMEs with an active Facebook page. It revealed that over 40 per cent of Irish SMEs adapted to the pandemic by setting up a website or online business presence — one of the highest figures globally.
According to HosterStats.com, .ie is the leading active domain in Ireland and growing faster than .com. Business owners and people in Ireland have clearly indicated that their online identity of choice is a .ie website address and a .ie email extension.
Heavily redacted National Broadband Plan contract published
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In July, it was announced that 300 sites had been identified across the country as Broadband Connection Points that would be prioritised for connection within the first year of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. The scheme aims to ensure that remote areas likely to wait longest for connection to the network will have access to high-speed broadband in places such as community centres and sports clubs.
The Government has published the details of the contract for the National Broadband Plan but many key details, including those useful for public accountability, have been redacted or omitted. Deemed “commercially sensitive”, key details of the contract for the €3 billion State aided national infrastructure project have been redacted or omitted on its publication.
Department says represents one of the most complex and comprehensive contracts ever to have been entered into in the State, just 21 were published in full.
Noticeably, omitted by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment are agreed targets which could be held up to public scrutiny.
Work on the 25-year long contract, which requires the delivery of high speed broadband to 540,000 homes, farms and businesses which cannot currently access it over a seven-year period, is already underway with the first premises set to be connected late this year or early next year.
Milestones which much be reached, dubbed “strategic community points” are redacted, as are the outlined requirements for the number of premises that must be reached each quarter. Additionally, sections on subsidy payments and operational performance have been partially redacted and sections on key subcontractor provisions and key personnel have not been published at all. Nor have sections on the “consequences of termination” or “termination events”. The publication of the contract for the National Broadband Plan comes nine months after it was first signed following the award to the National Broadband Ireland (NBI) consortium, chaired by David McCourt. Of the 50 schedules outlined in the published contract, which the 120
The initial tender sought service provision of a minimum download speed of 30Mbps but NBI have promised a minimum of 500Mbps. The consortium has also stated that it expects to complete the project earlier than expected and under budget. NBI have previously stated that it expects to pass 10,000 homes by the network by the end of 2020 and detailed design plans for 20 per cent of households under the project. Its previously discussed target is to pass 115,000 premises by 2021, with 70,000120,000 household passed each year after until the rollout is complete, raising questions as to why details of rollout milestones have been redacted from the published contract.
Interestingly, the contract outlines that not only should the infrastructure be capable of providing the necessary services to 100 per cent of premises in a way that is “consistent with the provision of value for money in line with industry best practice” but that the contractor is required to “stimulate demand” for its infrastructure. The National Broadband Plan has been controversial since it was first announced in 2012, with a projected cost of €1 billion. In 2018, the then Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten TD, resigned amidst controversy over private meetings with NBI Chair McCourt, meetings which a government-commissioned review later found not to have influenced the procurement process. The cost of the project has also risen. In 2019, Eir CEO Carolan Lennon, whose company withdrew from the tendering process, told an Oireachtas committee her company could still deliver national broadband at a price lower than the original projected cost of €1 billion. Then Communications Minister Richard Bruton dismissed the claim as “not a feasible alternative”, while Finance Minister Pacschal Donohoe said that the bid lacked the protections for taxpayers put forward by NBI. Also controversial was been the Government’s decision to opt for a model that will see NBI retain ownership of the network at the end of the 25 year contract. Prior to entering government, current Communications Minister Eamon Ryan outlined his preference for an option to retain the network in public ownership.
Communication interceptions laws to be updated
Legislation is being drafted that will update the Interception of Postal Packages and Telecommunications Act, 1993 to grant State agencies the power to intercept encrypted communications and catch up with technological advances in communications. The news that such law changes, which An Garda Síochána have been pursuing for years, are forthcoming was revealed by the Irish Examiner in the aftermath of revelations that a spying operation undertaken by a joint French-Dutch police team had managed to break encrypted devices on the EncroChat network. The operation allowed the police team to monitor criminal communication in real time as they were sent via encrypted networks, a major step forward for policing in the digital age. The unsuitability of Ireland’s laws to facilitate something similar has long been a source of complaint from An
Garda Síochána and other security agencies within the State, with a 2019 judicial report from Justice Charles Meenan stating that communication monitoring laws in Ireland are “considerably out of date”. Meenan, whose brief includes the monitoring of the 1993 Act, also wrote that there are concerns that court rulings regarding the illegality of separate laws on accessing communications were having a “detrimental” effect on investigations. The judge pointed to “technical developments” since the 1993 Act in his report to the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The specific problems were not identified within the report, but
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security agencies have long been complaining that the 1993 Act is not flexible enough to allow for the interception of encrypted communications and social media messaging, innovations that came long after the Act’s enshrinement into law. Meenan is the judge designated to check both the 1993 Act and Section 12 (1) (C) of the Communications (Retention of Data) 2011; the former allows for the interception of communications with authorisation from the Minister of Justice, while the 2011 Act allows agencies to seek traffic data (excluding message contents) from phone and online companies. Gardaí, the Defence Forces and GSOC are entitled to apply for those ministerial authorisations, while those three agencies, Revenue and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission can avail of the powers in the 2011 act. The High Court ruled in December 2018 that the 2011 act, when used to investigate serious crime rather than matters of national security or lifesaving, was in breach of EU laws on individual rights. Meenan wrote that in the various locations that he visited in order to gauge concerns with current arrangements “at each location” he was told of the 1993 Act being “considerably out of date having regard to technical developments that have taken place since”. The Department of Justice has said that changes to “modernise” these laws are “under construction”. However, significant opposition to the expansion of State powers to intercept encrypted communications has been raised, with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties saying that such legislation “would be a significant breach of our privacy”, reasoning that such communications are important “for the security of activists, whistle-blowers, journalists and any member of the public who wants to communicate privately”. TJ McIntyre, an associate professor at the UCD School of Law, has also said that there is a “grave risk” that such measures “would in fact undermine security and privacy”. 121
EU coalitions and cleavages The geopolitical disruption heralded firstly by Brexit and secondly by Covid-19 has altered the power dynamics within the EU. Brigid Laffan explores EU coalitions and cleavages in this new era. The UK left the EU on the 31 of January 2020, the first member state to do so. This transformed the Union of 28 into a Union of 27 and removed a significant country that had played a central role in the dynamic of integration for almost 50 years. The UK exit was followed immediately by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic across Europe, confronting the member states with a major public health crisis and the need to freeze the European economy. Covid-19 served to overshadow Brexit, although the negotiations on the future relationship are continuing albeit at a slow pace.
