Claire McNamee first walked through the Dublin doors of the Construction Industry Federation on November 17, 1986. Over three decades of dedication to the organisation later – always on time, never a sick day – she leaves fulfilled as the pandemic rumble on. “I feel it’s the right time,” she says.
Having started working life in the hotel business, the Co. Tyrone native built her career in the federation. Understated and preferring to keep a low profile, she says it was ‘just a case of just doing my job to the best of my ability’. But it has been a role that went beyond just answering the phones.
Having officially retired on April 1, Claire says seeing her close-knit family in Strabane is the first priority once Covid restrictions lift. There’s no great retirement bucket list, she says, though some travel – Italy is a favourite – and maybe a few part time hours at an art gallery would appeal to her creative interests.
Written at the end of her starting letter of employment with the CIF was a line that read ‘we hope you enjoy working with us’. It was probably the standard line, she muses, but it’s been a wonderful run. While many things have changed over the years, the guiding words of one of the first directors Claire met on that Monday in 1986, have stayed with her.
“Tom Reynolds did teach me that we were all working towards the same end to serve our members,” she says. And on that front, she has certainly succeeded.
Here is Claire McNamee’s CIF story in her own words …
The CIF has been a wonderful organisation that I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of for the past 35 years. I will cherish the memories, no one can ever take those away from me. At all times the staff and members have been committed and unified for the betterment of the construction industry and all its employees, maintaining an equal place for everyone who works within it.
In those early years, it could have been a fractured federation but members shared their expertise giving many valuable hours to serve on committees, attend meetings and by working together through negotiation and dialogue they always helped each other, grateful for the opportunity to make a difference.
Many members faithfully attended the executive body meetings, notably in their best attire. They would wear their chains of office with great pride – a fountain pen always at the ready for any signatures required. There were no mobile phones back in the day, just hand–written messages from their offices and homes passed on discreetly to the relevant person on arrival and departure.
Today the Federation is one of Europe’s finest trade organisations providing a vast range of services all under the umbrella of the CIF. A world–class construction sector COVID-19 SOP has been implemented due to the pandemic and to date a quarter of a million people have signed up to it. Our approach has been used by other industries.
At the CIF no one was overlooked, everyone was regarded. There was concern too for the needy. This was a top priority even way back in the mid–60s when Tom Reynolds (RIP) had the great vision to set up the pension and sick pay scheme for employees, both management and the self–employed. This was so progressive for its time and many today are benefitting from it. Not forgetting the benevolent fund, which was also implemented.
Since June 2020 we have partnered with the Lighthouse Club – once again showing concern for all who meet with hardship within the industry. No one should feel alone in a crisis. The CIF continues to drive forward with training and safety schemes creating awareness for mental health. It shows we have the integrity to embrace human nature – its virtues and its faults.
Today another Tom, Tom Parlon, continues to navigate through these difficult times unflinching in his determination to advise government on the industry’s ability to operate safely on sites with its great track record.
I have witnessed and worked through many changes at the CIF, remembering the start–up of the Fitted Kitchen Association no less! Who would have thought it, but yes it was a trend. Nowadays it’s more sustainable with the Heritage Contractors Association setting the pace. I see a second generation of members these days, which is a joy. Then one day I witnessed the third generation arrive, and so I thought, ‘yes it’s time to go’.
Over the years it has been a case of All the President’s Men with one exception, Mirette Corboy, but hopefully that too will change soon. I would like to wish the new President Frank Kelly many happy days ahead. And to Director General Tom Parlon, COO Hubert Fitzpatrick, all the directors and staff in Dublin, Cork and Galway, lots of good luck with their endeavours.
Members can be assured at all times that they have a well–educated, mannerly and capable team to guide and help them along. I will continue to cycle and walk along the lovely canal that always provided me with great joy and solace especially when we did have dark and fearful days.
I will be keeping an eye out for the new headquarter office rebuild and leave you with a quote from Seamus Heaney’s poem Scaffolding:
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.