27 Nov, 2019

Legislative Reform Process differs in Ireland from that of the USA

2019-11-27T12:31:47+00:00November 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Legislative Reform Process differs in Ireland from that of the USA

Ireland and the USA adopt different approaches to the review and repeal of outdated legislation. In Ireland, the tidying of the Statute Book has been approached through a series of Statute Law Revision Acts. In the USA, President Trump introduced Executive Order 137711, in January 2017, to focus on “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”. That policy stated that “… for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process”.


Why Repeal Laws and Regulations?

Today laws and regulations should be relevant and fit for purpose. There needs to be clarity as to what legislation is in fact in force. Laws and regulations should be brought up to date and made relevant on a continuing basis. In Ireland’s case, a lot of updating has been done to the stock of legislation; legislation that has derived from a number of sources; from England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, as well as domestic sources. Best practice in regulatory governance suggests that a country’s existing stock of legislation be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure laws and regulations are up-to-date and fit for purpose.

Ireland’s Programme of Revision

Ireland’s first Statute Law Revision Programme started in 2003. Its purpose was to modernise and simplify the Statute Book by removing obsolete pieces of legislation, in order to reduce its size and make it more understandable and accessible to those who use it. That work continued until the end of 2016. By 2016, six Acts had been enacted – See Table 1.





These Acts dealt with a wide range of old legislation, including:
• Repeal of a selection of pre-1922 statutes;
• Comprehensive revision of pre-1922 Public General Acts;
• Revision of all Private Acts up to and including 1750 and all Local and Personal Acts up to and including 1850;
• Revision of all Private Acts from 1750 to 1922 and all Local and Personal Acts from 1850 to 1922;
• Secondary Instruments made before 1 January 1821 were revoked, and
• Repeal of primary legislation, considered obsolete, enacted between 1922 and 1950.

The volume of work was considerable. In that regard, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, TD, in reply to a Parliamentary Question on 15 November 2016 pointed out that – “ To date, over 60,000 pieces of legislation have been either expressly or implicitly repealed under the programme. Collectively this is the most extensive set of repealing measures in the history of the State and the most extensive set of statute law revision measures ever enacted anywhere in the world”. Nevertheless, the Minister went on to announce that he had decided – “…in view of the progress made, to pause the Statute Law Revision Programme at this time in order that my Department can progress other priorities”.  It is clear that notwithstanding the Trojan work undertaken to date, there is still work needed to complete the work. The obvious candidate to do this work is the Law Reform Commission. The Law Reform Commission Act 1975 states that Commission’s role is to keep the law under review and to conduct research with a view to the reform of the law. 

Trump’s Two-for-one Policy
What about the USA’s repeal process? Since 2017, for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations are required to be identified for elimination. The US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Statistics, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is responsible for implementing this Executive Order and reporting on its progress. Results for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018 have been published by OIRA and they are summarised in Table 2. The web reference for OIRA is here.

For Fiscal Year 2017, the table shows that there were 67 regulations repealed and 3 regulations introduced. This suggests a ‘success ratio’ of 22 (67 divided by 3); considerably higher than the target set of 2:1. However, there have been criticisms of the ‘success ratio’. For example, Professor Stuart Shapiro, writing for The Hill, criticised the published ratios. He pointed out that the data used for calculating the ratio – “… includes actions such as delaying regulations that were not yet in effect. Some of these rules will eventually be published. In other cases, agencies have been sued over their delays and may be forced to rescind them The ratio may also include proposals that the Trump administration will never finalize (but were not actually in effect) and counting multiple repeals of the same regulation.”.

For Fiscal Year 2018, Table 2 shows that there were 57 significant regulations repealed and 14 regulations introduced. This suggests a ‘success ratio’ of 4 (57 divided by 14); twice the target set. A recent Brooking Institution publication concludes that the 2018 data are more reliable than those for 2017. Specifically, it states that the inclusion of “significant regulations” – “…is closer to an apples-to-apples comparison, which is more useful when trying to weigh the deregulatory and regulatory actions against each other”. Nevertheless, the Brooking Institution report concluded that the changes introduced – “… have not immunized these counts from continued criticism”. 