The transformation of the UK into a third country altered power and coalition dynamics within the EU. It robbed the smaller northern European states, including Ireland, of a longstanding likeminded country on many although not all issues. For Denmark and Sweden, the loss was particularly acute as it removed a prominent non-Euro state. For Ireland, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands it represented the loss of a liberal pro-trade member state. The loss of a large state impacted also on the power balances across the larger
member states. It reinforces the centrality of Germany and France as the pivotal states in the Union. As we will see from the response to Covid-19, it has had the effect of giving more prominence to Italy and to a lesser extent Spain. Poland which could position itself as part of a Warsaw-Berlin-Paris axis has lost out due to the decline in its reputation on the protection of the rule of law and judicial institutions. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the Union was divided east-west and north-south on some big issues. the two big east-west
issues were migration and the rule of law. In 2015, during the refugee crisis, many of the countries of east-central Europe were unwilling to burden share when it came to the distribution of refugees. This remains the case. Tensions have been greatly exacerbated by the deliberate acts of Hungary and Poland in particular, relating to democratic checks and balances and the rule of law. Both these countries have been taken to the European Court of Justice for breaches of key EU values and norms. There are also major governance issues in Bulgaria. The north-south cleavage is a legacy of the Eurozone crisis during which the Mediterranean states, in addition to Ireland, were most badly affected and experienced the slowest recovery. The migration crisis, the burden of which falls disproportionately on the countries of the Mediterranean, adds to a sense in these member states of being left behind. The arrival of the pandemic did nothing to dilute this grievance as Italy was the epicentre of the outbreak when it arrived in Europe. Having struggled to address the pandemic in March 2020, the EU began to build collective capacity from April onwards. The most significant outcome was agreement on a series of measures to assist the economic recovery. One cannot understate the importance of a collective EU response to the recovery. Covid-19 was a symmetric shock that arrived from outside Europe, but the member states did not have equal financial power to keep their health and welfare systems going. The historic legacy of high debt in some countries, especially Italy, could lead to a disruption of Europe’s financial markets and hence a destabilisation of the Euro. In March, nine countries co-signed a letter supporting the introduction of common debt to address the costs associated with Covid-19. The nine countries were France, Italy, Spain along with Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Slovenia. This was a major shift in coalition dynamics. First, France was willing to support a preference that was uncomfortable for Germany to say the least. Second, Ireland was willing to reposition itself away from the Hanseatic League which was dominated by the Netherlands. Third, a central European state, Slovenia, was willing to adopt a bold
“Nor would it have been wise for Ireland, for long a net beneficiary of budgetary largess, to lack solidarity with the hardest hit states.” policy position. Although this initiative did not come to fruition, it created the political space for movement by other states and assured the Mediterranean states that they were not on their own.
Although opposed to the strategy, these
By May 2020, Chancellor Merkel led a major shift in German policy and together with France proposed a €500 billion recovery package. The importance of this shift cannot be overstated. It marked the first major Franco-German initiative for almost a decade and signalled that Germany was prepared to do what was necessary for the future of the Union. President Macron had been trying to persuade Berlin that such a bold step was necessary.
was still a member state. It is my view that
Between May and July, the 27 had to collectively agree to the shape and size of the Recovery Fund and the Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) for the next seven years. The negotiations were tough and tortuous as four smaller northern European states, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, sometimes joined by Finland, battled to reduce the size of the Fund and the balance between grants and loans.
states known as the ‘frugal four’ were unwilling to veto the proposals. It is impossible to know what would have happened in these negotiations if the UK this was the first major EU negotiations that benefited from the absence of the UK, which given its past record on budgetary negotiations would have used the veto. This would have forced the member states to adopt an instrument outside the formal treaties. Ireland’s position in these negotiations is very interesting and smart. If Ireland positioned itself with the Hanseatic league on this, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe would not have won the vote on the presidency of the Eurogroup. Nor would it have been wise for Ireland, for long a net beneficiary of budgetary largess, to lack solidarity with the hardest hit states. Ireland is well place to adopt a strategy of multiple coalitions with its partners depending on the issue in question rather than binding itself closely to any one group.
Brexit: Agreement ‘unlikley’ until July 2021, instead setting out plans for a new three stage customs regime, starting 1 January 2021. David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, has accused the EU of being “unnecessarily difficult” in the latest round of talks. The UK has taken issue with the EU’s persistence that agreement on fishing and state aid must be reached prior to any engagement on other areas. Following the seventh round of negotiations, Frost said that despite “useful discussions” little progress had been made. “The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts,” he outlined.
A lack of progress in the latest round of Brexit talks between the UK and the EU have signalled a “backwards” step in hopes to have a deal in place by the end of 2020. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier spoke of his disappointment and surprise at the lack of progress during discussions in mid-August, believing that the UK failed to bring forward solutions on areas of key interest to Europe. “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards,” said Barnier following the negotiations. “I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.” Barnier stressed that at this stage, an agreement between the UK and the EU seems “unlikely”. The August negotiations included two of the recognised areas of greatest contention, namely, post-Brexit competition and fishing rights. Also included were law enforcement and judicial cooperation, trade in goods and
services, transport and the UK's future participation in EU programmes. Both sides have previously stated their willingness to have a deal completed before October, allowing time for ratification prior to the ending of the transition period on 31 December. An extension of the transition period looked plausible following the outbreak of the pandemic but an EU-UK Joint Committee on implementing the Withdrawal Agreement in June was told that the UK will not seek an extension of the transition, despite many aspects of implementation of measures within the Withdrawal Act still to be agreed, including the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK has already stated that it will not be ready to implement full post-border controls on goods entering from the EU
“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.” During a recent meeting between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Belfast, Martin stressed that he was not a “referee” in talks between the UK and the EU following the inclusion of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’s inclusion in the Withdrawal Agreement. Believing that a “landing zone” exists for a Brexit agreement and outlining the necessity for a free trade agreement, Martin added: “ My own gut instinct is that there is a shared understanding that we don’t need another shock to the economic system that a no-deal Brexit would give or that a sub-optimal trade agreement would give to our respective economies across Europe, Ireland and Great Britain alongside the enormous shock that Covid has already given.” The next set of Brexit negotiations are due to take place in London on 7 September 2020.
No ‘sweetheart’ deal Both Apple and the Irish Government rejected the finding and subsequently launched an appeal, with the Government stressing the reputational damage done by the allegation that Ireland was a tax haven. In striking down the Commission’s ruling, the Central Court not only declared that Apple did not have to pay the €13 billion to Ireland but also ordered the Commission to pay the costs of the trial, nullifying the longstanding argument that Ireland had carelessly used taxpayers’ money to appeal.
Apple and Ireland may have won a landmark victory over tax but it’s clear that the European Commission has its sights firmly set on reform. The ruling by the General Court of the European Union represented a blow to the European Commission’s 2016 finding that Ireland gave “illegal tax benefits to Apple up to €13 billion” and vindicated the decision by the Irish Government to use €8 million of taxpayers’ money to mount the appeal. However, the Commission pointedly chose the day of the ruling to announce the launch of its new tax action plan, firing a warning shot that its drive on tax harmonisation is far from over. In 2016, Margrethe Vestager, the Competition Commissioner and the Vice President of the Commission very publicly alleged that the Irish Government’s “selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 per cent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014”.
