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April 12th 2021

Dermot Knight

Today - Donal Mangan is our guest speaker on the topic of “Where not to build a railway.”

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Apr 19th Gerry P Cahill, Presenter 103.2 Dublin City FM: Aspirations to be Terry Wogan
Apr 26th James Innes - Bitten by the Black Dog
May 3rd Public Holiday
May 10th Annual General Meeting
May 17th Rotary Foundation: Rotarian Delma Sweeney : Transforming the World.
May 24th Dr Nnamdi Elenwoke, RC Barcelona Pedralbes – Covid Review and Contrast.
May 31st John Shackleton Shackleton’s Antarctic Expeditions
Jun 7th Public Holiday
Jun 14th Senator Alice Mary Higgins: Climate and peace
Jun 21st Clare Casey, Childhood Development Initiative: Restorative Practices in our schools
Jun 28th Club Assembly
Jul 5th Presidential Handover
Jul 12th Patrick Hamilton Walsh, former member, from Stockholm
Jul 19th David Ellis – How Rotary is perceived by the public.

President Alan Davidson was in the Chair at our meeting Monday before last.

Thought for the Day
Past President Derek Griffith spoke about confidence. He noted the difference between when he joined Rotary 23 years ago and now. How confident he would have been back then about doing the things we often take for granted, but which are not possible during COVID. He noted the enormous changes over the past year but encouraged us to keep confident of the future and of seeing each other for lunch again.

Visitors and Apologies
Last week we had apologies from members Rana Al Damin, Alan Harrison, Roger Owens, Mariandy Lennon. There were 23 members in attendance and no guests.

Rotary Rangers Schedule

Rotary Rangers outings are cancelled until further notice due to Covid19 restrictions.

Hon Secretary’s Announcements
• Tony McCourt provided the latest update of the Auction fundraising.

President’s Announcements
• President Alan informed us he was close to signing his contract with Newstalk following the success of the auction evening.
• He was delighted by its success and thanked all for their generosity and participation. He thanked Rotarians Roger Owens and Dermot Knight for their support on the night.
• He informed the club that star guest speaker Professor Luke O’Neill had enjoyed the occasion and had offered to return again in the future.

Members Wishing to Speak
Mary O’Rafferty gave us an update on St Louis Interact. She had set up a zoom meeting with them a couple of weeks ago. They seemed delighted to make contact as they had not been meeting this term. They gave an up date on their projects to date: They are half way through creating a garden in the school. They hope to do the planting when they return to school in April. They have already painted benches and chairs for the garden. They raised €400 for Doctors Without Borders. They are still waiting to lodge the money as Covid 19 restrictions have prevented them from doing so. One of the students did a work placement with Concern and learnt about a Concern initiative seeking proposals from TY students. She is planning on submitting one of the Interact projects to concern. They all spoke of how their online work is quite extensive and how their work placements have been on line also. They are planning to have further zoom meetings in order to prepare for hitting the ground running when they get back to school. They are a very committed group and are to be commended for their dedication.

Book Club Meeting
The next book-club meeting is tonight, Monday 12th April at 8pm. The book for review this month, chosen by Eamonn Allen, is "The Beekeeper of Aleppo" by Christy Lefteri. Contact Rotarian Delma Sweeney.

Auction Evening
President Alan hosted a very successful Presidents’ Night “Virtual Auction.” A record for attendance at a Rotary Club, Dublin virtual meeting with 64 individual screens tuned in at the high point (the audience number would have been higher as many screens had more than one participant.)

The evening began with some online “reunions” between Rotary Clubs – Tours and Sacramento joining in, as well as many representatives from other clubs within our District, including District Governor Conny Oveson (who very generously offered to add a high tea to one of the auction items)

The guest speaker Professor Luke O’Neill stole the show. He was introduced by PP Ethna Fitzgerald, and proceeded to provide a very interesting account into COVID and the current state of affairs. His overriding message was that science has won the day and we should be hopeful. He also gave us a very insightful overview of the production of vaccines. President Alan conducted a brief question and answer session before thanking Professor O’Neill.

