Ivan Yates, radio and TV broadcaster, author, entrepreneur and former politician

Ivan has had unique life experience in politics, business and media. A former government minister and Wexford TD for more than 20 years; an entrepreneur who founded and developed Celtic Bookmakers to employ 400 people, with €200 million turnover. He bounced back from bankruptcy in Wales in 2012 to become a highly successful national broadcaster. He recently retired from presenting The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk and co-presenting The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper on Virgin Media1.

In 2014 he published his best-selling autobiography, Full On with acclaimed reviews. His original forthright style of entertaining punditry and analysis on the full range of current affairs and sport has made him a much sought after motivational public speaker at corporate and formal events. He also acts as a versatile conference facilitator/moderator, MC with a flair for asking the questions that need answering.

In August 2020, Ivan stepped back from full time media work in Dublin to return to the family home and farm in Enniscorthy. Above all else, he is a serial entrepreneur who seeks to focus in a selective and strategic way on new opportunities; bringing his varied business, political and media experience to benefit a wide range of companies and organisations.

Maria João Ribeirinho, Partner, Global Leader of Engineering, Construction and Building Materials Practice, McKinsey & Company

Maria João is a partner in McKinsey’s Madrid office. She joined McKinsey in 2004 and has served clients in Europe, Americas, Middle East and Africa focusing on the infrastructure and energy sectors. She is the global leader of their work in the engineering and construction (E&C) sector.

Maria João advises her E&C clients on operational and commercial transformations, strategy and growth. This includes helping them build competitive bidding advantage; conduct value engineering; implement new planning methodologies; improve on-site productivity and putting in place more sophisticated performance management systems and procurement practices. More recently, Maria João has worked with E&C companies to engage in comprehensive digital transformations to innovate project delivery. She is a frequent contributor to publications and speaking events focused on the future of construction.

In the energy sector, Maria João advises utilities, renewables, oil and gas players in defining their business strategy and growth plans, regulatory strategies and operational transformations. She has led the planning and optimisation of the construction of hydroelectric power plants for major utilities in Europe and South America and supported a major renewable player in improving capital productivity in wind-farm investments.

Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Darragh was appointed Minister in June 2020. He is an elected TD for the constituency of Dublin-Fingal. Prior to his election to the 30th Dáil in 2007, he worked mainly in Financial Services and was elected to Fingal County Council in 2004. He was elected to Seanad Éireann in 2011.

He has held various positions within the Oireachtas including Vice-Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Member of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Law Reform, Leader of Fianna Fáil in the Seanad, Opposition Frontbench Spokesperson on Dublin, Foreign Affairs and Housing.

Minister O’Brien is committed to examining the best way forward in terms of housing and accommodation solutions and enabling people to live fulfilling lives, in a safe, sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.

Audrey Tang, Digital Minister for Taiwan

Taiwan’s “Digital Minister,” Audrey Tang (Tang Feng), made the 2019 list of 100 global thinkers published by Foreign Policy magazine. In 2016, she became Taiwan’s youngest ever government minister at the age of 35. In August 2016, she was invited to join the Taiwan Executive Yuan as a minister without portfolio, making her the first transgender official in the top executive cabinet.

She took office as the “Digital Minister” on October 1 in charge of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government, both via digital means.

Recently she has wowed the rest of the world with her leadership on the coronavirus crisis. She has leapt into prominence for creating an app that combats coronavirus by showing face mask inventory levels at a glance.

One of the world’s 20 most influential people in digital government, Audrey is a free software programmer who has been described as one of the “ten greats of Taiwanese computing personalities”.

David Purdon, Diatec’s Autodesk Applications & Digital Project Delivery Manager

David is a qualified Industrial Designer & Building Technologist and Autodesk professional user in private practice since 1994. He transitioned to the Autodesk channel in 2000 as a Technical Specialist while expanding into IT, Cloud and Virtualisation.
David is a qualified & accredited Autodesk technical software specialist for Revit, 3DS Max, Infraworks, BIM 360 platform, Dynamo, Navisworks & Civil 3D. and certified in BIM through RICS. David’s primary focus is helping clients in the AEC sector with technology implementation to enable BIM & Digital Project Delivery Requirements.

Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

The Department (DPER) has responsibility for public expenditure policy, capital spending and overall management and reform of the Irish public service. Along with the Department of Finance it manages the budget process and advises the Government on economic and budget policy. Robert is leading a major public sector reform programme in areas such as procurement, shared services, digitalisation and civil service modernisation.

He is one of the principal advisers to the Government on economic, budget and financial issues.  He was involved in the management of the Troika Programme and was a key adviser to the Government, on economic issues since his appointment in 2011.

Robert is an economist and has experience in both the public and private sectors.  He has worked in a range of roles within the Department of Finance as well as previously working as an economic consultant.  He is a member of the board of the NTMA and was a member of the Economic Management Council.

Niall Gleeson, Managing Director, Irish Water

Niall joined the organisation in August 2019 from Shanahan Engineering where he held the role of Senior Director based in Hong Kong. Prior to this, Niall was Managing Director of Veolia Ireland, which built and currently operates 30 water and wastewater treatment plants on behalf of Irish Water and other clients. Previous to that, he was Managing Director of Alstom Ltd where he was responsible for maintenance on the Dublin Luas light rail system. Niall brings to Irish Water a wealth of engineering experience, business expertise, and leadership and engagement of teams. He holds a degree in engineering from DIT Bolton St, Dublin.

Martina Lawless, Research Professor, the Economic and Social Research Institute

Martina has a Ph.D in Economics from Trinity College Dublin.  Before joining the ESRI, she worked as a research economist at the Central Bank of Ireland. She received her Ph.D from Trinity College Dublin and M.Sc. in Economics from the University of Leuven. Her research has focused primarily on firm-level dynamics and decision making, covering a range of topics such as access to finance for SMEs, effects of taxation, exporting and more recently, the potential effects of Brexit on Ireland.

Martina’s work has been published in several leading international journals. Her term of appointment to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council is 4 years effective 1 January 2017.

John FitzGerald, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University College Dublin

John is a former research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute. He is a former member of the Commission of the Central Bank of Ireland and is currently Chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

Annette Hughes, Director, EY-DKM Economic Advisory Services

Annette has been involved in studies of national and regional housing markets for clients including financial institutions and house-building companies. She started her career as an economist at a global energy business and moved to London in 1985 where whe worked as a strategic planner for an infrastructure company. Annette has received a BA in Economics and Maths and a MA in Economics from UCC. Since Sept last year, she has authored 3 major report for the CIF – Viability and affordability of apartment buildings in Cork city (Sept 2019), Putting affordability at the heart of the housing system and The economic impact of the construction sector (both July 2020)

Pat Lucey, President, the Construction Industry Federation

Pat and has been involved in the delivery of major civil engineering works in Ireland and the U.K. These include LUAS Cross City, Crossrail C305, Limerick Tunnel, Bray Shanganagh WWTW, Greystones Harbour and many motorway projects.

He is a graduate of UCC and has been with Sisk for 26 years. Prior to that he worked with Christiani & Nielsen in London, having started his career with M.C. O’Sullivan in Cork.

Pat is the President of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and is a past President of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA).