The Court stated that the Commission failed to show that the Irish State’s support for Apple’s tax avoidance strategies constituted illegal state aid and that they failed to show that the taxes Apple should have paid on the large profits resting in Ireland were due to the Irish State. Although a blow to the Commission, some small concessions could be taken from the ruling, including that it was right the Commission had powers to investigate matters regarding member state tax affairs. The EU has suggested it will launch an appeal on the decision to the European Court of Justice, which it must do before the end of September. However, the European Treaties state that any further appeal can only be on a point of law and, given that the outcome was largely determined by the facts, the Commission lawyers will have to weigh up the benefits of an appeal against the political risks of a further loss. Vestager rallied following the Court’s judgement, despite the damage to her reputation and stated that: “One thing is clear, the fight against aggressive tax planning is a marathon, this is not a sprint. And this marathon, well, it does take place on very hilly ground.” Prior to the ruling, it was circulated that EU officials were preparing to use a provision in the Treaty of the European Union to introduce qualified majority voting in the European Council on certain corporate tax issues. Such a move would bypass the requirement of unanimity on
tax matters and subvert tax matters being subject to a veto by any member state. Then, just hours following the ruling, the Commission unveiled its new tax reform package, a list of 25 measures aimed at fairer and simple taxation. The EU Economy Commissioner said on launching the package: “Fair taxation is the springboard that will help our economy bounce back from the crisis. “We need to make life easier for honest citizens and businesses when it comes to paying their taxes, and harder for fraudsters and tax cheats. These proposals will help member states to secure the revenues they need to invest in people and infrastructure, while creating a better tax environment for citizens and businesses throughout Europe.” There are obstacles impeding the EU’s efforts for corporation tax reform, evidenced most recently by the pushback by some member states, including Ireland, on the introduction of a Digital Sales Tax, which they argued would disadvantage Europe over other global players. A common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) and the EU Commission proposal on a financial transactions tax (FTT) have similarly failed to gain the support of member states in the push for greater tax harmonisation. Ireland’s preference is for reform to be undertaken on a more global level, led by the OECD. Company management and control as factors in where a company’s tax is paid are key elements of the OECD’s reform agenda, however, US President Donald Trump has withdrawn the US from the OECD talks, meaning that any progress would likely not happen until after the US election. In light of the delay, the European Commission will undoubtedly push ahead with plans to curb the enabling of tax avoidance within EU member states. Despite the Apple tax ruling, focus on low tax jurisdictions and the matter of taxing multinationals will continue to be a feature for future years.
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Restructuring government departments The announcement of the new Government heralded significant restructuring of government departments to reflect the allocations of functions to ministers. eolas explores the convention and legislative underpinning of this process. Under Article 13 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Taoiseach is responsible for nominating the other members of the Government of Ireland for appointment by the President. Therefore, the Taoiseach is responsible for the allocation of functions between ministers of the Government. As such, the structure of departments of state can change, reflecting this allocation. While generally this occurs following a general election, it can take place at any time as per the Taoiseach’s instruction. Therefore, in nominating the ministers of the Government, the Taoiseach indicates to Dáil Éireann any changes to ministerial functions and departmental structures. The power to transfer functions from one minister or department to another or to rename departments is legally underpinned by Section 6 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939. Specifically, a government may change the name or title of a minister or department (subsections 6 (1) (a) and 6 (1) (b)) or transfer functions from one minster or department to another via a Transfer of Functions Order (subsections 6 (1) (c) and 6 (1) (d)).
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Departments which are entirely new and pre-existing departments which receive new responsibilities from counterpart departments are referred to as ‘receiving departments’. Meanwhile, departments whose responsibilities are being transferred to another department are called ‘transferring departments’. By their nature, transfers of functions can vary in scale and complexity, especially when they entail the splitting of existing functions and decentralised offices. For example, if a transfer of functions impacts more than two departments, determining the staff to be transferred can be difficult. Upon the Taoiseach’s announcement of changes in functions or in titles of departments, the Department of the Taoiseach is required to inform the relevant departments. Meanwhile, a senior official in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) is identified as the Central Coordinator for the implementation of a transfer of functions. The progress on and the timeliness of implementation of the structural or functional changes announced by the Government are
overseen by the Civil Service Management Board (CSMB).
Transfer of Functions Order The transfer of functions process should be concluded within eight weeks after the Taoiseach’s announcement in the Dáil. The announced changes do not take immediate effect. Instead, the effective date is determined by a statutory instrument (secondary legislation) signed by the Taoiseach, known as the Transfer of Functions Order. Prepared by the transferring department, under Section 6 of the Ministerial and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939, a Transfer of Functions Order gives effect to transfers of functions. Within the Schedule to the Transfer of Functions Order “all acts, provisions of acts and regulations governing or impacting the functions being transferred” are comprehensively listed to ensure that all relevant functions are included in the order. Progress on each order is coordinated by the DPER Central Coordinator. On
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instruction from a transferring department, the Office of the Parliamentary Council (OPC) drafts a Transfer of Functions Order. The OPC settles the final order before submitting a stamped copy to DPER. Where legal advice is required, for instance, if and when the requirement for primary legislation arises, the Office of the Attorney General can provide this. For accounting purposes, using the existing department names, a transfer of functions order has an effective date from the beginning of the month proceeding the Taoiseach’s signature. The relevant Alteration of Title Orders are signed with an effective date of the day proceeding the Transfer of Functions Order. Where there is discordance between the impacted departments, for example on the scope of functions to be transferred, the secretaries general of the respective departments are tasked with resolving differences.
Transfers of functions There are 10 established principles of transfers of functions. 1.
Implementation should occur as soon as possible.
Departments should ensure that transfers are implemented efficiently.
Transfers should be Exchequer-neutral.
Transfers and their underpinning policy shape departments and require resources and, as such, efficiencies should be maximised.
Staff working on functions that are being transferred should move with them.
The finances and programme allocated to the functions that are being transferred should move with them.
The total staff and financial resources being transferred should be proportionate to the functions being transferred.
Records associated with the functions that are being transferred should move with them.
Property assets associated with the functions being transferred should move with them.
10. The National Shared Services Office should be consulted on services impacted by the transfer of functions.
Role of departments Action 21 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan recommended that a “standardised approach” be developed for “the efficient reorganisation of departmental structures or functions when requested by the Government”. As such, DPER has drafted guidelines for each transfer of functions.
department is newly established, a number of unique challenges are presented. DPER guidelines emphasise the importance of a new or receiving department taking “effective, practical responsibility for policy, decisions and processes as soon as possible”.
Both transferring and receiving departments affected by a transfer of functions must meet at the soonest opportunity to begin planning implementation of the changes. A transfer of functions should be led at secretary general level, with the transferring and receiving departments agreeing on the project lead. The secretary general in question must then nominate a member of their department’s management board to then oversee and drive implementation.
It is recommended that an acting secretary general should be appointed to ensure that an incoming minister is immediately supported in beginning their work. This appointment is ideally made soon after the Taoiseach’s announcement, facilitating the interests and objectives of the new department from the outset of the transfer of functions process. The acting secretary general will then form a shadow senior management team with its members selected from the officials working in any of the pre-existing functions being transferred. A private secretary will also support the new minister in facilitating ministerial communications.
Simultaneously, an internal working group should be established within each transferring and receiving department, chaired by the secretary general’s management board nominee. During this process, the transferring department is required to supply the receiving department with timely information, including reference to existing budgetary and staffing.
New departments In a scenario where a receiving
Once a government decides to establish a new department, under CSMB oversight, DPER and the Department of the Taoiseach are responsible for determining which staff from within the system be reassigned. As required, this includes finance, IT, accommodation, legal, HR and corporate function staff. Meanwhile, the Government Information Service is tasked
with ensuring that a new department’s identity be developed within a system of unified visual identify.
32nd Government of Ireland Delivering the Announcement of Government on 27 June 2020, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD indicated “a major reconfiguration of central elements of how government is structured”. Not least, this includes the creation of the new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science as provided for by the Ministers and Secretaries and Ministerial, Parliamentary, Judicial and Court Offices (Amendment) Act 2020. Likewise, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD now leads a restructured Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. “The transfer of Trade to the Department reflects the fact that the next few years will be unique in terms of the number and importance of trade issues will be decided,” the Taoiseach explained. Moreover, Eamon Ryan TD will lead “a major new portfolio” as Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport.