We watched a few short videos of Rotary’s impact on the world, and then Roger Owens gavelled us into the excitement of the auction. Fierce bidding ensued on the Zoom chat, expertly managed by Roger.

An extremely enjoyable event, a great cause and a reminder of what is possible in the virtual space.

Conversation meeting
There was no speaker at our last meeting, instead we enjoyed the opportunity to break into groups and socialize using Zoom break out rooms. The results of some of the discussions are detailed below:

An idea was put forward to consider honorary membership for people who would raise the profile of the club. This would require some thought and research to develop both a plan and identify people who might fit this profile.
It was suggested that targeting the diplomatic corps might prove useful. Rotary would be of particular value to people new to the country who would see a value in joining a Rotary club as a way to build a network. Perhaps we should compile a list of advantages of Rotary and have this to hand when speaking to them.
Various examples were shared of Whisky tasting on Zoom with the aid of the postal service – and this could be a useful way to fundraise.
Another topic raised was whether speakers were speaking for too long. A new format of speaking style was proposed, although it was noted that we also need to respect the speaker. The convenors of speakers noted that the Zoom format is very different for speakers and so it was inevitable there would be some teething issues.
The meeting was enjoyed by all and some valuable things came out of it. It was agreed to host a meeting of this nature once a month or so, to keep up our fellowship and also discuss important changes as the Club considers its medium to long term strategy.
Getting to Know You – Eamonn Allen
Eamonn hails from Palmerstown and grew up in what was a then a combination of an ancient village and a new housing estate on the north western edge of Dublin City, an area still surrounded by extensive farmland and with the River Liffey on the doorstep. Being close to the river and with access to pasture-based farmland meant Eamonn grew up with a deep appreciation and love of nature as well as a feel for rural life that he has never lost.
Eamonn is half up from the country, half Dub with a mother from Tipperary and a father from the big smoke. Family connections on both sides of family were close. This meant a childhood of not only endless visits to aunts, uncles and cousins on Dublin’s northside in Parkgate street, Marino and Artane, but also to Tipperary. The latter were the best visits of all. The highlight of each summer was going to see his mother’s relatives in Tipperary and Kilkenny. These trips were always a source of great excitement, not just for the sheer joy of going to the country, but for the tales told by his uncles and aunt, tales of growing up during turbulent times in Ireland. To this day, Eamonn retains a vivid recollection of these stories; first-hand accounts that were to instill in him a much more profound appreciation of Irish history and of the foundation of the state than he could ever have gained from a book.
Both his parents had Gaelic games and the GAA in their blood and both were active in their respective sports, hurling for his father, camogie for his mother. Their love of GAA, and indeed their wider interest in all sport, was another legacy that his parents passed onto to all of their children. Eamonn’s own sporting career started at the tender age of seven, when he played both football and hurling in the local street league. Apart from playing for the local GAA club, sport was also encouraged in both the primary and secondary schools that he attended. While Gaelic football remained his main game, he enjoyed hurling, soccer, and cross country running. As a teenager, he represented Dublin in both hurling (under 13) and football (under 18 schools).

