Building Control Act 2007 and Registration of the Title Architect: Discussion

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht Debate

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Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The meeting is in public session. We will discuss the Building Control Act 2007 and the registration of the title of “architect”. I welcome, on behalf of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, Ms Michelle Fagan, president, Ms Grainne Shaffrey, vice president, and Mr. John Graby, registrar. I welcome on behalf of Architects’ Alliance of Ireland, Ms Margaret Kirwan, chairperson, Mr. Brian Montaut and Mr. Anthony Collins, SC, expert in European law. I thank the witnesses for their attendance.

Before we commence proceedings, I will go through some of the formal requirements to which witnesses must adhere when they appear before Oireachtas committees. I draw witnesses' attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if witnesses are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. The opening statements the witnesses have submitted to the committee will be published on the committee’s website after this meeting.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

The issue to be raised today was raised at a previous Oireachtas committee of which I was a member, so I know some of the personalities here today. Some of the committee members may also have been members of that Oireachtas committee. The issue under consideration has been raised by a number of members of this committee and by a number of Members of the Houses, including the Tánaiste. We can see by the large attendance in the public gallery that it is an issue of some public concern, which I can understand. There are two substantive issues to which I wish to draw attention, namely, the grandfather clause and the liability which will attach to architects. These are very important issues and I ask the witnesses to address them. In regard to the grandfather clause, the specific issue of experience gained outside Ireland has been raised and I ask the witnesses to address this also as part of their presentations. I call on Mr. Montaut to make his opening address to the committee.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I thank the Chairman and committee for giving us time to make our presentation. I am not specifically prepared in regard to the certification issue, which the Chairman just mentioned. However, I would be very glad answer questions on what might be our position in that regard. I can revert to that but for the time being, I have a paper I wish to present which has solely to do with the question of a grandfather clause or the inclusion of a grandfather clause in Irish law.

Our desired outcome of the hearing is that we succeed in presenting a good case for granting us equal treatment under the law with our fellow construction professionals. We believe failure to do that, as is the present position, means fewer architects on the State register of architects and fewer architects in the market. That means less choice, less diversity and less innovation. Put plainly, it means a closed shop. We hope for a decision by the committee to request the Minister’s formal consideration of the solutions we have tabled in this paper and for its support for early implementation.

Since the last hearing new information has arisen. It is from the European Union and it has direct bearing on the discussions which took place in 2010. The European Union Commissioner has said there is no impediment under European Union law to the making of a grandfather clause for architects in Ireland. The Commissioner wrote, “In other words, the directive does not prohibit Member States from granting access to the profession of architect on their own territory to persons whose qualifications do not meet the Article 46 requirements”.

I refer to the directive and the Building Control Act. It should be understood that the directive is concerned with facilitating access for migrant professionals within the EU. The directive is not about the raising of barriers to shelter chosen professions or professional bodies. Its inclusive intent is shown in the following extract from clause 28 of the preamble: “With a view to simplifying this Directive, reference should be made to the concept of ‘architect’ in order to delimit the scope of the provisions relating to the automatic recognition of the qualifications in the field of architecture, without prejudice to the special features of the national regulations governing those activities”. On the other hand, section 2(3) of the Act establishes that, “A word or expression used in Part 3, 4, 5 or 7 and which is also used in the Directive has the same meaning in that Part as it has in the Directive.” As regards the spirit of the Directive and its transposition into Irish law, the relevant word in the Act is ‘architect’.

I will now comment on the significance of the EC statement. We have but a small voice, yet we have fought hard and long. We have argued for effective regulation, for equality, justice and plain ordinary decent treatment under the law. Behind those important principles lies one cold hard fact, that we have been robbed of our livelihood. The Commissioner’s statement shows how that can be lawfully remedied.

We contend that standards cannot be achieved if there is no competition. The current registration regime promised high standards for consumers through its favouring of school-trained architects whose performance in the real world is warranted by continuous professional development, CPD programmes. It promised adherence to building standards and professional codes. Above all it promised safe hands, effective redress and professional sanctions to guard against failure. The current, highly publicised building failures show otherwise and are a warning that fine words are not always matched by fine deeds. The Alliance supports regulation that safeguards the public and secures the public interest, regulation which is effective.