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Cabinet formation: “A missed opportunity”
The not-for-profit organisation Women for Election has called the formation of the Cabinet of the 32nd Government of Ireland “a missed opportunity” after just four women were appointed to the three-party executive.
The four women named to the Cabinet are: Helen McEntee of Fine Gael as Minister for Justice; Norma Foley of Fianna Fáíl as Minister for Education; Heather Humphreys of Fine Gael as Minister for Social Protection and for Community and Rural Development and the Islands; and Catherine Martin of the Green Party as Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht. Two further women are attending Cabinet as Ministers of State: Pippa Hackett of the Green Party as Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity; and Hildegarde Naughton of Fine Gael as Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics.
Women for Election CEO Ciairín de Buis said. “There has been a total of 22 women who have been appointed to cabinet since the foundation of the State. That’s not good enough.”
The number of four female ministers marks neither progress nor regress for female representation at the Cabinet level, rather it is statis as there were also four women ministers in the Cabinet of the 31st Government. “It is disappointing that once again a government have missed the opportunity to appoint a balanced cabinet,”
The 33rd Dáil contains both the largest number and proportion of women TDs in the Dáil’s history, both pre- and postfoundation of the Republic, with 36 out of a total 160 TDs accounting for 22.5 per cent of those taking their seats in Leinster House. The three governmental parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green
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From the foundation of the Republic in 1937, Ireland has had 32 governments, but it wasn’t until the 16th Government, formed by Charles Haughey in 1979 after the resignation of Jack Lynch, that a woman was appointed to Cabinet. Máire Geoghan-Quinn, a Fianna Fáil TD, was appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht, making her the first woman to hold an Irish cabinet post since Constance Markiewicz served as the Minister for Labour in the Government of the First Dáil.
Party, account for a total of 84 TDs, but only 13 of those are women, immediately putting a severe limit on the proportion of women likely to be appointed to Cabinet. The proportion of just 15.5 per cent of TDs being women across the three coalition parties places them at an immediate deficit, being lower than the overall Dáil proportion of 22.5 per cent, and significantly lower than the Opposition’s proportion of 30.2 per cent, made up by 23 women TDs among the 76 nongovernment affiliated TDs. “It isn’t enough to say there aren’t enough women in the Dáil to appoint a balanced cabinet,” de Buis said. “This isn’t inevitable, it’s not like the sun setting every evening – there aren’t enough women in the Dáil because of systematic barriers to their full participation in Irish political life. We need political leadership to see change across all levels of politics – this was a missed opportunity to see more women at Cabinet level.”
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From leader of opposition to Taoiseach While not recognised in the Constitution or, indeed, in legislation, the leader of the opposition, or ceannaire an fhreasúra, is the deputy who leads the largest opposition party within Dáil Éireann. To date, of the 18 leaders of the opposition, 10 have gone on to lead a subsequent government as taoisigh. Namely, they are: Éamon de Valera; John A Costello; Liam Cosgrave; Jack Lynch; Garret FitzGerald; Charles Haughey; John Bruton; Bertie Ahern; Enda Kenny; and Micheál Martin.
Opposition leaders that failed to ascend to the Office of An Taoiseach include Thomas Johnson; WT Cosgrave; Thomas F O’Higgins; Richard Mulcahy; James Dillon; Alan Dukes; and Michael Noonan. It remains to be seen whether the current and first ever female leader of the opposition, Mary Lou McDonald TD, will lead a future government.
Éamon de Valera
FI A N N A FÁ I L
Éamon de Valera was made President of the Executive Council in
Charles Haughey succeed Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in December
1932. After 16 years of government, he was voted out of office in
1979 and remained in office until June 1981. He served as
1948 but returned for two further terms as Taoiseach (1951–54
Taoiseach again from March 1982 to December 1982 and March
1987 to February 1992.
John A Costello
FIN E GAEL
FI N E G A E L
John A Costello became Taoiseach of Ireland's first interparty
John Bruton was leader of Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001. He was
government (comprising of Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Talmhan
elected Taoiseach of a coalition government (Fine Gael, Labour and
and Clann na Pobhlachta) in 1948. This government continued in
Democratic Left) from 1994 to 1997.
office until its dissolution in May 1951. He again headed a coalition government in 1954, which was dissolved in 1957.
Bertie Ahern FI A N N A FÁ I L
Bertie Ahern was elected leader of Fianna Fáil in November 1994.
FIN E GAEL
Having successfully contested general elections in 1997, 2002 and
Liam Cosgrave was made leader of Fine Gael in 1966. He became
2007, Bertie Ahern served three terms as Taoiseach, resigning in
Taoiseach and leader of the coalition government (Fine Gael and
Labour), in 1973 until 1977 when he resigned as leader.
Enda Kenny Jack Lynch
FI N E G A E L
Enda Kenny became leader of Fine Gael in 2002. Following the
Jack Lynch was made Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil in 1966,
general election in February 2011 he became Taoiseach in March
positions he held until March 1973. In the general election of 1977,
2011 before again being nominated Taoiseach in May 2016, retiring
he led Fianna Fáil to a landslide victory and again became
in June 2017.
Taoiseach until 1979 when he stepped down from office.
Micheál Martin Garret FitzGerald
FI A N N A FÁ I L
FIN E GAEL
Micheál Martin became leader of Fianna Fáil in January 2011,
Garret FitzGerald was elected leader of Fine Gael in 1977 and
leading the Opposition from March that year. In June 2020, Martin
served as Taoiseach from June 1981 to March 1982, and again
was elected as Taoiseach, entering an historic tri-party coalition
from December 1982 to March 1987.
between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. He currently serves as the incumbent Taoiseach.
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Hume: Rest in peace the unsuccessful University for Derry campaign. However, Hume did not take part in the anti-internment march on Bloody Sunday organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, believing that the aggressive behaviour exhibited by British soldiers at the Magilligan Strand protest the previous week was cause for concern. Hume actively tried to dissuade people not to host or attend the march which would ultimately see 26 unarmed civilians shot by the British Army, 14 of whom were killed.
The death of Nobel laureate John Hume prompted an outpouring of grief for the man who sacrificed political and personal capital in pursuit of an selfless philosophy, writes David Whelan. A founder of the SDLP, John Hume’s name is renowned globally for his role in indefatigably pursuing his vision of a shared future and ending political violence in Ireland. The outpouring of tributes to Hume, aged 83, from across civic and political society somewhat masked the turbulent journey he made in steadfast rejection of violence and a firm belief in the principle of consent. His role in ultimately persuading unionists and loyalists to share power with nationalists and republicans in 1998 is his lasting legacy but was only one accomplishment on a long list made in an effort to improve society in the north of the island. Hume, despite his many travels, remained rooted in the Derry. He was one of the first beneficiaries of hard-fought for free secondary education in Northern Ireland, allowing him to attend St Columb’s College in Derry. He would later recount his belief that public education transformed the nationalist community in Derry and in recognition of the power of education, decided to pursue an early career as an educator, after initially studying for the priesthood.
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As a teacher, the former MP, MEP and MLA recognised the value of repetition. Later in his political career he would be both criticised and lauded for his use of a ‘single transferrable speech’. Hume often retold the story of the advice of his father during unrest at a civil rights protest in his younger years; “you can’t eat the flag”. Hume’s repetitive mantra, however, was somewhat justified when, in announcing the loyalist ceasefire in 1994, David Ervine declared: “All elements must be comfortable within Northern Ireland... you can’t eat a flag.”
