Season’s Greetings: CIF Director General Tom Parlon reflects on a year like no other

by | Dec 24, 2021

As we look back on the year that was, one thing is clear, 2021 will be a year to remember. From the shock of the pandemic’s arrival in 2020, this year got off to a truly traumatic start. There was much frustration and disappointment over the fact that any part of our industry remained shut down.

However, thanks to the Herculean efforts of our members, coupled with a steadfast CIF safety campaign, we were able to keep most of the industry open. This triumph was in no small part owing to those companies who worked so tirelessly to ensure their sites and workplaces were Covid compliant. And for that we salute your efforts.

Praise and thanks too must go to our committees and staff for their major policy progress throughout the year. This work often goes unseen but the CIF has been instrumental in shaping the Government’s Housing for All strategy, the National Development Plan and Project Ireland 2040. There is no doubt that the industry has now recovered both reputation and standing in the past five years as we face into a pivotal decade of delivery.

CIF Director General Tom Parlon

A promising future

The modernisation and development of our industry, through digitalisation, procurement and apprenticeship strategies, continues at pace and it is heartening to witness this in action first-hand. Encouraging young people into construction remains a focus for the CIF, as does our drive to build equality in all aspects of our industry.

It was heartening to meet one of our future talents recently. Kate Fahey is a 21-year-old who has just started work as a tower crane driver on a project off St Stephen’s Green – a shining example of the varied and exciting roles construction can offer the next generation.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve also been meeting members and undertaken a number of site visits. During October’s Safety Week, I had the opportunity to visit Two Oaks, a residential apartment development of 480 units on Scholarstown Road in Dublin.

This project, being led by Walls for Ardstone, truly opened my eyes to the extensive benefits of Off-Site, Modular and Modern Methods of Construction – from having less people on site to delivering a much quicker build. Seeing these impressive technologies at work shows the huge potential we have as an industry to be leaders of innovation, both in lreland and on a global level.

Facebook’s mega-million Data Centre site in Clonee, Co. Meath is another example of the sheer scope and sophistication of what our industry can deliver – world-class, cutting edge, technical projects on a massive scale. It was truly inspiring to see dozens of our members and contractors working in unison in superb conditions, and truly focussed on safety.

Striving for excellence

One of the commitments of our Construction Sector Group, which meets numerous times throughout the year, was to create a National Centre of Excellence for our industry. We therefore welcome the launch in November of the Digital Build Project by the Minister of Public Expenditure to TuDublin. This in itself was a momentous day.

It will allow members across all levels of construction to advance their collaborative capabilities and focus on developing world-class digital practices throughout the industry and supply chain. This is also a major step forward by our industry towards the vision of ‘sustainably building sustainable buildings’ over the next decade.

Developing and enhancing digital capacity improves productivity. It will also put construction on a sustainable footing for the next 25 years to the benefit of all, including the Exchequer from better value for money to investment in housing and public infrastructure. That being said, it would be remiss not to mention how costs increases and labour shortages have been another constant theme throughout 2021. Worryingly, they look set to say.

The CIF has successfully made the case that these increases fundamentally change the nature of existing contracts and we’ve work tirelessly to get relief for members here. Whilst progress on the contract has remained glacial, despite all the evidence of the need for change, we will continue to make the case with our colleagues in Government.

A moment to honour those we lost

This time of the year also gives us a moment to reflect and on a more personal level to take stock of some of life’s quieter and poignant moments. I’d like to pay tribute to some of construction’s much-respected people who sadly passed away over the last year. We remember with great fondness Dave Treacy, Paul Flynn and Jack Butler, three men who were all very well-known and liked in the industry. Their passing is a great loss to me personally and to the industry as a whole. May they rest in peace.

On a final note, I would like to wish all our members, colleagues and industry partners a very peaceful and joyous Christmas and New Year. Nollaig Shona.

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