“The world is changing because of Covid and we have a unique opportunity to help shape this new world in a sustainable manner if we can devise and implement the technical solutions required,” said Engineers Ireland's Maurice Buckley in his presidential address. 

“This is a time when engineers and Engineers Ireland are called into action and [we] must respond as fully and as meaningfully as we possibly can,” said Buckley, who spoke to members in the September 25 online event via Zoom.

Engineering in a changing world: COVID-19, Brexit and Beyond was the theme of the 2020 presidential address.

“I am very proud to have been elected president at the AGM in June and to give the presidential address is a great honour,” said Buckley.

'Very special tradition'

“The presidential address is a very special tradition of Engineers Ireland that goes right back to 1856 some 20 years after its founding. I only realised that the first three presidents, who were all chairman or commissioners of the Board of Works, did not give such a talk.  

“Here I am, 160 years later then, the first chairman of the OPW to be president of Engineers Ireland and to have the honour of delivering a presidential address! 

In keeping with a "somewhat eclectic career to date", Buckley said he wished to discuss how engineers should "respond to the changing world we live in as we go through the Covid pandemic, the potential consequences of Brexit, and the implications of climate change".

Among the questions posed: 

  • Can the profession of engineering deliver the solutions needed to reboot the economy with effective infrastructural investment, advanced manufacturing and new supply chains and logistics?  
  • How can engineers best live up to society’s expectations in applying modern technology to new forms of sustainable transport, housing, energy and water management?  
  • How has the thinking of engineers, as the inventors of the coal-fired power station and the diesel car, evolved to present ourselves credibly as the champions of sustainability and climate action?   

In addition, Buckley discussed how Engineers Ireland can increase its presence and adapt its role to best serve the profession in this new paradigm. 

One way is to strengthen the organisation’s Sectors (i.e. its regional branches, engineering divisions and societies) and embrace engineers from a broader range of specialisms and backgrounds. 

'Lifeblood of the organisation'

“I believe we are very well placed in Engineers Ireland to respond to all of this," and "we can develop even further, especially through our Sectors, which I see as the lifeblood of the organisation," he said.

Another is to gain competitive advantage for companies and individuals in Ireland through a more active role in standardisation. 

He offered a perspective on the gains to be had from involvement in standards and said that "digitalisation and disruptive technology is both a challenge and an opportunity we should be talking about”. 

The virtual address (due to the COVID-19 restrictions on movement) made history at Engineers Ireland given that it was held remotely. It had a wide audience and included members as well as viewers from the president’s workplace, the Office of Public Works (OPW), where Buckley is the executive chairman.

Proceedings were opened by Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland, and that the Vote of Thanks and first response to the address was given by Brian Feighan, chair of the Young Engineers Society and son of past president, Dr Kieran Feighan. 

A question and answer session – which included questions on engineers and management; a direct daily ferry service between Ireland and continental Europe; engineering education; and lessons to be learnt from Covid with regard to dealing with climate change – was carried out by Professor Orla Feely, Engineers Ireland vice-president.

Prof Feely also extended the second Vote of Thanks and provided her response to the address. The president thanked “the audience for the reception given to my address” and added that he agreed “with pleasure, to the request that it be published in the Transactions”.


Maurice Buckley is an electrical engineering graduate from University College Dublin and is the executive chairman of the OPW, where he is leading large-scale investment programmes to improve Ireland’s flood defences and public buildings, both modern and heritage.

A Chartered Engineer, Buckley has worked for the Boston Consulting Group in Munich, held senior management roles in Industry, and was also the chief executive of the NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland) with responsibility for the country’s standardisation, certification and metrology activities.