P J Rudden, Managing Director, Aengus Consulting Ltd

PJ is also a member of the Institute of Directors. He is also a former UCD Lecturer, a former President of Engineers Ireland (2011 – 2012) representing some 26,000 members and former President of UCD Engineering Graduates Association (2012 – 2016) with some 10,000 members globally. PJ was elected a member of the Engineering and Computer Science Committee of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and is the current RIA Chair of the Climate Action Conference Working Group. Up to July 2019 he was a Director of RPS Group Ltd from 2002 to 2019 in various roles including Director Strategy/Business Development/Marketing and Director Waste, Energy and Environment and prior to that he was Director of MCOS Consulting Engineers from 1999 until acquired by RPS in 2002. From 2014 to 2019 he was Chairman of the RPS Gas and Utilities Group across the UK and Irish offices. He has lectured widely in several policy and infrastructure sectors in Ireland, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia. PJ holds many national and international awards for planning and development of infrastructure, innovation and media communications. He has been interviewed extensively by national radio and TV including Morning Ireland and Prime Time over the past 20 years. PJ has also chaired a number of national bodies including Engineers Ireland

Conor Gunn, Associate Partner, Strategy and Transactions, EY Ireland

Conor Gunn is an Associate Partner in EY Ireland’s Strategy and Transactions practice and sits within the Government and Infrastructure team. He has 25 years of corporate finance, project finance, real estate and construction advisory experience, with 15 years specialising in the delivery of large infrastructure and real estate projects for both public and private sector clients. His commercial experience is complimented by 11 years public sector experience as a Sector Head in the National Treasury Management Agency’s infrastructure procurement unit. At the NTMA, Conor was responsible for a €3bn portfolio of infrastructure projects across the arts/sport tourism, education, justice, health and housing sectors.

Marian Finnegan, Managing Director-Residential & Advisory, Sherry Fitzgerald

Marian has been at the forefront of Sherry FitzGerald for over 20 years. She was the first economist appointed to a property company in Ireland, when she established the Research arm in 1996. Subsequently she was appointed Chief Economist and Director of Research for Sherry FitzGerald. This role involved monitoring and analysing economic and property indicators in the domestic and international markets.

In 1998 Marian joined the board of Sherry FitzGerald Group and in 2019 was appointed Managing Director of Sherry FitzGerald Residential. She has a unique blend of skills across many areas – people, strategy and leadership. Marian has helped shape Sherry FitzGerald and understands the property market and the company’s business strategy. She is a regular contributor in the Irish and international media and one of the most highly regarded commentators in the industry.

Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF Ireland

Before joining the CIF, Tom served as a TD for Laois – Offaly and as Minister for State at the Department of Finance from 2002 until 2007. As Minister he was responsible for the Office for Public Works (OPW).
From 1997 to 2001, Tom was President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), having previously held several other positions with the association.

Maura Winston, Chief People Officer, Cairn Homes Plc

Maura has deep experience from her roles spanning HR, organisation development and change management. She leverages her significant leadership experiences from both consulting and in-house roles and is currently the Chief People Office at Cairn Homes Plc. Maura’s key strength is enabling organisations to scale by designing and driving the people and change agenda in complex business growth/transformation strategies. She has particular expertise in aligning functions and increasing organisation effectiveness within and across leadership teams.

Prior to her time in Cairn Homes, Maura spent 10 years with the Federal Court of Australia as Director of Innovation and Change Management where she was responsible for the implementation of change programmes across the Courts. She worked with the leadership team to identify future innovation opportunities that will lead the Federal, Family and Federal Circuit Courts into the next generation of its service and digital capabilities. Maura trained with Accenture as a change management and organisational design consultant and has a BA in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Organisational Psychology from UCD.

Donal McCarthy, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ireland and Europe and MD Ireland East, John Sisk & Son

Donal is COO for Ireland and all business sectors in Europe. He is also MD for Ireland East and has held numerous positions since re-joining the company in 2002 following an 8-year period working in the construction industry in New York. Prior to that he worked as a graduate engineer with Sisk having originally joined the company in 1990.

Ann Doherty, Chief Executive, Cork City Council

Ann was appointed to her role in 2014 and is responsible for strategic direction and delivery of services for one of the largest local authorities in the fastest growing city region in Ireland. An advocate of empowerment and inclusivity, Ann leads a team of over 1,500 people and is responsible for a multi-million euro budget at Cork City Council. An experienced business leader with over 3 decades in senior management roles in Ireland and the UK, she has been responsible for the implementation of transformative programmes to deliver change and operational success in large public sector organisations including the Health Service Executive and the NHS in the UK.