Cost Savings
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) also estimates the cost savings emerging from the policy of regulatory change. As shown in Table 2 above, the total regulatory cost savings was over $8 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 and over $23 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. While these are significant savings, some analysts suggest that the basis of the calculations require close examination. For example, the Brooking Institution publication listed above recommends that every regulatory action – “…should publicly disclose the costs or costs savings attributable to that action…This will help the public provide comments on the agencies’ estimates. It will also facilitate verification on the back end when OIRA reports the totals, which is currently not possible for most actions”. The Institution also recommended that – “…Agencies should provide enough detail in their regulatory and deregulatory actions to recreate the cost and cost savings estimates, including key methodological assumptions like the long-term cost pattern of each rule”.


In Ireland, the body of work undertaken in repealing obsolete laws between 2003 and 2016 is impressive. It is clear that notwithstanding that Trojan work, there is still work needed to complete the revision project. The obvious candidate to do this work is the Law Reform Commission. Under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 it is stated that Commission’s role is to keep the law under review and to conduct research with a view to the reform of the law.

President Trump’s regulatory policy has demonstrated successes with his new policy. However, this policy does run the risk of having unintended consequences. For example, there is a danger that good regulations might be removed, if the ‘two-for-one’ policy is applied too rigorously. It is important that good regulations are not lost sight-of. After all, it is good regulations that create the standards and rules that govern the way markets operate, that provide customers with reassurance as regards the quality of the products and services they buy, and that make sure that government works well at central and at local level.




Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and blogs regularly for PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport

18 Oct, 2019

Bank Bailout costs State nearly €42 billion

2019-10-18T09:30:51+00:00October 18th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Bank Bailout costs State nearly €42 billion

The bill for bailing out the Irish Banks has reached nearly €42 billion.

The Office of the Controller and Auditor General (C&AG) published the estimate in the ‘Report of the Public Services 2018’. Earlier estimates put the net cost at between €40 and €42.4 billion. The report points out that – “The net overall cost continues to evolve as the interventions end or wind down”.


The Bailout

The State had to take a series of measures to stabilise the banking system following the financial crisis of 2008.  The measures included:-

  • Provision by the Central Bank of exceptional liquidity assistance to domestic banks,
  • Government guarantees of deposits and certain other liabilities, Significant recapitalisation of domestic banks and
  • Establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire impaired assets from banks.

Obviously, there has been a lot of activity in each of the foregoing areas during the past decade. What the C&AG has now done is to estimate what the net position was as at 31 December 2018. The net position by institution was:

• Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) — estimated net cost of €36.4 billion;
• Allied Irish Bank (AIB) — estimated net cost of €9.5 billion;
• Permanent TSB — estimated net cost of €1.3 billion
• Bank of Ireland — estimated net surplus of €1.3 billion.

Figure A illustrates the net positions in diagrammatic form:













End of the Road

Is the C&AG’s recent estimate the end of the road for the Bailout? Sadly the answer is no.  The net costs will continue to rise due to the ongoing cost of servicing the associated long-term debt. In the long term, when all of the State’s remaining shareholdings have been sold, NAMA has realised its surplus and the Central Bank has disposed of the government bonds it holds, the cost of servicing the debt will be determined. Specifically, the cost of servicing the debt by the prevailing borrowing costs for the State — around €420 million for each percentage point incurred. The C&AG’s report points out that – “For borrowing rates between 2.5% and 3%, it is estimated the interest cost will be between €1.1 billion and €1.3 billion a year for the foreseeable future”.

The eventual net outturn will also be affected by the extent to which the NAMA surplus and the amounts the State realises for its remaining shareholdings differ from the end of 2018 values. According to the C&AG Report – “ The State is not expected to recover further significant funds from its investment in IBRC…it is unlikely that the State will generate a surplus on its investment of €22.2 billion in AIB”.


Lessons to be learned

Very few people in Ireland have been untouched by the negative effects of the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent bank bailout. There are some who argue that the banks should have been allowed to go bust. But as Patrick Honohan points out in his book “Currency, Credit and Crisis” (2019) that “Every country needs a well functioning banking system. It provides the mechanism for making payments and other elements of the life-blood of the economy”. And so the Irish government took the decision to bail out the banks. That decision has had many consequences, including the need to ensure greater accountability in the banking sector. In this regard, on foot of a request made by Minister Donohoe in November  has been underway to turn the recommendations into legislation. Last June, the Government agreed that draft Heads of a Bill should be brought forward


The Heads of a Bill will attempt to achieve a number of objectives. First, to ensure the introduction of a Senior Executive Accountability Regime (SEAR) which places obligations on firms and their senior individuals to set out clearly where responsibility and decision-making lies. Second, to introduce Conduct Standards for individuals and firms to provide for statutory powers to set and impose binding and enforceable obligations on all Regulated Financial Service Providers (RFSPs). Third, to introduce an enhanced Fitness & Probity Regime to ensure the effective operation of the regime and the ability of the regime to support the Central Bank’s proposed individual accountability framework and the conduct standards for individuals and firms. Finally, to break the “Participation Link” which addresses the known deficiency in the legislation which requires the Central Bank to first prove a contravention of financial services legislation against a RFSP before it can take an action against an individual.

