Consistency is key: CIF President Joe Conway sets out his priorities for the year ahead

by | Feb 22, 2023

I am honoured and pleased to be selected for the role of CIF President. I understand it to be one of great privilege for my family and the company I represent, Dornan Engineering.

The challenges that exist within the industry and the efforts that are required by the federation to promote and support the construction sector throughout are great. We are an industry which represents seven per cent of our GDP, some €32billion, and employs in the region of 177,000 people.

In my new role, I will be wholly committed to working on behalf of our members, who make an immense impact in shaping Ireland’s built environment and on the Irish economy, to fully represent your needs and recommendations.

Having worked in Africa, Lesotho, South Africa and Botswana with MF Kent, and gained invaluable management experience in commercial, oil and gas, mining, food & beverage sectors before returning home, the industry here in Ireland must be applauded for its initiatives in terms of the progression the industry has made across safety, training, modern construction techniques and more.

It’s important for me to represent the needs and the challenges of the industry and to become proactive and ultimately reactive with the team in CIF, as we enter what could be challenging times in the coming years.

The team in CIF acknowledge and are committed to their responsibility to our members of all disciplines within the construction sector. CIF must continue to address the challenges facing the membership through consistent dialogue and proactive engagement with the various government departments, associations and private sector partners.

The National Development Plan is critical to providing the necessary infrastructure like water, energy and schools to support Housing for All, Climate Action, FDI and economic growth.

The capital pipeline of work under the NDP is essential to providing business certainty for the industry and must be published in real time. The success of the National Development Plan will depend on maintaining and developing a healthy and vibrant construction industry based on sustainable commercial returns for construction contractors.

This in turn is dependent on the reform of the Construction Works Management Framework and the planning system. These reforms along with a clear pipeline of construction ready work will be critical in supporting the industry’s investment in its people, processes and technology; and drive greater adoption of digital and offsite construction methods to drive quality and productivity.

The impact of material inflation on the construction industry, which is experiencing acute pressures from global supply chain disruption, and that of fuel and energy continues to impact on the viability of project tendering. Also, contractors need to remain  aware of the introduction of a concrete levy now fast approaching in September this year.

Corporate Sustainability and the key pillars of ESG are becoming an increasingly bigger challenge for the industry and is likely to have a growing and continuous impact for the commercial and operational activities of the CIF membership over the long-term.

The members have and continue to adapt to this challenge and CIF will take greater leadership on this, while seizing the opportunity  to champion how the civil engineering sector is supporting climate action.

It is clear that we need to build a lot more homes for the significant increase in Ireland’s population. Building more homes requires  more zoned land, more infrastructure, more planning grants and an affordable and viable product for which the builders can secure funding.

A number of key strategic issues are underway including the publication of the new Planning and Development Bill, the upcoming review of the National Planning Framework and the review of the Density and Design Guidelines, but it is clear that a focus must be placed on the apartment units that have received planning and are not commencing and in the number of units held up by Judicial Review and at An Bord Pleanála.

We look forward to the commencement of Project Tosaigh and possibly Croi Conaithe as interventions to aid housing and in particular apartment supply. Extra resources though must be allocated to An Bord Pleanála, as over two years supply of units are awaiting decisions.

Schemes to aid first time buyers such as the Help to Buy Scheme, the First Home Scheme and the changes to the macro prudential rules are a significant aid to supply new homes to people and let’s hope we can build on the 50 per cent increase in housing supply in 2022.

We should continue to improve Health and Safety within our industry. Data from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) shows  seven work related deaths in our industry last year. A reduction from the year before that is still all too high, we must raise that ‘safety bar’ for our industry and for ourselves.

With Safe Pass renewals recently going online, I hope to see the ease of access improving safety induction processes within the  industry. In order to ensure the sustainable future for our industry, we must continue to emphasise training and apprenticeships. CIF is currently running a careers in construction campaign on TikTok to profile the many career options that the construction sector can offer young people.

Fundamentally, it is our members who need to make a contribution to making apprenticeships a viable option for young people. I am looking forward to the CIF morning conference on Wednesday, March 8 at Dunboyne Castle, Co. Meath in celebration of International Women’s Day and the contribution that women across Ireland make to the construction sector.

Women currently make up just nine per cent of the construction sector. It is absolutely vital that we create a more equal and equitable sector to build a strong and dynamic sector for the future, that brings the best minds and abilities together to devise solutions to the needs of the population and the built environment.

The CIF team at Construction House and in the regions, continue to support the industry daily, and remain front and centre in representing our members in the best possible and most effective way.

As we progress the organisation’s succession plan in 2023, we will be saying farewell to the ‘legend’ that is Tom Parlon, our Director General, and welcome a longserving CIF Director, Hubert Fitzpatrick, as our new Director General, as of July 1.

We also welcome Maeve Kearns as our Director of Corporate Affairs. We wish them well in their new roles. Finally, I must mention, last but not least, our past President Frank Kelly, whose outstanding work and insightful leadership during his tenure must be commended.

I look forward to carrying the mantle of President this year, and am honoured to serve the construction industry, which has  contributed so positively to my life personally and professionally.

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