Three years prior to Bloody Sunday, Hume’s attentions had turned to politics and he was elected as an independent member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. He was a founding member of the Socialist Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970, which rejected abstentionism and wanted to improve civil rights from within Stormont’s system. The party, disillusioned with the system, soon withdrew and the Parliament was abolished in 1973. He was elected to the new Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, serving as Minister of Commerce in the short-lived power-sharing Government. In 1974, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Westminster, something he would later achieve in 1983. Hume succeeded Gerry Fitt as the SDLP’s leader, then the largest nationalist party, in 1979 and in the same year became one of the North’s three MEPs elected to the European Parliament.
While many recognise the peace process as his greatest achievement, Hume proudly recalled his role as a founding member of Derry Credit Union, serving as the youngest ever President of the Irish League of Credit Unions at the age of 27 from 1964 to 68. He believed that no movement had done “more good for the people of Ireland, north and south,” than the Credit Union movement.
Hume’s unwavering vision for Ireland was best summarised during his speech when collecting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, alongside David Trimble.
He was also a founding and leading figure in the civil rights movement in Derry during the late 1960s. His energy was largely focused on local reform, highlighted by his role as the first Chairman of the Derry Housing Association and as Chairman of
“I want to see an Ireland of partnership where we wage war on want and poverty, where we reach out to the marginalised and dispossessed, where we build together a future that can be as great as our dreams allow."
"I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them, and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honour.
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Hume’s intelligence was matched by his incredibly headstrongness. He had the foresight to see that any solution for lasting peace would require the political inclusion of Sinn Féin, even if that move would be politically damaging for the SDLP. His stamp is evident on each of the major political developments of the time including the Sunningdale Agreement, the AngloIrish Agreement and eventually the Good Friday Agreement. However, the description of Hume as the architect of the Belfast Agreement is sometimes overstated. Hume possessed the vision and undoubtedly helped shape the political climate for the Agreement but he also surrounded himself with capable allies. Mark Durkan, for example, who would go on to lead the party after Hume’s departure sculpted much of the wording and the key strands of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed, Durkan and Alex Attwood were among the minority who supported Hume when many colleagues sought to oust him following the emergence of the ‘secret’ discussions between Hume and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams. The talks, which had been ongoing for many years, were publicly revealed in 1993 and the subsequent fallout took a significant toll on Hume’s persona and political capital. While shaken by the Dublin media’s response to his efforts, remained defiant publicly and famously declared that he didn’t give “two balls of
roasted snow” what sceptics thought. The media alone was not Hume’s only concern. Within the SDLP, the majority sought change as offered by the party’s deputy leader, Seamus Mallon. Regardless, Hume overcame the personal strife, though the ideological split in the party is one that is still evident today. This materialised when Mallon was appointed as the deputy First Minister to the Northern Ireland Assembly following the acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement, rather than Hume. That Hume likely foresaw the political rise of Sinn Féin to the detriment of the SDLP, something which they have yet to recover from electorally, is often missed. Prior to his death, Mallon infamously said that while John Hume was no fool, the Sinn Féin leaders had played him “like a 3lb trout”. However, others choose to believe that Hume’s actions were evidence of his self-belief and conviction in achieving peace, even if that came with a political cost. Hume swiftly recognised the contribution external actors could have on the internal realities in the North. He regularly travelled to the United States to consolidate support for non-violent resolution to the conflict, while also securing political backing for his efforts. Equally, he built up contacts and relationships across Europe in his role as MEP and seen the European project, and its associated softening of borders for trade purposes, as a fundamental basis for
improving co-operation across the island of Ireland. Former US President Bill Clinton paid tribute on Hume’s death saying that his chosen weapons in his “long-war for peace” had been “an unshakeable commitment to non-violence, persistence, kindness and love”. More than two decades after the Good Friday Agreement though, the work started by Hume remains unfinished. While violence has largely subsided, peace remains volatile and the political powersharing institutions unstable. Hume despised sectarianism but it remains evident in Irish society, with polarisation of nationalist and unionist communities still evident. Brexit has cast up many of the challenges still facing the North’s current leaders. Hume’s efforts came at a personal cost. In the late-1990s it was announced that he was showing early signs of dementia. By 2001, he had resigned as leader of the SDLP while battling poor health. His funeral in August was viewed as somewhat fitting of the globally recognised statesman. Surrounded by a limited number of close family and friends, Hume’s requiem mass in the town he loved so well was dignified, humble and marked by all shades of the political spectrum.
Obituary: Brendan Halligan
August 2020 also marked the death of Brendan Halligan, another major contributor to the fight for social justice in Ireland. The former TD, senator and MEP enjoyed a lengthy and varied career which included over a decade as General Secretary of the Labour Party.
Halligan’s greatest attribute was his political organising and his achievements included reforms of the Labour Party in the late 1970s to boost its membership, the inclusion of the Labour Party in the Socialists International and the EEE/EU Social Democratic movement, the dissolution of Labour Party branches in Northern Ireland to assist the formation of the SDLP and the creation of the national coalition between Fine Gael and Labour which secured power after the 1972 General Election.
1976. He depicted leadership and foresight when as an MEP between 19831984 he was one of few voices advocating support for gay rights and the introduction of abortion into Ireland.
That coalition marked the start of his own political career, appointed as a senator in 1973 before a by election win saw him as a TD for Dublin South-West between 1973 to
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “a man who gave his life to politics and the public service with a deep commitment to the institutions of the State”.
His interest in European affairs and Ireland’s role within Europe, which led him to be founder and President of the Institute of International and European Affairs think tank, was matched by an interest in energy policy and renewable energy and in 2007 he was appointed Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
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Facilitating a parliament for the people Within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, the Corporate and Members’ Services Division undertakes work across a broad remit to ensure the smooth operation of Ireland’s bicameral legislature. Michael Errity, the Assistant Secretary who leads this division, speaks with Ciarán Galway about his current priorities, challenges and vision. Parliamentary administration in Leinster House is delivered by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, governed by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. Staffed by almost 600 civil servants, the Service provides advice and support services to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; the Houses of the Oireachtas (Dáil and Seanad) and their committees; and members (deputies and senators) of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, at assistant secretary level, Michael Errity leads the Corporate and Members’ Services Division. Under his remit, there are seven principal officer areas. “Those units report to me on a regular basis. They’re pretty extensive, with well in excess of 200 staff and certainly not lacking in variety,” he quips. Errity is conscious that the disruption to the Oireachtas by Covid-19 is unprecedented in the history of the State. “Sporting moments are often referred to as ‘once in a generation’ moments, whereas this pandemic is a once in a lifetime event. The resilience of our structures and the robustness of our contingency plans have and will continue to be tested,” he acknowledges. Consequently, as has happened across the State, the Service has adhered fully to government advice, ensuring that as many staff as possible could work from home. At
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the same time as announcing lockdown measures, the Government announced a requirement for emergency legislation and a Covid-19 Parliamentary Committee was established.
contingency planning. This ensured compliance with our data security requirements, as well as the rapid setup of the connectivity and equipment required to facilitate working from home.
“The Oireachtas, therefore, had to be ready to facilitate all of these requirements in addition to being ready to support the election of a new Taoiseach. All of this had to be done while respecting the new demands including social distancing et cetera,” explains Errity, adding: “For the senior management, those were the two core objectives. To protect everyone in the parliamentary community and also to facilitate the needs of the wider population by ensuring the uninterrupted operation of Parliament.”