It will be interesting to see how this new legislation is developed. There is no doubt that such legislation is necessary and timely. In particular, it should be seen to drive positive changes in terms of a wider banking culture, greater delegation of responsibilities, and enhanced accountability while simplifying the imposition of sanctions against individuals who fail in their financial sector roles. Watch this space.



Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and blogs regularly for PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

16 Oct, 2019

eInvoicing reaches milestone in Ireland, with Central Government eInvoicing enabled, on the journey to digital transformation

2019-10-16T12:42:26+00:00October 16th, 2019|News|Comments Off on eInvoicing reaches milestone in Ireland, with Central Government eInvoicing enabled, on the journey to digital transformation

Reflecting on the past two years progress, Declan McCormack, programme manager, eInvoicing Ireland at the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) tracks the Irish eInvoicing journey so far.  



The eInvoicing Ireland journey started in earnest just two years ago, with the launch of the European Standard on electronic invoicing and now over 85% of Central Government bodies have become eInvoicing enabled, are compliant with the EU Directive and support the European Standard. This move to digital has been facilitated and enabled by the OGP’s national framework agreement for the provision of eInvoicing systems and services. The Framework is available to access on the Buyers Zone at ogp.gov.ie


The European Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing ‘eInvoicing Directive’ was transposed into Irish legislation earlier this year, allowing Sub Central Government until 18 April 2020 to reach compliance with the Directive. eInvoicing Ireland are working with Sub Central Government sector partners in Health, Education and Local Government to support them in their preparations to achieve compliance with the eInvoicing Directive. Enabling all Government bodies to be eInvoicing compliant signifies a real commitment to the greater use of digital to do business with the public service, the third of six high-level outcomes set out in ‘Our Public Service 2020’ strategy.


A key component of Ireland’s transition to eInvoicing is PEPPOL – the network (akin to a mobile phone network) that connects businesses to governments, and businesses to businesses, for the electronic exchange of procurement documents including eInvoices. Since Ireland became an Authority member 18 months ago, joining 19 other European countries on the network, PEPPOL has expanded beyond its European reach. Singapore has become a driving force, in South-East Asia, for PEPPOL based eInvoicing, joining as an Open PEPPOL Authority earlier this year. In February the Australian and New Zealand governments jointly announced their intention to adopt PEPPOL for eInvoicing business transactions in both countries. From Pan-European to global network, this means that any Irish business, by connecting once to the PEPPOL network, can send eInvoices to anyone on the network – very quickly breaking down traditional barriers to trade and opening up the world through digitisation.


The second stage, on the journey to digital transformation, for Central and Sub-Central Government and the shared services and co-ordinating facilities who are already receiving eInvoices, is to raise awareness among suppliers that this digital option is available when doing business with the public sector. Encouraging suppliers to issue eInvoices will support eInvoicing in becoming the main method of invoice processing in public procurement. eInvoicing Ireland supports the promotion of supplier eInvoicing adoption, in accordance with the European Directive and national eInvoicing approach, so as to realise the associated benefits.


In addition to reducing the administrative burden on both the private and public sectors and the environmental benefits, there are also data gathering and mining benefits to eInvoicing. The true value of transparent data is still to be fully realised though, as explained by Roberto Viola, European Commission Director General, DG Connect

“This future will be built on data, and is increasingly becoming the foundation of our economy. The European data economy, can bring us benefits in terms of the development of new technologies and the emergence of ecosystems around data“. (November 2018)

The invoice links data in every step of the procure-to-pay lifecycle. eInvoicing allows access to that data in a digital format that can be analysed and better understood. Accessing and interrogating such data supports public bodies to make more informed decisions with regard to expenditure, helping to achieve better outcomes for the public and business.


eInvoicing Ireland provides information materials and tools to support Government becoming eInvoicing enabled – available at www.opg.gov.ie/eInvoicing.