Eamonn attended the national school in Palmerstown before moving on to De La Salle in Ballyfermot (a family tradition it seems) where (like many others before him) he discovered that, despite having a Dub for a father, being up from the country, not to mention playing Gaelic games, earned him the privilege of being formally classified by his classmates as a Culchie. Undeterred by this appellation, he went on to do a degree in Commerce Degree at UCD, graduating in 1978. In 1975 and 1976, while at UCD he played soccer for the college in the then League of Ireland B division before, sadly, an injury ended what might have been a very different career direction. One of his teammates in 1975 was a certain Kevin Moran.
At the end of his second year, the ESB approached UCD looking for students who might be interested in summer work. Eamonn applied and was successful though he was not much taken by the experience, telling his manager at the end of that summer that he didn’t see himself ever returning to work there – a judgement that turned out to be just a tad premature. After graduating from UCD in 1978, he landed this first job with the American multinational, Chesebrough-Ponds – a job that proved popular with the management at home where his mother was the beneficiary of many gifts of cosmetics and perfumes. Meanwhile, he had started to study accountancy in the evenings. Early exposure to the poor prospects for career advancement in Chesebrough-Ponds gave him cause to reflect on the wisdom of his choice. As it happened, he had submitted an application to ESB which was still open and so left the world of cosmetics and returned, this time to a permanent job, with his former employer. Unsurprisingly, given that he was studying accounting, he started in Finance. There he received a good overall grounding in the diverse roles of the accountant working in cost accounting, revenue billing & collection, debt management and negotiating payment arrangements with large customers. After two years, he was moved to Treasury where he spent a further three years working on foreign exchange, loans financing, evaluation of investment project proposals and sinking fund investments.
The beginning of the 1980s was (as many of us elder lemons will remember) still the age of the calculator and the minicomputer. While both had, by this stage, become quite sophisticated, the arrival of the microcomputer in the early 1980s was to alter Eamonn’s career trajectory entirely. Seduced by technology, in 1984, he left Finance behind for the rapidly expanding world of information technology (IT) where he was to spend the remaining 34 years of his career.

That career was to take him through just about every role in the corporate IT universe. Amongst many other roles he worked as an IT architect, designing a new data network and multi-vendor systems architecture for the ESB. In three years, the budget for this project rose from IR£1.5 million to IR£30 million. He managed many application development projects. One project of which he is particularly proud was a system designed to help the ESB identify the likely cause(s) of a customer outage so that repair crews could get to the source of the problem quickly. This system used an early form of artificial intelligence and was the first of its type in the world. When the ESB decided to install a new Enterprise Resource Planning system (SAP for those who interested in such details), Eamonn led the project to put in all of the cabling, networks, PCs and servers, managing at the time a budget of IR£12 million. When it was completed, some 2,500 PCs throughout the ESB had been connected to new system.
Apart from managing major projects, Eamonn took on several other roles. These included Customer Services Manager, Web, e-Business Manager and Programme Manager for handling the IT implications of deregulation (a €67 million project). Another challenge was managing a major IT cost reduction programme – something that was part of a companywide drive to reduce operating costs by no less than 45%. Eamonn’s part in this involved negotiating new agreements with over 30 international IT companies. All of these large responsibilities eventually cumulated in Eamonn being appointed Senior Manager responsible for all of the ESB’s IT projects nationwide and being responsible for annual expenditure that was typically between €60 million and €100 million. In the latter part of his career, Eamonn was appointed Business IT Manager for Electric Ireland and Business IT Manager for Business Services, the latter role included overseeing the move of the ESB’s head office from Fitzwilliam street to East Wall.
While his serious soccer playing career had been cut short by injury, Eamonn continued for many years to play five a side after work every Friday. Nowadays he has switched his allegiance to rugby and joined Ross O’Carroll Kelly in the ranks of Leinster supporters – something that his daughter describes as close to a full-time job. In what is probably a club record, he has attended ten Heineken/European Rugby cup finals (maybe PP Tom can match this?). His lifelong interest in history has expanded beyond the stories of Irish independence that he imbibed as a child and now runs to global history from the medieval to the modern.
As most members will know, Eamonn is married to VP elect Delma. He enjoys gardening in their second home in Lismore and he enjoys opera - being a supporter of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival (hands up all of you who knew that there even was a Blackwater Valley Opera Festival). He and Delma love to travel. They have already seen much of the world together, but as for all of us, this hobby is on hold for the time being. He and Delma have three children, Darragh, Muireann and Ruth plus six grandchildren and a bump that may well be number seven by the time you read this sentence.

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