– Minister McGrath commits to doing all in his power to address PII issues

– ACEI launches its Sustainability Vision

The theme of this year’s ACEI Conference was “Delivery where the only Constant is Change”. Expert speakers and panelists addressed the topics of “Effective Delivery Process”, National Development Plan Implementation”, and Climate Adaption and Resilience”.

National Development Plan Review Findings

Delegates at the ACEI virtual annual conference were told about the initial findings and emerging themes arising from the recent Review to Renew – the public consultation of the Review of the National Development Plan.

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Áine Griffin, Director of Communications, Project Ireland 2040.

Speaking at the conference, Áine Griffin, Director of Communications, Project Ireland 2040, said there were 569 submissions, including 325 individual submissions and 117 from organisations, groups and NGOs.

She said the consistent themes that emerged were ‘Climate Action’, ‘Balanced Regional Development’, ‘Sustainable Housing’, and ‘Transport’.

“The emerging themes also include Enterprise, ‘Skills and Innovation Capacity’, ‘Tourism Connectivity’ including airports and ports, health water infrastructure, ‘The All-Ireland Perspective’, ‘Remote Working’, ‘Sports’, and ‘Culture and Heritage’,” Aine Griffin explained.

She added that a detailed summary of the submissions received would be included in the Phase One Report of the NDP, which will be completed by the end of spring.

Expanding on the initial findings, Áine Griffin said, “there was a consensus that the revised NDP must be delivered through the climate lens.

“Active consideration was urged towards appropriate design policy and funding mechanisms to support sustainable investment and support end-users in moving away from fossil fuels. Many submissions highlighted the view that funding should be prioritised for key regional projects that will drive regional employment and enterprise growth, allowing regions to act as a counterbalance to Dublin and the East Coast. On sustainable housing development, support for the delivery of housing and enabling infrastructure on key sites – both urban and rural – that contribute to compact growth targets in regional growth centres was requested. For transport, in the main, submissions sought support for the interregional and intraregional national road network and the maintenance and enhancement of the regional and local road network. Investment should also be focused on maintaining, upgrading and expanding rail infrastructure, allowing for more frequent and faster rail journeys for the most potential passengers and freight transport. A significant proportion of submissions expressed a desire to enhance cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.”

Keynote Address

In the keynote address Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said that in the next 20 years, the population of Ireland is set to increase by an additional one million people, raising a series of important questions, including where will all these people live and work, what kind of quality of life will we each enjoy, and how a country of almost six million people will impact on our communities and on our built and natural environment.

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Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

“The Government wants to ensure that we have the appropriate infrastructure to meet the needs of an increased population. This will be challenging, but it is also a great opportunity to imagine and implement a shared vision of building a better Ireland for all its people and for future generations.”

The Minister added that the €116bn in capital investment committed to Project Ireland 2040 represents an important shift from previous approaches to long-term planning and investment by Government.

“Public investment in construction in Ireland has remained among the highest in the EU in spite of Covid-19. Additional capital expenditure was provided in direct response to Covid in the July Stimulus package last year, and the Government has also committed over €10bn for capital projects in 2021, the highest provision for investment in the history of the State, in recognition of the important role for capital investment. This is a clear signal that, unlike in previous crises, capital allocations will be preserved and maintained to support counter-cyclical fiscal policy.

“The construction industry will have a core role to play in ensuring we can deliver on the ambitions mapped out in Project Ireland 2040. As engineering professionals, you are a significant pillar of the construction industry and key to augmenting societal wellbeing and economic progress in our society – whether you are a civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental, or chemical engineer – you can make a valuable contribution.”

The Minister said that major projects due to be completed in 2021 include the North Runway Project and new Visual Tower at Dublin Airport; Luas Green Line Capacity Enhancement;  Technological University Dublin at Grangegorman; Maynooth University Technology Society and Innovation Building; Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project; Vartry Water Supply Scheme Upgrade; Ringaskiddy Port Facilities Redevelopment and the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin.

Answering questions put to him by conference host Ivan Yates, Minister McGrath said that the Government is committed to addressing in every way they can the current issues relating to Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) in the sector.