For further information on eInvoicing please email einvoicing@ogp.gov.ie



20 Sep, 2019

Coaching and Mentoring – Benefits to an Organisation from an L&D Perspective

2019-09-20T15:33:56+00:00September 20th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Coaching and Mentoring – Benefits to an Organisation from an L&D Perspective


Coaching and Mentoring – Benefits to an Organisation from an L&D Perspective
HR and L&D Masterclass – Q3 2019 – Friday 20 September
Public Affairs Ireland, Dublin 1

On this beautiful sunny morning, Public Affairs Ireland facilitated the first of its HR and L&D Masterclasses. Interest was high and the venue was at capacity with over 50 professionals from Public Sector Organisations registering to attend.

This quarters CPD accredited masterclass focused on ‘Coaching and Mentoring’ and delivering the topic was Adjunct Professor in Trinity College Dublin and consultant trainer for Public Affairs Ireland – Síle O’Donnell. Síle has a wealth of experience in HR in the Public Sector, with over 25 years’ experience of designing and implementing best practice human resource management and employee relations initiatives and policies in the public sector.

Síle discussed the three crucial themes (from the CIPD HR Profession Map) to help people learn and drive organisational performance. One of these crucial themes is Coaching and Mentoring.

“96% of L&D teams view coaching and mentoring as a priority” (research undertaken by CIPD/Towards Maturity)

The three crucial themes include:

  • coaching and mentoring
  • social and collaborative learning
  • digital learning and training delivery


Sharing her expertise on mentoring, Síle outlined the steps involved in implementing a mentoring scheme including:

  • Identifying target mentees and mentors
  • Developing structures and a governance framework
  • Matching mentees and mentors and
  • Evaluating the scheme.

Síle went on to identify the pitfalls of the mentor/mentee relationships and need to establish clear boundaries.

Attendees gathered into groups and discussed their own organisational needs, experiences and what worked/did not work for them.

Wrapping up the event, Sile emphasised the importance of peer learning and joining professional networks, like this one, to share and learn.

Feedback was positive and appreciative.
“Síle is highly knowledgeable and delivered the content clearly and in an easy to understand manner”
“It’s good to gather at these events and talk to people, see what they are doing and what works for them”
“I will definitely attend the next networking event”


Networking can help you meet new people and advance your career.

Register your interest in attending the next HR and L&D Masterclass – for Public Sector Professionals, email education@pai.ie using your work email address and we will keep you up-to-date on events in HR and L&D.

30 Aug, 2019

Updating the Public Spending Code

2019-08-30T12:56:12+00:00August 30th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Updating the Public Spending Code

What is the Public Spending Code?

The Public Spending Code is the set of rules and procedures that are applied to expenditure across the Irish public service. The opening webpage for the Code points out that –“All Irish public bodies are obliged to treat public funds with care, and to ensure that the best possible value-for-money is obtained whenever public money is being spent or invested” http://publicspendingcode.per.gov.ie/.

The Code was initially introduced in Budget 2012. In September 2013, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform formally notified Departments and Offices that the new consolidated code applied to them. In particular, the circular pointed out that it was relevant to all officials in public bodies involved in activities related to the appraisal, management, implementation and review of expenditure. In short, all managers with responsibility for public expenditure are now required to ensure adherence to the Public Spending Code. As well as consolidating earlier guidelines, the application of the Code was widened to include current expenditure as well as capital expenditure. Box A summarises the structure of the Code:-















At the heart of the Code are the tools and processes for appraising public expenditure. They include:-

· Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA);

· Cost Effectiveness Analysis(CEA);

· Focused Policy Assessments (FPAs);

· Multi Criteria Analysis (MCAs);

· Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIAs), and

· Value for Money Reviews (VFMs).

These tools and processes have a critical role to play in assisting Public Bodies fully discharge their responsibilities of ensuring that the best possible value-for-money is obtained whenever public money is being spent or invested.


What changes have been made?

Changes have made to the Code in four main areas during the past two years. They are summarised in the following paragraphs:-

· Quality Assurance Checklists: The quality assurance checklists contained in Section A-04 of the Public Spending Code were updated in early 2018. It is important that quality assurance is undertaken and published to show that the Code is actually being complied with by those that are responsible for public expenditure.

· Post Project Reviews: In March 2018, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a circular on post project reviews. This circular reiterates the requirement that post project reviews should be completed in the case of all large scale public investment projects, including Public Private Partnerships (PPPS) – https://circulars.gov.ie/pdf/circular/per/2018/06.pdf

· Value for Money Review and Focused Policy Assessment Guidelines: In January 2018 the guidelines for these evaluation methodologies were updated. The new guidelines appear as Section C-04 of the Code.

