JJ Rhatigan & Company’s Managing Director Padraic Rhatigan talks about the company’s projects and expansion, construction’s challenges, Ireland 2040 and safety in construction, an industry in which he says you can have a rewarding career bringing plans to reality.
Padraic Rhatigan is the second-generation leader of JJ Rhatigan & Company (JJR). The company currently has over 480 employees across Ireland and the UK. This is an increase of approximately 22% on 2016. Group turnover in 2017 accumulated to approximately €240m.
JJR has its Headquarters in Galway. They have fully serviced and self-contained regional offices in Dublin, Cork, Sligo and London. “In the past year alone, we have relocated to new, larger and higher specification offices in both Cork and Dublin,” Padraic tells us. “One of the benefits of the ‘Celtic Tiger years’ has been the investment in our roads and general infrastructure. Therefore, access throughout Ireland is not as much of an issue as it was in the past.”
Dublin is generally regarded as out-performing the rest of the Irish market. However, Padraic says they now see “green shoots” in regional Ireland and believes that this will accelerate over the coming years. Their London office has been a resounding success and they have a strong order book with a high-level of repeat business in the Greater London Area.
Recently completed Projects in Ireland include the Garda Headquarters in Kevin Street, Dublin; the Regional and Divisional Garda Headquarters in Galway City; Phase 1 of the Charlemont Regeneration Project on behalf of McGarrell Reilly; and 14 Primary Care Centres throughout Ireland as part of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the NDFA / HSE.
Ongoing Projects in Ireland include Lansdowne Place Luxury Residential Development, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4; Student Accommodation for NUI Galway; Gardens International Office Development in Limerick; New Business School at Trinity College Dublin; The National Forensic Mental Health Service Hospital at Portrane in North Dublin; The Maldron Hotel and UCC Student Hub in Cork.
“We believe it is critical to be a participant in most sectors of the construction industry,” he says. “Throughout the recession, the public sector was the main source of work for general building contractors. From our perspective, participation in Education, Healthcare, Local Authority and OPW Projects was critical. While these remain an important element of our client base, in more recent times there has been an uplift in the volume of work in Commercial, Residential, Retail and Hospitality. We would like to think that we have a presence in all of these markets.”
The general consensus appears to be that resources will be a challenge as we go forward Padraic says, but he is sceptical. “I’m not convinced of this, as Ireland has become a much more attractive location for people to work in and many of our emigrants from the years of recession are now getting the opportunity to return.”
“I believe that the current labour shortage is a challenge rather than a show stopper! We need to take a long-term view to encourage and engage with students and recent graduates to ensure they are confident when entering the industry. Ireland continues to excel in the education, training and delivery of highly skilled and motivated professionals in the construction sector,” he says positively. “This is acknowledged throughout the world.”
Are we are doing enough to encourage women to enter the industry? Padraic notes “There is always room for improvement. This is very topical at present and we are all aware that women are equally capable when it comes to production, management and straight-talking.”
On the topic of finance and funding, he says: “This will always be a challenge and we need to be mindful of the necessity to get a balance between an efficient supply of development and funding for it, and the commercial reality. During the Celtic Tiger years, we saw the problems and inflation which easy access to funding caused. During the recession, we saw the difficulty with the absence of funding. At the end of the day, there needs to be a reasonable and commercial balance.”
Public procurement has its challenges also, however as Padraic says: we must remember that when Local Authorities and Government Bodies are procuring projects, they are spending tax-payers money. “We have to be respectful of this fact and mindful of their obligations to Central Government,” he adds “It is always important for this to be both vigilant and practical.”
In general, Padraic believes professional engagement between all parties, including Clients, Design Teams, Statutory Bodies, Funders, Local Authorities, etc., is critical for the ongoing challenges which we all face. On client relationships, he says, as the market recovers, “I believe that people with track records and integrity will benefit. Ultimately trust is the most important ingredient in a commercial relationship.”
Aiming for Zero Accidents
“Safety is always on the top of the agenda when we are reviewing a project, or the performance of a particular Region. Quality comes next and then Programme,” he says. “We usually find that if all of these items are being addressed professionally, the commercial side works its way through to everyone’s satisfaction.”
Safety, Health and Welfare is the priority of JJR in relation to each place of work, materials, equipment, plant and machinery. “We have undertaken several initiatives companywide in the past 12 months in our goal to target ZERO incidents and ZERO injuries which include participating fully in the Construction Safety Week each year,” he informs us. “We were delighted with the high-level of participation by all of our Irish construction sites and offices in the CIF Construction Safety Week 2017.” They have plans to build on this in 2018, spreading the positive safety culture and practices. Telling us more, he says: “Specifically, we aim to engage with ‘Theatre at Work’ and undertake ‘Behavioural Safety’ Seminars across our sites. We also plan to work with Pieta House and highlight Mental Health awareness companywide.”
JJR has an Exemplary Safety Compliance record for 2017 with a total of 3,397,516 Hours Worked, 26 HSA visits with ZERO Dangerous Occurrences and ZERO Convictions under H&S Law. 2017 was another excellent year for JJR with regards to Health & Safety, obtaining outstanding results from their Safe-T-Cert audit. All JJR UK projects implemented the Considerate Constructors Scheme enhancing their ‘Zero Philosophy’ – Zero Accidents/Zero Incidents. Last year also saw JJR as a finalist in the NISO/NISG, All-Ireland Occupational Safety Quiz Final 2017 representing the West in the Novice Category.
Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework
Every business needs a long-term plan, as well as short-term objectives Padraic says while we talk of Ireland 2040. He welcomes the plan, saying: “Traditionally the Government policy appeared to be more short-term (2/3 years). I believe the objective of having a 20 Year National Plan is a very positive step and one which should be encouraged and supported. I would have to say that confidence in our Industry and in our country is what will facilitate the delivery of our infrastructure. Obviously, a stable Government will be critical in this regard also.”
Padraic praises the 10-year €116 billion National Development Plan and the investments and projects proposed and gives a personal view as a Galway man. “When you review the projects included in this National Development Plan, it is very hard to discount any of them. From a selfish perspective, as a Galway person, I believe the development of the ring-road and transport infrastructure around our city is absolutely critical for our continued development.”
In order to attract international companies and help companies that are based here to develop, he thinks we need to continue to express confidence in our economy and be confident that international companies will see the positive attributes of an Irish base.
Companies expect value and by embracing new and innovative technologies and techniques, JJR are continually striving to increase investment efficiency, delivering greater value to national and international clients and exceed overall client satisfaction. “We always have to be mindful of ‘Setting Standards’ which has been the JJR philosophy for over 25 years,” Padraic says. “The day we stop trying to improve we go backwards.”
Experience & Outlook
As Padraic reflects on his career and experience in construction he notes that he was “born with building and construction in his blood. I never contemplated any other career or profession. I have met some fantastic people throughout the years. Ironically this has been the case even more so over the last 10 years and throughout the recent recession. When you are involved in an Industry that takes raw materials like timber, steel, glass, sand, concrete, etc., and get an opportunity to engage with others in the creation of a place where people can work, live, be educated and have their health looked after, it is a rewarding profession.” Concluding confidently, Padraic states “We look to the future with a very positive frame of mind.”
The content of this site is subject to copyright laws and may not be reproduced in any form without the prior consent of the publishers. The views expressed in articles do not necessarily represent those of the publishers. This article first appeared in the ‘Leaders in Construction’ issue of Irish building magazine June 2018.