“We reached out to our colleagues to provide stability for their working connection and also to assure them that we were still here as employers, that all our services were still available and to ensure that everyone was in good health,” he outlines.
Post-General Election 2020
To allow business to proceed, urgent solutions were required and these included, for example, relocating the Dáil and Seanad to the Convention Centre when full attendance was required.
Since mid-March, Covid-19 has absorbed most of the State’s attention. February’s General Election has faded in the public consciousness. Within the Corporate and Members’ Services Division, however, prudent planning for the next general election begins in the immediate aftermath of its predecessor.
For Errity’s division, the advice to ‘stay at home’ was not an endpoint, rather it was the beginning of a challenge for organisations such as the broader Oireachtas Service to establish a strategy for remote working.
“The life of a parliament is something of an unknown quantity. As we witnessed in the 1980s, the lifespan of a parliament can be very short and sometimes it can be much less than one might have expected. It’s one of those unpredictable scenarios of life.
“Our ICT Operations team swung into action to provide safe and secure connections. We built on the ground work already completed as part of our long-term
“It would be foolish for an organisation like ours to rest between elections. It’s a process of continuous planning and improvement. This requires an
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acknowledgement of the things that worked well and a frank and honest review of areas that require improvement,” Errity details. Therefore, during the early stage in the life of a parliament, an election planning group is established. Working for up to five years, the maximum lifespan of a parliament, this group ensures that the Oireachtas Service is in a constant state of readiness; prepared if and when an election is called. “The election planning group undertakes work that we in the Oireachtas Service recognise as being required, based on the learning gleaned from informal discussions with members and colleagues. We are providing a customer service and as such, we need to know what we do well, what could be improved and what could be introduced. We also appoint member liaison officers for new members and collate feedback from them as well,” the Assistant Secretary says. When the date of an election is set, a date for the new Dáil to meet is simultaneously timetabled and the first sitting occurs relatively soon after the final votes have been counted. Subsequently, Errity’s Division, through the Superintendent’s Section, Oireachtas Ushers Service and the Facilities Management Unit, support its Parliamentary Services counterpart in facilitating the election of the Ceann Comhairle. The ushers, through the Superintendent and the Captain of the Guard, are at the forefront of assisting with this.
Facilities management Meanwhile, whether they secured a quota on the first count, or waited through several days of counts and recounts, each Oireachtas member will have had a different election experience. Allied to this are the fortunes of political parties, creating a potent mix of joy and disappointment in Leinster House. “While it can be a great occasion for a new member to be elected to the Oireachtas and have an opportunity to bring their family and supporters up to Dublin for the day, there is also a counterpoint. “Those who lose their seats, unlike in most normal circumstances, depart from employment in a sudden manner. It can come as a shock. These people may not
First sitting day of the 33rd Dáil, 20 February 2020.
have expected to be unseated and must return to clear out their offices in Leinster House,” Errity stresses.
first time in 200 years that a thorough restoration of this historic building had taken place.
Every office allocated to a new member is likely to have been vacated by an outgoing member. It must be approached tactfully. There is, therefore, a turnover period.
“I would like that to be the start of a programme of work to restore the entire premises. The portion of Leinster House that was restored is the oldest part of the building, dating from the mid-18th century: the façade facing onto Kildare Street. Much of the rest of the building is not as historic but is ageing nonetheless and requires investment.
“The first thing we look at is the outcome for parties. If the proportion of members to parties is broadly similar to the pre-election scenario, then the parties can remain in situ. We work alongside party whips and party administrators to manage the individual room allocation. For independent members, we try to organise this subdivision in a fair way,” he says. Overall, it requires some time to reconcile numbers and complete this process. If a party is unfortunate enough to lose a significant number of seats, it cannot expect to hold onto its apportioned block of accommodation. “That’s a message that we have to deliver over the course of a few days to allow the absorption of the shock factor. There are people involved and so we approach it as a people issue first, address the sensitives and then follow through with the accommodation adjustments which is under the remit of our Facilities Management Unit, working in collaboration with colleagues in the Office of Public Works [OPW].”
Leinster House Within the Leinster House facilities, the Oireachtas Service is a tenant. In common with much of the State’s property portfolio, its landlord is the OPW. In 2019, the restoration of historic Leinster House was completed without the Oireachtas ever having to vacate the premises. It was the
“I acknowledge completely the fact that, in the current context, resources will be very scarce. One would be foolish to underestimate the impact of the pandemic on the economy and consequently, on Parliament. However, it is not well known that the House receives an average of 100,000 visitors to the Leinster House complex per annum. There is huge demand for visits,” emphasises Errity.
Members’ services For members, there have been several significant changes over the years, not least a process of digital transformation. While a decade ago, operations in the Oireachtas were heavily paper based, the IT systems today are much more advanced. Help desks were also introduced throughout Leinster House to assist members or the political staff with problems they may have. “Simply, we tried to reflect the expectations of a new employee within an external organisation. Connectivity, for example, is now one of the first things expected and required in the modern workplace. Within the Oireachtas particularly, where long working days are common, it can even be as simple as locating access to food, coffee and WiFi.
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Dáil Éireann sitting for the election of An Taoiseach, 27 June 2020.
“Many of our members travel long distances to be here, whether from the far reaches of Donegal or from west Cork. It’s useful to remind ourselves that while many of the people in the Oireachtas Service may live in or close to Dublin, most of our members do not. We try to facilitate them as best we can,” Errity stresses. The ‘One Stop Shop’, operated by the Members’ Services Unit, is of particular importance to those entering a new role as a deputy or as a senator. As well as payroll induction, members are informed of their entitlements with regard to IT equipment and provided with a template HR contract for use when employing staff. Each new member receives a handbook and is allocated a member liaison officer. “The historic nature of the Leinster House complex makes it very labyrinthine. To mitigate this, we established a single location for members to go for these types of services: The One Stop Shop. The staff who operate it are tasked with assisting members to the best of their ability or, at the very least, may refer members in the right direction. In bringing our experience to bear, we learn from problems which have arisen in the past and do our best to assist,” Errity emphasises.
Challenge A ubiquitous challenge facing the Oireachtas Service is continuous improvement within the context of political, social, economic and technological changes in order to deliver effective parliamentary services. Similar to every public service organisation and most private service organisations, the Houses of the Oireachtas Service has a
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three-year strategy statement. The Strategic Plan 2019-2021 envisages a ‘Parliament which Works for the People’. It contains four strategic outcomes. 1. An effective parliament. 2. An open and engaged parliament. 3. A digital parliament. 4. A well supported parliamentary community. Errity’s remit falls primarily within the latter two outcomes. “Across Europe, there are attempts underway to introduce a remote element to the running of parliaments. Fundamentally, technology is vital in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Those entering the Oireachtas as members and as political staff now come from digitally enabled environments and are themselves highly digitally literate. We have to facilitate and build on this. “Through the Digital Transformation Programme, the Oireachtas Service has continued its investment in digital technology. We are gradually working through a programme which will allow us to transition from being a largely paperbased organisation to one that is primarily digital,” he says. Principally, this aim provides both members and the public with greater transparency and more real time access. While technology is being utilised to build capacity across the Oireachtas Service, it is also opening channels of communication and engagement for members, staff and the public. “There is no point in styling the Oireachtas as a parliament for the people if citizens
cannot easily access and observe its dayto-day workings. I don’t mean only what some commentators do in terms of consulting the Official Report of the Oireachtas debates as published by the parliamentary reporters and editors. I mean real-time accessibility whether in the Dáil or Seanad chambers or in the committees. For instance, while our two chambers and our four committee rooms can be viewed online, we want to develop this further.”