· Technical Parameters for Appraisal: In July 2019, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a circular that updates the central technical references and economic appraisal parameters contained in the Code. Specifically, the Code updates the application of four main parameters, namely the Social Discount Rate, the Shadow Price of Public Funds, the Shadow Price of Labour and the Shadow Price of Carbon – https://assets.gov.ie/20001/35c13bbd055a4a09961a4ec59c93c798.pdf


Will there be more Changes?

As new information and new requirements come to the fore, the Code will need to be updated. Further changes have already been signalled in two sections of the annex to the Climate Action Plan published last June. https://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/Climate%20Action%20Plan%202019%20-%20Annex%20of%20Actions.pdf

First, the requirement to ‘carbon proof’ Government Policy will impact on regulatory impact assessments and project evaluation processes. Specifically, the Climate Action Plan states that – “We will also ensure that all Government memoranda and major investment decisions are subject to a carbon impact and mitigation evaluation, for which a template will be developed. This will be incorporated in Cabinet procedures, in regulatory impact assessments, and in project evaluation processes”.

The second change relates to actions required to reform the Public Spending Code to increase the shadow price of carbon and introduce more robust consideration of climate impacts in project appraisal. Some of the action has already been taken with the circular issued by Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last July (see foregoing section). The scope for further environmental reform that might impact on the Public Spending Code will be examined. The full range of actions published in an annex to the Climate Change Plan is reproduced in Box B.




















The Public Spending Code will continue to be a key document with wide-ranging relevance for the Public Sector. It is important that it continues to encourage a thorough, long-term and analytically approach by Public Bodies to planning, appraisal, evaluation and monitoring of public expenditure. It is also important that the Code is regularly updated to ensure that it contains procedures and processes that are in line with best international practice.

The Code of itself is not a panacea. There is a responsibility on Departments and State Bodies to apply the Code in the course of their work of rolling-out public expenditure. There is also a necessity to have regular reports published to demonstrate that the Code is being full operated. In this way Irish taxpayers can be assured that they are getting real value for money from public expenditure.








Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and blogs regularly for PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

25 Jul, 2019

The Capital Works Management Framework – Breakfast Masterclass

2019-07-25T15:11:07+00:00July 25th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Capital Works Management Framework – Breakfast Masterclass

The Breakfast briefing on the Capital Works Management Framework was held on Wednesday July 24th. William Brown, a construction lawyer and procurement specialist, kept the audience of public sector procurement and construction professionals engaged as he analysed the intricacies of the Capital Works Management Framework.

The session delved into issues such as procurement strategies, instructions to tenderers and requirements for tenders and appropriate contract selection.  Examples including that of BAM vs The National Treasury Management Agency, provided intriguing practical scenarios for the implementation of the Capital Works Management Framework. This case examined if the NTMA had discretion to accept tenders which came in after the stated deadline, as was the case of BAM’s tender application in 2015. An interesting discussion followed on whether the ruling was justified.

Another case cited was the case of MT Hojgaard v  E.ON (2017). MT Højgaard was engaged by E.ON to design, fabricate and install the foundation structures for 60 offshore wind turbines in the Solway Firth. Shortly after completion, connections incorporated within the foundation structures failed. The parties agreed that E.ON would develop a scheme of remedial works, the cost of which amounted to €26 million.

Practical advice was provided for dealing with abnormally low tender offers and what to do in the case where an authority considers the tenderer to be unable to carry out the contract.  An interesting  and helpful analogy was his likening of the procurement process to that of a funnel – when tender applications are received, they are reduced gradually from exclusion criteria at the top of the funnel to award criteria at the bottom.  Details regarding contract selection were also laid out and the differing criteria depending on the cost of the project.

To Conclude, the Breakfast briefing for the Capital Works Management Framework was an intriguing and informative session which would be invaluable to anyone involved in public procurement.

Email education@pai.ie to stay up-to-date on relevant courses and seminars.


Jude Perry, Public Affairs Ireland.

18 Jul, 2019

Brexit: Ireland’s up-dated Contingency Action Plan

2019-07-18T09:06:53+00:00July 18th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Brexit: Ireland’s up-dated Contingency Action Plan

The Government has up-dated its Brexit Contingency Action Plan.