The registration of architects is a new arrangement but it was introduced without the benefit of a regulatory impact study. Inevitably that failure led to registration being gifted to the dominant representative body and to the marginalising, in fact criminalising, of their competitors. Restoring competition is central to achieving standards, both regulatory and professional. Ideally an entirely new registration system such as this one should start by creating a level playing field. It is not difficult to achieve, provided vested interests are ignored. It is simple enough. Everyone should be equally and anonymously examined according to the new standards. That is not what we have in the Act. Baccalaureate-style architects’ register admission examinations exist. They are completed over a few days at official centres and the charges are modest. A transparent arrangement such as this would secure the public good and consumer interests. If we are past the point where that is feasible then a different approach is needed but it should be one that makes optimum use of proven skills already in the market or profession. Encouraging competition and diversity are surely more certain ways of achieving standards than the current arrangement.

The grandfather clause is very important to us. There is nothing exceptional about our request for a grandfather clause to be added to the Act. Indeed there are examples in Ireland and beyond of grandfather provisions which apply to an already-defined and finite body of practitioners. The qualifying measure is usually that of tenure or longevity in making one’s living in a particular field. Evidence of successful prior establishment is the proof demanded. Grandfather clauses are inherently self-extinguishing, though often there is a cut-off date for applications of two or three years. A transition period operates meanwhile. Several member states introduced grandfather clauses for architects as a matter of natural justice. Clearly their major professional bodies did not howl in rage. It must be remembered that we are talking about disenfranchised professionals, who practised successfully and safely and entirely within the law of the day. However, we actually need look no further than the Act itself and the directive for grandfather provisions. Parts 4 and 5 of the technical assessment procedures for surveyors would be acceptable models for a Part 3 technical assessment or grandfather clause for architects. Already in Part 3, there are 179 acquired-rights architects identified as being eligible for both automatic registration and automatic rights under the Directive. They qualified for inclusion in the Minister’s list on the strength of five years' establishment.

We believe the European Commission statement makes it clear that a standard grandfather clause for Ireland’s architects would be entirely compatible with European law. The grandfather clause is a readily-achieved, uncomplicated solution and it might read as follows:

This is our preferred solution and its' justice is plain for all to see. We lobbied very successfully towards that solution both before and after the first hearing in May 2010, only to be presented with a legal obstacle. Our allies, the media and also Government were informed that such a solution was inconceivable and was not permitted by European law. That mistaken but influential opinion held sway until February 2012, when it was swept aside by the European Commissioner with the new information.

That experience has taught us to be cautious. Many of us are of an age when two further years of delay would be like ten years to a younger person. Therefore we are also tabling an alternative solution. It is intended to answer a genuine legal obligation which may be found for architect grandfathers to demonstrate more than prior establishment in order to be registered in the State. The solution has two parts, because it deals with qualifications. The first part, labelled B1, would provide for registration of those with relevant third level qualifications or accreditation by relevant established professional bodies - subject to providing evidence of having made their livings as architects for five years prior to the Act. The second part, labelled B2 of this solution, is for those of us without academic qualifications or accreditations of that kind and it would provide registration for those who pass or have passed the post-graduate written examination for architects conducted by UCD - subject to providing evidence of having made their living as architects for ten years prior to the Act.

For this two-tier proposal to succeed we would require simple assurances that the purpose, scope and cost of the post-graduate written examination would not deviate and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI, would continue to have no involvement in the setting or making of the examinations or in any appeals. These academically-directed solutions are not the solutions we prefer. We believe the argument for a standard grandfather clause and equal treatment with surveyors is well made. We believe it is not warranted to make these demands unless it resolves a genuine legal issue for the registration of grandfather architects in the State. We table it for that purpose.

In our view an amendment to the Building Control Act 2007 is unavoidable, irrespective of our plea for a grandfather clause to be added. There are several impediments to the due operation of the Act as it stands. One is financial in so far as the RIAI is proposing to engross its own private membership charge within the statutory registration fee. The Minister has so far declined to prescribe a registration fee. Another is the absence of a permanent mature entry route called the PRAE. The Minister has so far declined to prescribe the sole privately run examination which has been recommended by the RIAI for that purpose. Other defects in the Act are profound and explain the Minister’s reluctance to appoint members to the professional conduct committee and, we understand, to the appeals board. In spite of all the claims and assurances, the Act provides no means for actual redress for consumers. Instead, it deals ineffectually with the chastising of wayward architects. We are aware the European Ombudsman is investigating a complaint concerning Part 3 of the Act because of its failure to consistently recognise periods of work undertaken in other member states.