Ann holds an MBA and is a Chartered Director. In 2014, along with 25 other women, she was awarded as one of Ireland’s Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network. As well as her professional commitments, Ann is also a Director of the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork, Director to the UCC Student Facilities & Services Board, sits on the boards of the Marymount University Hospital & Hospice, Visit Cork and Cork University Hospital Charity.

Frank Crowley, Co-Director, Spatial and Regional Economic Research Centre (SRERC) and Lecturer in Economics

Dr Frank Crowley is a lecturer in the School of Economics, UCC since 2007 and is Co-Director of the SRERC. He has published research articles on the topics of innovation, firm performance, urban development, regional development, spatial economics, government policy intervention, management practices, consumer behaviour and public choice in international peer reviewed journals. Frank’s primary research interests are in innovation and the area of economic geography. Currently, his research work includes examining the creative sector, automation, innovation, industrial structures and spatial economic resilience in Ireland.

Niamh Moore-Cherry, Associate Professor in Urban Governance and Development, the School of Geography, UCD

Niamh’s research is focused on understanding the governance of urban development, metropolitanisation and its outcomes. She is the author of Dublin Docklands Reinvented (Four Courts Press, 2008), has co-edited three books and has papers published in leading international journals including among others: Urban Studies, Land Use Policy, Planning Practice and Research, and European Urban and Regional Studies. 

Niamh has a strong record in policy analysis and community engagement and her current work focuses on metropolitanisation in Ireland and the implications for spatial planning and quality of life in city-regions. Niamh leads a team in UCD School of Geography examining the relationship between cities, governance and sustainability. She is a visiting professor at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCD; a member of the Social Sciences Committee, Royal Irish Academy; and is a past President of the Geographical Society of Ireland. She has significant experience in working at the policy-practice-research nexus and provided a number of significant inputs into the development of the National Planning Framework in Ireland and the UK2070 Commission in the United Kingdom. 

John Moran, Chair, Land Development Agency and Chair, SME Recovery Ireland

John is perhaps best known for his role as Secretary General at the Department of Finance during the bailout years and for establishing a road map for a post-crisis Ireland. Currently, he is the Chair of Ireland’s Land Development Agency – set up to ensure the provision of affordable homes and better management of state-owned land.
John is a trained lawyer and banker, he studied financial mathematics and French. At 21 he became one of the youngest persons to be called to the Bar of the State of New York. In the past, John has held various roles such as Board Member of the European Investment Bank, Commission member and Banking Supervisor at the Central Bank, Aviation Lawyer at GPA Group plc, CEO of Zurich Capital Markets and positions at the New York firms of Sullivan & Cromwell and McCann Fitzgerald.

John is Founder and CEO of RHH International, a thought-leadership consultancy and social entrepreneurship company and advises many companies, particularly those trying to disrupt the status quo. Since his time at the heart of the Irish Government machine, he has been much quoted for his views on urban planning. He has also advocated for better balanced regional development using the potential of Ireland’s regional cities to act as growth engines. John has been particularly involved in helping the recent renaissance of Limerick, serving on the Limerick Economic Forum and playing a role helping to secure the economic recovery of the region. Currently, John is the Chair of SME Recovery Ireland – a platform representing Ireland’s small and medium business sector to ensure that the policy response to Covid-19 is designed to succeed for SMEs. He is also the Chair of the European Expo 2020, #LIVEABLELIMERICK and the Hunt Museum.

John’s work has been acknowledged at home in Ireland and internationally, including, by the decision of the President of the French Republic to bestow on him the rank of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merit” (Knight of the Order of Merit).