The Plan runs to over a 100 pages and it reflects the extensive whole-of-Government and EU level work which has already taken place, as well as the additional work that will happen between now and 31 October. In particular the Plan recognises that there is now a significant risk of a no deal Brexit on 31 October.

There is no doubt that the consequences of a no deal Brexit will be profound, including macroeconomic, trade and sectoral challenges. Moreover, the Government Statement points out that a no deal Brexit – “… will also have implications for trade on the island of Ireland, North and South cooperation and will pose risks for the Good Friday Agreement and political stability. It could have lasting societal impacts for Northern Ireland”. https://www.dfa.ie/brexit/getting-ireland-brexit-ready/governmentcontingencyactionplan/

While the Government’s extensive preparedness and contingency efforts will help mitigate the negative effects of Brexit, a no deal Brexit will be highly disruptive. In such a scenario, it will be impossible for the UK to maintain the current seamless arrangements with the EU across the full range of sectors and this will have knock-on consequences for Ireland.

The Plan emphasises the need for stepped up preparedness measures, by exposed businesses in particular, as the end date of 31 October approaches. Citizens and businesses cannot assume that because a no deal Brexit was averted in March and April that the same will happen in October – the need for prudent preparations is more pressing than ever.

Key areas for continued work have to include preparing for Budget 2020, additional infrastructure for ports and airports, and a new phase of the Government’s Brexit communications including an intensified engagement programme by Revenue, focussed on individual businesses and including targeted letters and follow-up phone calls.

One thing is certain – there is no shortage in the range and volume of work to be done.

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

9 Jul, 2019

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

2019-07-09T16:17:54+00:00July 9th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

Liz Kearney

I’m always a bit sceptical about quoting statistics and some time ago I came across a very clever comment online that ‘coined’ my thinking. It cited that “64 per cent of statistics are made up”. I often share this with my workshop groups and it never fails to put a grin on their faces. One statistic however that I do think we need to take seriously as I believe it to be very close to reality is this:

50% of the reasons why people go to the doctor are stress related.

Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. Anything from the common cold to chronic pain, not to mention heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many more illnesses can so often be linked to stress in some form or another.  The bad news is that there is now concrete evidence that workplace stress is increasing. Stress when not managed and controlled can be linked to anxiety, depression and eventual burn out. The impact of all of this on the workplace results in unnecessary pressure, hostility, conflict, presentism, poor performance and absenteeism to name just a few.

So what can we do? First of all the good news is that this research is not being ignored and there is already a lot been done.  Many organisations are very aware of the impact of stress and are actively providing support and introducing initiatives to combat these issues. Workplace health information is now widely available to all employees both through internal procedures and the internet.

Whereas this is very positive and reassuring, having spent most of my career in a pressurised financial corporate environment I believe that stress has to be addressed at the source. By this I mean the management of stress, the control of stress and an effort to combat stress has got to start with the individual themselves. This means taking responsibility, gaining some knowledge, understanding implications and culturing a shift in mind-set.  Employees need to become aware of the choices available to them.

The first thing to recognise is that not all stress is bad. Stress is a necessary emotion. Our brains are hardwired in such a way that it is difficult for us to take action until we experience some level of stress. Stress can motivate us and take us out of our comfort zone. In doing so we can create new pathways in our thinking and new patterns in our behaviour thus creating a more positive environment.  On the other end of the scale bad stress even mild bad stress, if left to fester can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing over time.

Combating stress I believe ultimately comes down to two things:

1) Challenging our perception of stress and

2) Our level of resilience.

We create and cultivate our own stressors and it is only until we become aware of our negative responses are we able to change them and take back control. Learning about our survival technique and what negative stress can physiologically do to our body is the first step required to encourage us to learn how to choose a different response and create new pathways and habits. We have a choice.

Building resilience is a day in day out activity that needs to become a habit. It involves actions and activities that will strengthen the mind the body and the soul. If we make these behaviours part of our everyday we will in time strengthen our protection mechanism, create a more positive outlook, maintain equilibrium and bounce back when challenged with adversity. If we all take some responsibility in making this happen a kinder, more respectful, empathetic workplace will ensue. But this wellness will not just be contained to the workplace it will spill over into our personal lives, our relationships and our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. It also will hopefully reduce the number of visits to the GP giving everyone more time to live life to the full.

Liz Kearney will speak at PAI’s Corporate Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard on the 24th September. This event is CPD accredited.