The Act requires amending provisions, which makes the addition of a grandfather clause in Part 3 rather less troublesome than it seems.

Mr. John Graby:  I understand the joint committee wishes to discuss the Bill in its totality and the regulations later and I will be pleased to do so. I will give some background information on our position. We have provided a detailed submission for Deputies and Senators and I wish to flesh out the issues raised in it.

This is a separate independent statutory system. Our submission confirms that the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI, has no role whatsoever in the decision made by the admissions board or the technical assessment board. The boards follow the model recommended by the Competition Authority in its report. Consumer protection and the public interest are at the heart of any registration system. It is important that all architects on the register be assessed to a minimum required standard of competence in order that consumers can be assured that there is independent, third party confirmation of standards.

Let us consider the history. Some 48 young people died in the Stardust tragedy and 214 were injured. This led to the introduction of building regulations which will be discussed later. Current problems with building standards have resulted in new proposals to strengthen building standards. The registration of architects, engineers, building surveyors, contractors and subcontractors will be a key building block in the new system.

People are still confused. Some two and a half years after the register was drawn up, people continue to question the competence and qualifications of architects. I heard no reference to consumer interests in Mr. Montaut’s presentation, although perhaps there was. The impression has been given that somehow this appeared from nowhere and that a guillotine came down in November 2009. However, this issue has been under discussion since the architects directive was implemented in Ireland in 1988. In 1998 the forum for the construction industry recommended that the Government accept that there should be registration of architects and surveyors. In 1999 a group was formed with the RIAI and four other bodies representing architects without formal qualifications. A framework was agreed and brought forward. The mechanisms in that framework for technical assessment are exactly the same as those in the Act; there is no difference. This is not new or a surprise. Four categories were affected, the first of which was architects with qualifications who did not take professional practice examinations. Such persons might have 20 or 30 years' experience and they must meet the professional practice standard to get on the register. Second, architects with qualifications who do not meet the professional practice standard must be assessed also. The third category is those who chose conscientiously not to use the title knowing what was involved and coming along. The fourth element is the alliance. The reality is that the alliance is seeking a special privilege, that is, recognition on the register without, it appears, any test or competence. This may apply to architects with qualifications and those who chose not to use the title. They are now coming forward because the option is available. Since 1999 the title has been used by people who clearly knew this was coming. Mr. Montaut’s presentation appears to suggest the alliance wants the entire system to be dismantled to suit their needs.

Reference was made to a closed shop. This is not a closed shop. Some 2,700 architects are on the register. If committee members want to see competition, they should put 2,700 architects in one room and watch what happens. They compete all the time. Activity is at an all-time low. Since November 2009 a total of 319 architects have been newly admitted to the register. Some 61 people are in the process of going through grandfather schemes, while 31 have been through the two systems. The pass rate is over 85%. By comparison, the pass rate is between 70 and 75% for the professional practice examination for graduates. There are 11 routes to registration, four of which are grandfather schemes for those with experience but without listed qualifications. Mr. Montaut referred to the Minister’s list. This is now closed, but those involved were assessed under Article 3 of the architects directive. This is the same as Article 46. Some two thirds have passed the technical assessment referred to. This involves an initial examination and a degree of distinguished practice. There are four grandfather routes and the figures speak for themselves. This is not a closed shop. It is disappointing that the alliance appears to be suggesting there is some kind of discrimination. The system is working and providing assistance and opportunities for architects to move forward if they do not have listed formal qualifications.

Reference was made to EU Commissioner Barnier. This is a complex legal matter. I note that Mr. Anthony Collins, SC, is present. I would not cross swords with any senior counsel unless I really had to, but his answer has been misinterpreted to some degree. He has pointed out that a member state need not legislate for architects, but 25 of the 27 do so. There is no requirement for the State to have a lower standard for a particular grouping. He did not comment on the Building Control (Amendment) Bill produced by former Deputy John O’Donoghue or on the opinion of Mr. Gerard Hogan which was accepted by the Attorney General of the day. He stated member states could decide to have a lower minimum standard but that would not mean automatic recognition in the rest of Europe. Still, one could not have a given standard for one group on the register and another standard for another group. Why should Irish citizens be asked to accept a lower standard than the European minimum standard? That is not the highest standard, it is simply the minimum standard throughout Europe.