Vision Looking ahead, Errity’s mission is to ensure that the Corporate and Members’ Services Division is adaptable, resilient and flexible enough to absorb potential future shocks, whether they be an unexpected election or a pandemic, and continue to deliver its core services. “At the same time, we want to ensure that the Oireachtas is a positive working environment for both staff and members. We have good industrial relations with our staff, but each year we try to enhance this through the adoption of new initiatives,” he asserts. For instance, sign language has been made available and sign language teachers introduced. Similarly, an Oireachtas Work and Learning programme (OWL) has been established in collaboration with Walk and Care, to assist those who have encountered challenges in gaining employment. “We also succeeded in ensuring that the entire parliamentary community adopted and operate an agreed Dignity and Respect policy while on working in the Oireachtas. Considering the range and diversity of people within the community here, that is an important achievement. “I aim to continue to develop the staff, while mitigating the pandemic, and that we continue to undertake new initiatives which enhance the parliamentary community. To use another cliché, when appropriate, I want to leave the Division in as good a condition as I inherited it, if not better,” Errity concludes.
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TRADE UNION DESK What was happening in the Irish labour market before Covid-19? The NERI annual labour market report gives a special focus to the experience of younger generations in the Republic in 2020. The analysis offers a snapshot of the Irish labour market as it was at the time the Covid-19 crisis began and can act as a benchmark from which the impact of the crisis can be assessed. Economist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), Ciarán Nugent writes. In the final quarter of 2019, the Irish labour market had yet to recover from the financial crisis of 2008 in many important ways. Although the national unemployment rate had just about reached a level comparable to the best years of the Celtic Tiger, the participation rate in Q4 2019 (those in employment and those seeking employment as a share of the working age population) had quite a way to go to return to pre-crash levels. The rate had remained flat since 2012, recording a slight uptick only in the last year of available data (from 62.2 to 62.7 per cent). The employment rate of 70.2 per cent (the share of the working age population in employment) was also more than 2 points lower than the peak in Q3 2007 (72.5 per cent). The unemployment rate for younger groups had yet to rebound from 2008. The data also show that although employment and participation rates had rebounded for older groups from 2008, and even improved for some relative to the Celtic Tiger era, they remained much lower for younger ones. The employment rate for younger groups in 2019 were still worse even relative to rates in the late90s, with participation down as far as 15 points for groups under 25. In addition, almost every indicator of precarious work available showed that younger workers were worse off in 2019 relative to the years leading up to 2008. This includes part-time work, underemployment, temporary contracts
and more, despite vast improvements in the education profile of this group in that time. The incidence of temporary contracts for instance, was four times higher in Q4 2019 (24.2 per cent) than in Q4 2005 for under-30s (5.6 per cent). Despite vast improvements in the education profile of under-35s over the past decade or more, over qualification rates have also remained a persistent issue in Ireland. An individual is overqualified if they have a higher education qualification but work in a job that does not require it. It is an area where Ireland consistently underperforms in a European context, with little improvement in 10 years. Wages continued to grow in 2019 (2.4 per cent) for a second year running following years of stagnation. At the end of 2019, average weekly wages were just 7.9 per cent up on the same quarter in 2008, in real terms. Of course, using the consumer price index (CPI) for inflation masks the differences in the costs that apply to different types of households (housing costs for renters and homeowners for example). Though nominal weekly wages were up on average by 8.6 per cent in 11 years with inflation of just 0.7 per cent in the typical basket of goods in that period, average monthly rent in Ireland was up by closer to 80 per cent in that time. Average weekly earnings in Accommodation and Food were lowest and 42 per cent less than the next lowest
paid sector at €381. They were highest in Information and Communications (€1,241). Wage growth has been unequal since 2010 (the earliest available data broken down by occupational group) and skewed in favour of those at the higher end of the skill and wage spectrum (Managers, Professionals and Associated Professionals saw a nominal increase of 20.9 per cent in nine years) while average weekly earnings were still down in several sectors associated with public sector employment (Education, Human Health and Pubic Administration). Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate these inequalities with sectors associated with lower wages and younger workers, such as Accommodation and Food particularly effected. Massive state intervention to promote decent work in the aftermath of the crisis is required to lessen the detrimental impact of a second crisis in 12 years for younger workers. This should begin with targeting investment in renewable energy and a state led and funded retrofitting programme.
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Christina Finn is a political correspondent with TheJournal.ie. A graduate of University College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Technology, the Wicklow native previously worked as a reporter for the Metro Herald and Politico.ie among others. How did you get into journalism? I have always wanted to be a journalist, ever since I was a child. I wrote to all the newspaper editors when I was about 13 asking how to go about it. My first publication was a letter I sent into The 136
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Irish Times about asylum seekers, direct provision and racism in Ireland. It is interesting to see it is still a topic of discussion some 20 years later. On the back of advice from those in the profession, I ended up going to UCD to study arts, namely English and art history.
I then went on to do a master’s in journalism in DIT. I graduated in 2008, around the time of the recession, so it was difficult to get my foot in the door, but I ended up working first in local news with The Wicklow Times. That is where I really got my love of politics, covering
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local council meetings. I also worked with Politico.ie, a politics website headed up by Malachy Browne, now of New York Times fame. After a few other stints in other publications, I ended up working as an intern with TheJournal.ie, before being made staff. I have been working there now close on nine years and was appointed Political Correspondent a number of years ago.
How do you think the profession is evolving? I think journalism is in a difficult period at the moment and it has to adapt. Breaking news is our bread and butter in this 24-hour news cycle. There is added pressure on those in the industry to be the first with everything. Events are live streamed, press conferences are live tweeted and articles need to be pushed out on social media. Journalism, particularly digital journalism, has to give more offerings to its readers, with podcasts, video and deep dives into complicated topics. There is so much coming at people these days, and it is easy for facts to get lost in the noise, which is why it is important those facts are conveyed clearly in these times. TheJournal.ie does this through its FactChecks, which are hugely popular. I believe strongly that what must be at the heart of the profession is asking questions, difficult questions, not just taking something that someone in power says at face value.
What are the challenges of working for an online publication? The challenge for newspapers is they only have so much space but working online that isn't so much a problem. However, our editors are very discerning about what makes the cut, just like any other publication. I often feel that people think working online has different challenges than working in print, but at the end of the day, it is all reporting, it is all journalism. While we don't have a print deadline, it does mean we are never 'off' as such. If something happens late, we need to get it up online. Most newspapers now are operating a 'digital first' policy also.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;I often feel that people think working online has different challenges than working in print, but at the end of the day, it is all reporting, it is all journalism.â&#x20AC;?
Who do you admire most within the industry and why? The political team at The Irish Examiner are knocking it out of the park recently. Aoife-Grace Moore and Paul Hosford (formerly of TheJournal.ie parish) have been doing stellar work of late. Jennifer Bray of The Irish Times is one of the best, and Gavan Reilly (also formerly of TheJournal.ie) of Virgin Media News never fails to clearly explain even the most complicated political story. Of course, all my colleagues in TheJournal.ie, particularly Sean Murray, Nicky Ryan and Christine Bohan who are responsible for the award-winning Stardust Podcast, which is a great example of how publications are thinking outside the box and giving readers that something extra.