Niav O’Higgins, Partner and Head of Construction and Engineering Group, Arthur Cox

Niav is regarded as one of the leading Irish construction lawyers, with over 25 years’ experience in this area. She has experience of advising various parties involved in both private and public sector projects, including state and semi-state bodies, developers, contractors, consultants, investors and funders. Her breadth of experience across a broad range of sectors gives Niav a real understanding of the imperatives driving the players, allowing her to unlock solutions in the drafting and negotiation of construction contracts, professional appointments and related documentation. She also provides solution-driven advice on dispute resolution, where she has particular experience of adjudication, conciliation, mediation and arbitration. Niav also advises on matters of health and safety, particularly as it affects construction.

Stephen Creaner, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland

Stephen joined Enterprise Ireland as Executive Director in September 2018 and leads a new directorate incorporating the Food, Industrial, Life Sciences, Consumer, Research, Innovation and Operational Excellence Divisions.
Prior to joining Enterprise Ireland, he held a wide range of leadership roles across the multinational and SME sectors including the pharmaceutical, semi-conductor, life sciences, construction and facilities services industries. His most recent role was as COO with Grosvenor Services Ltd, preceded by positions as General Manager and Senior Director of Operations with Waters Technologies (Ire) Ltd and EMEA Director of Corporate Services with Intel Ireland.
Stephen is a graduate of University College Dublin with a BEng in Chemical Engineering.

Gerard (Gerry) McCaughey, Entrepreneur, Innovator, Disruptor, CEO and Chairman, Entekra, USA

Gerard “Gerry” McCaughey is internationally respected as an authority in the field of off-site construction. Named “Industry Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst and Young, McCaughey was a driving force behind Europe’s transition to off-site construction of wood frame homes with modern methods of construction and often confers with leaders around the globe on issues related to home building. Today McCaughey is continuing his disruptive ways as Chairman and CEO of California start-up Entekra, which is changing how homes are built in the United States with its Fully Integrated Off-Site Solution™ – FIOSS™.

In 1990, McCaughey co-founded Century Homes with his father and brother, and as the Chief Executive Officer, he grew the company from a start-up operation with four employees into Europe’s largest unit producer of off-site built structures. In 2005, when Century was acquired by building materials giant Kingspan Group for $100 million and McCaughey was subsequently named CEO of Kingspan Century, the company had 650 employees, operating five manufacturing facilities and producing 8,000 units annually for markets in Europe and Asia.

Following the grant of an O-1 visa as an individual with extraordinary ability, due to his unrivaled expertise in the off-site sector, McCaughey relocated to the United States. From 2009 to 2016, he served as Chief Executive of Los Angeles-based Infineco, an executive-level strategy consulting and investment firm for businesses making the transition to off-site construction, sustainable building and clean energy. In this role, he raised more than $75 million for U.S. companies, providing them with the capital to effectively exploit new technologies and attain market leadership positions.

In co-founding Entekra in late 2016 and assembling a management team with unmatched experience in off-site construction, McCaughey has set out to replicate in the United States the success he had building the off-site industry in Europe.

Stephen McCarthy, Managing Director, Astra Construction Services Ltd

Stephen founded his company over 34 years ago. He has concentrated the business in the Carrigaline area and has built over 2,000 homes.
Stephens in-depth knowledge of the house building industry and personal tenacity brought the company through the recession which resulted in the successful completion of a development of 400 houses in Forest Hill, Carrigaline. Having traded successfully over the last 34 years, Astra Construction Services is now in the process of building its largest development to date comprising 950 homes in Carrigaline.

Stephen is actively involved with Homebond and the CIF, at a local and national level and has held various positions within these organisations including:

• Director and Past Chairman of Homebond.
• Past Chairman of Irish House Builders Association (IHBA).
• Past Chairman of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Cork branch.
• Current Chairman of the Irish House Builders Association (IHBA) Cork branch.
• Member of the National Executive of the Irish House Builders Association (IHBA).