The alliance has referred from time to time to the term “acquired rights”. This has a special, specific and limited meaning. It was used when the 1985 architects directive came into play. Any architect who had been assessed to a relevant standard in his or her home member state was included in the directive through “acquired rights”, but it has no application today. Let us suppose we changed or lowered the standard. As registrar, often I have to sign letters of confirmation for architects who are seeking work in the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia and so on. I am obliged to confirm that such individuals are on the register and of good standing because that is expected throughout the world.

Another relevant point is the export of architectural services. It may not be immediately apparent, but 30% of the turnover of Irish practices is in the export market. Pages 14 and 15 of my submission provide a range of examples. Let us consider three of them. There is a Cork practice carrying out major work in China. A west of Ireland practice is working with one of the major retail chains in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Portugal. A Dublin practice is carrying out 11 major hospital refurbishments in Saudi Arabia. A change in the standards would have a major impact on the prospects of Irish architects seeking work throughout the world and it would certainly impact on the significant job creation taking place. Architects in the United Kingdom and the United States are the competitors and would be the first to suggest not putting a given practice from Ireland on a short list were there to be lower standards here which did not meet the EU minimum standard. A focus on exports is part of the national recovery plan. The work is being done here and jobs are being maintained and created. Do we want to damage this process?

Reference has been made to a higher standard for architects than for quantity surveyors and I understand why this was said. The system of technical assessment used for chartered surveyors, building surveyors and quantity surveyors is not on the website. However, one can find an appendix with the full details. There is a list of standards and competencies. It is a rigorous system. There is no standard at European level for building or quantity surveyors and if there was, it would be used. This is the equivalent of what we are doing in terms of the Building Control Act.

The changing regulatory environment is relevant also. Since 1990 there has been considerable change in the practice of architecture. It is not enough to get onto the register and meet the standard. Architects must also stay up to date. This is done through monitoring and continuing professional development. The process is about developing skills and competencies to meet the ever-changing challenges of the practice of architecture and continuing to provide professional architects to service the consumer and protect the public interest.

Some comments have been made about the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan. A regulatory impact assessment was carried out when the Bill was published by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. It has been alleged that the Minister has not agreed to any charge. I can furnish the committee with a letter, dated July 2011, stating the Minister has approved in writing all registration charges. This is a fact. It has been alleged that he has declined to prescribe courses. This is not true. It is a complex and lengthy process which has included agreement and discussion with the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC, and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, NQAI. It has been concluded and the information has gone to the Minister. I understand a statutory instrument has been drafted and is with the Minister for signature. It is imminent. It is alleged that the Minister has been reluctant to appoint non-architects to the professional conduct committee and the appeals board. This is not true. In an answer to a parliamentary question of 3 May he confirmed that the nominations were in hand and that he expected the matter to be finalised in the near future. Our understanding is that this will happen presently. There is no doubt about this.

Reference was made to a complaint. This is true, but as matter of clarification, the Commission has rejected the complaint and the complainant has gone to the European Ombudsman and made the case that the Commission was wrong. Let us see how that case proceeds.

The system is working and there are four grandfather schemes. Some 31 people have gone through the system. We held a briefing session in January and a good deal of help was given to technical assessment candidates. Some 47 people turned up, of whom the great majority stated they had stopped working on their applications because another Bill had been published under which the process appeared to be easier. This view is completely understandable. However, from our contacts, it appears that between 30 and 40 of this group of 47 are working on their applications. The numbers are increasing and people are getting on to the register through this standard. The system is working and the grandfather systems are being catered for.

If the joint committee has time, Ms Fagan and Ms Shaffrey will briefly discuss some of the impact of unqualified architects working in certain areas.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The issues they wish to raise may be discussed during questions.

Mr. John Graby:  That is fine.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  I thank both delegations for their presentations. Having read the documentation supplied, it has been worthwhile to listen to the various arguments. The key issue is that standards are in place and the public interest is protected. It is important that construction is of good quality. Unfortunately, some of the construction in this State has been of very poor quality.