Liz Kearney is a professional trainer and a qualified business coach specialising in well-being in the workplace. She has worked with many Corporates, The Public Sector and SME’s delivering programmes on Stress, Wellbeing and Resilience and has been an associate trainer with Aware for the last 5 years. She is a Qualified Financial Adviser, an accredited DiSC psychometric practitioner and holds a diploma in Psychology, CBT and Emotional Intelligence.


27 Jun, 2019

Blog: Good Governance needed to tackle Climate Change in Ireland

2019-07-02T12:36:25+00:00June 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: Good Governance needed to tackle Climate Change in Ireland

Urgent action is needed if a global climate disaster is to be avoided. Ireland has responded with the Government’s Climate Action Plan. It sets ambitious targets to tackle the many climate challenges.


The Climate Action Plan has been informed by the work of the Citizens Assembly and the work of the Oireachtas All Party Committee on Climate Action, chaired by Hildegarde Naughton, T.D.


Serious challenges

Taking decisive action to confront climate disruption is a major challenge for all parts of society. The message is getting home to people that climate disruption is having wide ranging negative impacts on Ireland’s environment, society, economic and natural resources. This action plan clearly identifies the nature and scale of the challenge. It charts a course towards decarbonisation by 2050, with sub-targets for all sectors of the economy. In simple terms, decarbonisation means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – see Box A.

Box A: What are greenhouse gases?

·         Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. The most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Other greenhouse gases comprise so-called F-Gases, a wide variety of man-made gases used in various applications, such as refrigeration and air conditioning. Collectively these greenhouse gases are the subject of international agreements.

·         Different greenhouse gases have different atmospheric characteristics, including global warming potentials (GWP). This is a measure of the cumulative warming of a gas over a specified time period, usually 100 years. This is expressed relative to carbon dioxide (CO2) which has a GWP of 1.

·         The amount emitted of any greenhouse gas multiplied by its GWP gives the equivalent emission of the gas as carbon dioxide. This is known as CO2 equivalent. This makes it easier to sum up the emissions and contribution of greenhouse gases to climate change and determine options to address climate change.

Source information: Climate Action Plan, June 2019


The climate change plan covers every relevant sector in Ireland: electricity, enterprise, housing, heating, transport, agriculture, waste, and the public sector. It sets out over 180 actions, together with hundreds of sub-actions, that need to be taken over the coming years and decades. The targets are ambitious to say the least. But, if achieved, the overall result will be a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future for the Irish people. John FitzGerald, Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, responded to the climate change plan at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight. He noted that – “Ireland has set itself a binding target to decarbonise by 2050, with key milestones along the way. The All of Government Plan… crystallises the sectoral challenges for 2030. Failure to reach these milestones will have multiple adverse consequences” www.climatecouncil.ie/media/Budgetary%20Oversight%20Committee%20Oireachtas%20Statement%20John%20FitzGerald%2018.06.2019.pdf


It would be very easy to suggest that there are no threats from climate change for Ireland. But it is not possible to stop the world and let Ireland off. A new paper from the International Monetary Fund points out that – “As the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is projected to increase over time with climate change, the economic and social impact of disasters can also be expected to increasehttps://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2019/06/24/Building-Resilience-in-Developing-Countries-Vulnerable-to-Large-Natural-Disasters-47020


Governance Structures

Taking decisive action to confront climate disruption is a major challenge to every sector of our society. It is Government that has to ensure cohesion and co-ordination as between climate change work in the different sectors. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, recognised the lead responsibility of Government at the launch of the Climate Change plan. He said that the Government – “… will work with people, industry and communities to chart the best and most inclusive way forward. A way forward that is both effective and sensible. One that achieves our targets, and in a way that is thought through and considered, supports employment and living standards and enables a just transition.” https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/news-and-media/press-releases/Pages/Giving-Ireland-a-Sustainable-Future.aspx


The Government has an important central role to play in tackling climate change. That role is described in Chapter 5 of the plan, which is entitled ‘Governance of the Challenge’. It sets out a new set of governance arrangements and how progress on the roll-out of the plan will be tracked. Progress on target achievements will be monitored on a regular basis and the results published. Specifically, the Plan will be monitored quarterly and updated annually, with a Climate Action Plan 2020 published in early 2020. It also gives a commitment that new actions would be added each year as needed. There are a series of other initiatives that are being introduced. These include a Climate Action Delivery Board that will be set-up within the Department of An Taoiseach, which will hold each department and public body accountable for the delivery of actions set out in the Climate Action Plan. As regards carbon-proofing, the plans states that all Government memoranda and major investment decisions will be subject to a carbon impact and mitigation evaluation, for which a template will be developed. This will be incorporated in Cabinet procedures, in regulatory impact assessments, and in project evaluation processes. The main governance actions are summarised in Box B.