Minister McGrath said, “This is a huge problem. As a government, we are now focussing in a very determined way on the need for insurance reform. The Government Contracts Committee for Construction invited insurance providers that are active in the Irish market to a meeting with the three stakeholders to identify the key issues. The OGP, with the support of the State Claims Agency, is currently undertaking further analysis, and they are due to come back to me shortly with their recommendations. If there are specific actions that the Government can take in relation to PII, then we will do so. We have to ensure in overall terms that the Irish market is seen as a steady and stable market in which to do business. This means dealing with some of the structural problems that are there.”

Professional Indemnity Insurance

In his presentation on PII, Graeme Tinney, CEO, Griffiths & Armour, said that over the past 10 years, the situation for consultants in terms of the liability landscape in which they are operating has worsened. This comes out in a number of ways through extended duties of care, wide-ranging contractual obligations and indemnities and certainly unreasonable levels of requirements when it comes to PII.

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Graeme Tinney, CEO, Griffiths & Armour.

“The simple truth is that the risks that the property and construction market are trying to transfer to construction professionals are simply enormous and completely out of proportion to their ability to accept, manage and insure them,” Graeme Tinney said. “It is unlimited exposure a lot of the time, and as a result, there is now a complete imbalance between risk and reward.

“Following a strategy whereby risk is pushed down the supply chain is predicated on the belief that insurance companies will continue to underwrite the exposure. But what will happen when they say no?”

He said that 2020 saw the worst contraction in the PII market for over 20 years to the point now that many consultants and contractors are struggling to source affordable and effective insurance protection.

“I think the perception among insurers at the moment is that there is a risk dumping mentality in the public and private sectors. It seems to me that there should be a fair balance between risk and reward, and the public sector should lead by example for how procurement should be followed and how risk should be dealt with within construction contracts.

In closing, Graeme Tinney added, It is not just the responsibility of the Government to address the problem. “There is a shared responsibility between all the parties to get this right. The insurance sector needs to be more creative with the solutions it is bringing forward, as well as the legal profession, which needs to do some soul searching around the contractual requirements they are imposing and the framework that exists when problems arise.”

ACEI Sustainability Vision

A highlight of the conference was the launching of the ACEI Sustainability Vision, which is the association’s vision and commitment to climate action.

Gemma McCarthy, ACEI Sustainability Committee member, outlined ACEI’s commitment to pursue projects that will benefit communities and the environment, projects that will be well planned and designed to address resilience, long-term sustainability and societal impacts. She outlined ACEI’s aspiration to capture the unique position consulting engineers hold in providing advice and guidance to clients at early-stage project development and the opportunity to instil ambition in how projects can be realised sustainably.

The key message of the ACEI’s Vision is to work for “A future shaped by socially and environmentally responsible design, where true long-term costs and benefits are considered across entire project lifecycles.”

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ACEI Conference Speakers

Other speakers and panellists at the ACEI Conference included John Layfield, McKinsey; Ciara Morgan, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Shamir Ghumra, BRE; William Hynes, KPMG Future Analytics; Elizabeth Grant, Autodesk; Joan Mulvihill, Siemens; Gerry Carty, RPS Consulting Engineers; and Karin Sluis, Witteveen+Bos.

Speaking about the conference, ACEI President Conor McCarthy said that he was delighted to see Minister McGrath acknowledge the challenge consulting engineers face with PII.

“I was very pleased in relation to professional indemnity insurance, which is critical for our sector at the moment, and that the Minister took that on board. We have advised our members that the most difficult business consultation they will have this year is renewing their PII. That is how serious things are. I am really pleased that that message has got across to Government.”

Sarah Ingle, Secretary-General, ACEI, said that in curating content for the ACEI Conference, they wanted it to be topical and cover the key areas of PII, NPD and technology, and the quality of the presentations given hit this mark.

“It was a rapid-fire attempt in the context of project delivery to hit these three themes. The presentations were vignettes that I hope whetted attendees appetite to follow up and find out more about them. The presentations have been recorded and are available for delegates on the conference website. Members should also look at the ACEI Sustainability Vision and ask themselves, ‘how can I become carbon neutral and address sustainability from my own firm’s perspective and help clients to do the same thing’.”

The conference was facilitated delivered by Crowdcomms. Conference sponsors were Autodesk and Griffiths & Armour.

For more details visit 

Click here to download the ACEI Sustainability Vision

Engineering News, Sustainability