On the examination, it appears from the documentation that the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, RIAI, has a certain amount of control over content and assessment.

Anyone can lawfully establish an organisation and maintain members. Questions arise, however, when the organisation in question is a professional body. There has been considerable scrutiny of other professions in this regard.

On the European Commissioner, when the joint committee first examined this matter last year it found a delay in respect of one issue. From my reading of the documentation provided by both organisations, there no longer appears to be a stumbling block in terms of licensing or registering people to carry out work on projects, provided they are carried out exclusively in this State.

Is it correct that RIAI members signed off on many of the high profile projects, notably in Dublin, that are making headlines for all the wrong reasons? I understand there are a few such projects in my constituency.

We do not want people working in architecture who are not technically qualified. On the other hand, if people can produce evidence, namely, a portfolio of work, and satisfy a technical assessment, on what basis would the RIAI object to their admission to the profession? I understand the reason the RIAI does not want this to become an ongoing issue with people seeking admission in the long term. However, if there is a sunset clause, what would be the RIAI’s problem with that? Why should any professional body control access to a profession? This question applies to all professional bodies. Self-regulation raises many questions about access and how professions are run.

Mr. John Graby:  There is a frequent and fundamental misunderstanding at work about which we must be very clear. The technical assessment board consists of a majority of non-architects who are nominated by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the chair is required to be a junior counsel. The admission board has a majority of non-architects and the chair is a senior counsel. In terms of the technical assessment, the board sets the standard and acts in accordance with the provisions of the Act. For example, it interviews and appoints the expert assessors and comes to its own view without any input at any time from the RIAI. It has re-interviewed candidates and holds the transcripts of interviews. It has examined submissions and has, from time to time, sought additional information. It is completely independent.

The Deputy makes a valid point about professions controlling access. The RIAI does not control access to the register. The independent admissions board, chaired by a senior counsel and with a majority of non-architects, works to the standards set out in the Act. It is for this reason that we frequently refer to the fundamental foundation of standards, namely, Article 46. The RIAI did not write the Act or Article 46. The boards are very careful to work exactly within the Act. One of the chairpersons, Mr. Richard Humphreys, who may be known to some members, always states clearly that the board is a creature of statutes and does what is in the statute.

As to recent high profile building failures, there is no doubt that on any register in any profession or any group in society there are people who do not always meet the right standards. The reason for having a benchmark is that an architect or other professional can be evaluated against a defined standard and if he or she does not meet that standard, he or she can be found wanting. That is the way the system works.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  What happens if he or she is found wanting?

Mr. John Graby:  There are two problems. First, as I noted, the Minister has not yet appointed the professional conduct committee. The status of the professional conduct committee in the Act is completely independent of the RIAI. The majority of members are non-architects and it, too, has a lawyer as chairperson. It has the powers, rights and privileges of a High Court judge in terms of demanding attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. I hope the committee will be in operation in the next few months. While we have not yet received a complaint, if complaints are made, they will be investigated by this independent body which will come to its conclusions without any input from the RIAI. I may be labouring this point but it is vital to get across that this process is not in any sense being manipulated by the RIAI and is entirely independent.

I would also say-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I am conscious that most members wish to address questions to the delegations. I ask Mr. Graby to explain the assessment process. What is the average duration of an assessment and how much will it cost the applicant?

Mr. John Graby:  On the technical assessment, we have detailed testimonies from a number of people who have been through the process. From what we know, if someone is in full-time work, it will take approximately six months to prepare an application if one works some evenings and at weekends. Most people found they needed to take off a week at the end to correlate everything. The cost is currently €4,500. It was initially assessed by forensic accountants as costing €6,500. As the registration body, we are required to submit to the Minister full details of all costs for his approval and such approval has been given. I accept and understand the reason people will be concerned about the cost, which is a considerable amount nowadays. However, it equates to the cost of most postgraduate courses and is a statutory requirement. The RIAI would be glad to work with the joint committee or the Department of Education and Skills or the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on providing some form of grant support to those who need it because none is currently available.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  To summarise, the maximum cost would be €7,000 and a full-time employee would need about one year of-----

Mr. John Graby:  The figures available to us indicate a timeframe of between four and a half and six months.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  -----additional study time.