Other initiatives

The Plan also announced the establishment of a new Climate Action Council. This will be a successor to the Climate Change Advisory Council. It will have additional powers to, in particular:

  • Recommend to Government the appropriate five-year Carbon Budgets;
  • Monitor the progress of the State in reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions reporting, and
  • Provide policy evaluation advice to the Government, based on best available science

Other important initiatives are planned:

  1. The establishment of a Standing Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas on Climate Action, to hold Ministers and public bodies accountable for their actions to deliver our climate targets.
  2. The establishment of a Climate Action Office, within the Oireachtas, to provide robust advice and evidence to the Standing Committee regarding the impact of particular policy decisions on our decarbonisation and climate action objectives.
  3. The introduction of a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, which will introduce a requirement on Government to propose carbon budgets for three five-year periods.

Meeting the Challenges

The Climate Change Plan is rightly ambitious. It comes with new and expanded governance arrangements. It is now necessary to ensure that the new arrangements are fully and quickly implemented. In particular, it means the public sector needs to increase its expertise to service the different committees, councils and offices that are being set-up in line with the Climate Change Plan. Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, highlighted the need for early action on the Climate Change Plan. He puts the challenge well – “We have a short window of opportunity to act. We must act now and leave a better, healthier, more sustainable Ireland for future”. https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/news-and-media/press-releases/Pages/Giving-Ireland-a-Sustainable-Future.aspx




Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

27 May, 2019

Blog: European Commission did improve Better Regulation, in the years 2015 through 2018

2019-05-27T12:22:25+00:00May 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Blog: European Commission did improve Better Regulation, in the years 2015 through 2018


The European Commission set itself ambitious targets in 2015 to improve Better Regulation over a four year period. My blog of May 2015 summarised those challenges https://www.pai.ie/1765-delivering-better-regulation-at-eu-level/  at the end of 2018, the Commission took stock of performance, which included wide consultation. Overall the results are positive for Better Regulation. However, the Commission admits that there is more work that needs to be done. Specifically, it states that – “… there is room for further improvement and we have identified areas which should be explored in a wider debate on future improvements. These will depend on a stronger shared effort by all those involved in designing and implementing policy solutions”. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/better-regulation-taking-stock_en_0.pdf  .


Wide consultation

The consultation process was quite wide ranging. The stocktaking exercise focused on the years 2015 through 2018, and relied upon a mixture of evidence. The European Commission used external assessments (from the OECD and the European Court of Auditors), reports from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and a broad range of consultation activities. These included:

  • interviews and meetings to consult Commission staff working in a range of different departments and functions, including better regulation support staff, senior managers and members of Commissioners’ political teams,
  • a public consultation of all external stakeholders,
  • targeted consultation meetings with the administrative secretariats of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee,
  • an opinion from the Platform of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT),
  • discussion in the Competitiveness and Growth Working Party of the Council (better regulation).


Lessons learned

The European Commission concluded that there are positive and negative lessons to be learnt from the stocktaking. They are summarised in Box 1:

Box 1: European Commission

‘Better Regulation at the heart of policy making: ‘What we’ve learnt’

• The concept of better regulation is univocally supported and should remain at the heart of our decision-making processes for the future

• In a ‘post-fact’ world of fake news, the rationale for evidence-based regulation is only growing stronger.

• Better regulation supports political decision-making but it does not substitute it.


• The public and stakeholders would like to be even more engaged in EU policymaking and get better feedback.

• There is still room for improvement when it comes to the way we design and evaluate EU policies.

• There is a clear need for better communication and awareness, raising opportunities for citizens to participate in EU policymaking.

• Better regulation needs to be a shared effort of all those involved in designing and implementing policy solutions.

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/br_factsheet_en.pdf


Shared efforts

Better Regulation cannot be created in a vacuum. The recent EU stocktaking exercise shows that better regulation must be a shared effort. As the tools and processes deployed by the Commission improve, further advances increasingly should focus upon improvements the Commission can facilitate but not ensure by itself. As the Commission put it – “… the stocktaking clearly showed that the quality of evaluation depends on a shared understanding with the co-legislators and Member States on when best to evaluate, which indicators and frameworks to use for measuring performance, and how to efficiently collec