What has been your most significant story or project to date? One of the standout stories for me was
when Leo Varadkar, who was Taoiseach at the time, said Ireland had one of the lowest levels of homelessness, following questioning by me at a Fine Gael event. It was at a time when homeless figures were rising, and the fallout ended up rumbling on for nearly two weeks. The housing and homelessness crisis is an issue that I have kept up with, highlighting that the UN has been critical of the Irish Government on its policies. It is an issue that remains even in the midst of this pandemic.
How do you spend your time outside of work? When I am trying to switch off from all the political happenings, I love to go for walks and hikes in places like Phoenix Park, Bray beach (where I am from) and Glendalough. I love meeting up for friends for dinner or drinks, and I love going to the cinema. During these pandemic times, I have taken up cycling. I was always too scared to cycle around the city before, but I love it now.
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Credit: Fine Gael
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Political Platform Neale Richmond TD
Neale Richmond was elected as a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown in February 2020. Prior to this, Richmond was elected to the Seanad for the Labour Panel and subsequently served visibly as chair of the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
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How did your political career begin? I had no family ties to politics but in 2002 I decided to vote for Fine Gael in that General Election, one in which the party lost many seats. I went away that summer interrailing with friends around Europe and after yet another conversation where I gave out about the General Election result, my friend quite bluntly told me to go do something about it. I joined Young Fine Gael in UCD the following September. I completed an MA in politics and spent two years working for Gay Mitchell MEP in Brussels before working for Olivia Mitchell TD for five years. I had the opportunity to run for Dún LaoghaireRathdown County Council in 2009, I was re-elected in 2014 and then joined the EU’s Committee of the Regions. I was elected to the Seanad in 2016 before being elected to the Dáil in February 2020.
What are your most notable achievements to date? In my first year as a councillor, I brought a Special Local Objective through the entire Development Plan and subsequent planning process that allowed for the construction of a new 300 pupil school in my area. On the EU’s Committee of the Regions, I was rapporteur for the report on the EU’s trade for all strategy that underpins Ireland’s trading relations with countries like Japan, South Korea and Canada. As a Senator, I was very lucky to become Chairman of the Brexit Committee and throughout that process I was part of the Irish effort in the negotiations, often making upwards of a dozen media interviews a day, usually on more hostile British shows, while chairing over 100 hours of public hearings that produced three substantive reports that influenced the Irish and EU position.
What is unique about representing Dublin Rathdown? It is my home, I was born and raised here but it has a wonderful mix of established and growing communities
“We need to maintain our identity in a busy coalition while also learning from the electoral mistakes of February.” with every issue imaginable. It is a largely residential area with many people commuting into the city centre or around the M50 for work as well as internationally. It is possibly the most politically volatile constituency in the country so the electoral challenge is quite pronounced.
What are your priorities going forward? I would like to continue my work on Brexit and championing Ireland’s place in the EU. I am passionately pro-European and it is one of the key issues that motivates me in politics, it is too easy to be Eurosceptic but the consequences as we’ve seen in the UK are grave. I am passionate about having sport at the centre of our society. It is one of the great challenges of the Covid-19 era but even in more ordinary times, we need more people playing sport and we need to make sure being involved in sport is both simple and rewarding. We need to ensure that there are real
solutions delivered for the difficulties we face in childcare provision. Solutions that work for parents in a flexible manner but also ensure those who work in the sector are appropriately remunerated.
What are the biggest challenges facing your party in the lifetime of this government? We need to maintain our identity in a busy coalition while also learning from the electoral mistakes of February. The coming years will be very difficult as we come out of the pandemic but we need good sensible politics to challenge populism.
What are your interests outside of the political sphere? Spending as much time with my wife and our two young children but when time allows I still play rugby, run most evenings and enjoy all sports.
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Fair Deal scheme requires urgent reform The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) longawaited examination of the Fair Deal scheme highlights that it requires urgent reform and is inherently unfair for private and voluntary nursing homes, Tadhg Daly, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) CEO writes. The special report examining the scheme, which commenced in 2017, brings to light the long-standing poor practice and ineptitude of the National Treatment Purchase Fund Board (NTPF) in negotiating Fair Deal fees. NHI has called upon the Oireachtas to examine the report as a priority and discuss its findings with the C&AG. Very serious questions arise from this examination regarding State utilisation of the €1 billion Fair Deal budget, with it presenting a 62 per cent differential in fees payable between State operated nursing homes and private counterparts. The examination finds between 2010 and 2018 the average weekly fee for public nursing homes increased by 26 per cent to €1,564 while the increase for private and voluntary over the same period was less than half, at 11 per cent, bringing them to €968. The State is not subject to effective scrutiny and is hiking the fees payable to its nursing homes while residents in private nursing homes are inherently discriminated against. It is damning that the Comptroller and Auditor General has had to recommend the HSE “routinely” publish the fees payable for nursing home care within its individual nursing homes, with it pointing out no such fees were published in 2017. And the C&AG has found when fees are published for HSE homes, they are not accurate, with it finding in 2018 fees were on average 3 per cent higher than the published rates and an additional €23 million was 140
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required from the Exchequer to meet its budget deficits. It finds one HSE nursing home’s weekly rate was hiked to €2,399 in 2017, €600 or 33 per cent higher than that applicable in 2016. Within another HSE home a reduction in costs did not result in a reduction in the HSE home’s cost of care. The absence of governance and oversight with regard to the HSE in its utilisation of Fair Deal is brought to bear through the examination. The examination presents to the wider public the NTPF, the body tasked with negotiating fees under Fair Deal, is not fit for purpose. It finds no model is applied by the NTPF to inform how it can encompass dependency needs of residents in nursing homes. The Comptroller highlights the lack of transparency and criteria by which the NTPF ‘negotiates’ fees with nursing homes, pointing to lack of internal written procedures and those responsible for negotiating relying on “on the job training”. It is damning that 11 years post-introduction of the Fair Deal scheme, the Comptroller and Auditor General has had to recommend the NTPF develop guidelines and procedures for its staff in the conduct of its negotiations. For many years, NHI has highlighted the gross inequality in the application of Fair Deal funding. This report confirms such and presents very serious questions with regard to the lack of transparency and
openness from the State in the funding of nursing home care in its homes. The NTPF is subject to no appropriate scrutiny and oversight, with this report highlighting malpractice in how it goes about negotiating Fair Deal fees. No independent appeals mechanism applies for providers that fail to agree a fee with the NTPF, and this report highlights it has no applied formula or records to inform how it conducts itself. The examination must lead to fundamental change in the application of Fair Deal funding and immediate questions must be asked regarding the suitability of the NTPF. Covid-19 highlighted the underlying vulnerability of residents in nursing homes and people availing of nursing home care must all be treated equally, irrespective of the name over the door of the nursing home. We welcome recommendation emanating from the examination that the cost components of long-term residential care require review to assess the reality of what nursing home care entails. We note the Department of Health has committed to engage with the HSE regarding such. Covid-19 has brought important focus on the nursing home sector. Added to it, this report can provide a springboard for the State to implement a process that brings into effect fundamental reform to enhance Fair Deal’s appropriateness and effectiveness to meet the care needs of people requiring the specialised care provided by nursing homes.
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