Mr. John Graby:  Study is on a part-time basis.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Must applicants submit one portfolio or a series of portfolios?

Mr. John Graby:  It is one portfolio.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  One matter needs to be cleared up. Mr. Graby is correct that the institute’s involvement in the processes is strictly in accordance with the Act. To that extent, the registration body is independent of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland. However, we have to look into the past and realise that the Act was written to suit the institute. There was a time when the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as it was known at the time, proposed that the academic standard in the Act would be the European standard. The institute succeeded in having that improved in order that the standard in the Act is its membership standard. Everything in the Act is designed to suit the institute. Therefore, it is easy for it to say all we are doing is implementing the law. It does not need to do anything more than that.

As regards the assessment, it is very telling that one never hears of the technical assessment panel. The technical assessment panel is the group that carries out the detailed assessment of candidates. That panel is made up of three institute architects alone. They carry out the assessment, the interview and decide who is in and who is out. They give an opinion to the board. The board is, as Mr. Graby described, made up of more lay people than architects, by a majority of one. One can imagine the difficulty with which such a board may be faced in overturning a decision made by three registered architects. Whether one accepts there is a difficulty, the assessment is undertaken by three architects, selected by the institute. There is no demand for them to have proper training in carrying out such assessments; the one demand is that they are registered architects. We are demanding something different in the Act because we insist that what is in it is unreasonable.

Mr. John Graby:  May I respond?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  No. I call Deputy Clare Daly.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly  Zoom on Clare Daly  We have to step back a little and consider what is the purpose of this discussion. The surrounding issues have been discussed at length previously. The committee will adjudicate next week in the absence of the delegations on its conclusions. Improvements in standards are critical, that is something to which we would all sign up. The problem is that in doing that and in changing to a new system of standards, a small group of people who, up to now, had been acting as architects has been left outside the loop. These are people who carried out their duties safely and in a professional manner; self-taught people with acquired skills. This is a very small group of people who, because of natural attrition, will get smaller and retire from active life. Is there a mechanism by which we can assist those people who have been lawfully and professionally practising to continue to do so within the confines of new legislation? That is the reason for the meeting. Up to this time we had been told that it was unlawful to do that and that it was contrary to EU law for the State to legislate to give these people that route. That is the change. The EU, which was against the proposal, has now said it is not a problem and can be facilitated. It is clear cut that it is possible for the State to do that. I do not see why that would be a problem. I have no problem with it. It is in line with equal treatment which happened with other fellow construction professionals and is entirely lawful. We can debate the broader issues of the Act, which establishes the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland as the sole registration body and competent authority in the State, and there are problems with that, but the big show in town is that we can proceed. I would like to hear opinions on that matter.

We have heard about the cost of the technical assessment submissions which is severe enough in the current economic climate when people may not get the same level of work as heretofore. What is the cost of making an appeal? Perhaps I did not pick up the point about the admissions board and whether there is a majority of architects. Either way, I presume all architects involved are members of the institute already which proves the point that was being made. It has been suggested that sections 21 and 22 of the Building Control Act are contradictory to European law in terms of the freedom of movement of workers in that registration of self-taught architects with ten years' experience gained in the State is recognised but the State does not recognise experience gained in other EU states. Perhaps that issue can be examined but perhaps that is a slight deviation. What is the problem?

A secondary category of architects, the MRIAI, Member of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, has been created. If it is possible to allow for a secondary category which allows for the registration of architects, whose qualification does not give them automatic right to EU recognition, presumably there is no problem with doing it here for those who have been practising in the industry for so long and can be accommodated in that way. There are issues - nobody is disputing this. We are not talking about cowboys getting approval but a small category of professional people who have been operating in the industry, therefore we should have a sense of proportion.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I am gratified to hear what Deputy Daly has said. It is true that we are talking about a finite number of people. These are people who have proved their worth already by virtue of being here today to complain. We have earned our place in the market. We succeed because we get referrals from clients. If we were no good at our jobs we would not be here because we have no membership of the institute to hide behind. If we fail, we fail, and it is known in our communities that a particular person is not worth going to. If we succeed, as we have done, we continue in business. The evidence is there by our existence. Some members will have the alliance directory that we have produced. It shows many projects and dates back to 1997 in some cases. It shows sample projects from 29 of our members and comes to 94 pages. If I was to complete that and include all the work all our members have ever done it would be like the Yellow Pages. We are established, we are professional and have proved our worth but we are self-taught. That puts us outside the Pale. We say that is not fair because other professionals in our position are treated properly and are recognised when laws change. If one says it is a matter of new standards and that we are somehow a risk, because we are self-taught, then if there are new standards everyone should be tested. Let us see if the grey-haired folks from the institute are prepared to sit down at the table and be tested in the way that is demanded of us.

Mr. John Graby:  Again I have to come back to the Act because Mr. Brian Montaut has put an interesting spin on the process. My presentation was clear. There is no secret about the fact that there is a panel of three architects appointed by the board, not by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland. They were trained at a cost to the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland specifically in interview techniques. It was provided for in the Act, because HETAC advised the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, that if one was assessing equivalence of qualifications the person who carries out the initial assessment should have the same qualification. That is very basic. The board comes to its own decisions. I am mystified by Mr. Brian Montaut’s comments that somehow the institute is manipulating the process. The reality is that the institute has always looked for a straight five-year qualification. Since 1977 we have also sought, as in the rest of these islands, a professional practice qualification and increasing the number that is looked for. To go back to the question of standards, I have to ask what the fear factor is. I am demonstrating that this is independent and that 31 people have gone through. They have gone through the assessment and we can see from their testimonials that they were fairly treated and they found it to be an extraordinary opportunity to change their skills. So what is the concern? What is the concern about using Article 46, which replaced Article 43, as the basic standard in this country? It is the minimum European standard. What is there to fear from that?

Deputy Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash  Zoom on Gerald Nash  I welcome Mr. Graby and Mr. Montaut to today’s important hearing. I would like to put some questions and observations to them both. I am not clear about how the concept of fair competition, to which Mr. Montaut refers, could in any way be enhanced by permitting individuals who do not meet basic minimum standards to operate as registered architects. That point is lost on me, so perhaps Mr. Montaut could elaborate on that. Would he not agree, leaving aside his stated views and those of the alliance, that this would possibly bestow an unfair advantage on a very small minority of current actors in the sector?

Under the terms of the legislation, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland provides redress to consumers who have legitimate issues with the execution and completion of projects. That is as it should be and is properly reflected in the Act. Under some of the proposals made today and previously by the alliance, it seems to me that the form of redress detailed in the Act would be torn asunder because the system could not be held up to any minimum standards worth the name. How does the alliance deal with client complaints that it may receive? Is there any such system in place?

I have some empathy for the alliance’s situation, but given the evidence that a considerable number of individuals have gone through the technical assessment process and have been registered successfully over the last two years, Mr. Montaut cannot really say in conscience that a closed shop is being operated by any stretch of the imagination. That does not stand up to scrutiny, based on the figures that have been proffered to us in recent times. I would like him to elaborate on that.

If the Minister decided tomorrow to recast the Act and look again at the competence issue and the minimum standards issue, where would Mr. Montaut draw the line? Would he anticipate a free for all? In other words, anybody who worked in the construction sector for a certain period of time would be properly considered for registration as an architect. Minimum standards are particularly important at the moment, given the dependence of Irish architects, including some of the alliance’s own members, on international work.

Could Mr. Graby and his colleagues talk us through the practical pursuit of registration? If I was a member of the Architects’ Alliance of Ireland and I decided tomorrow that I would seek to achieve registration, what would my practical experience be from entry level to being successfully registered as an architect? How have the obstacles that some people may have identified at the outset of the process been addressed by the institute?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  There is a vote coming up in the Seanad, so I will call on Senator O’Sullivan.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  I appreciate that Chairman, but I will not be making a Second Stage speech as I only have a couple of quick questions. Deputy Nash asked a very good question and it would benefit us all if it could be answered by both parties. We want rigorous standards because a lack of standards has created many problems across the spectrum. I also want to see people getting a livelihood.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  We want questions Senator.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  From the list Mr. Montaut gave us of the jobs his members have completed around the country, it is clear that they are getting work. Nobody is preventing his alliance from obtaining gainful employment in architecturally related work, so what is the problem?

I have some experience of the actuarial business. Actuaries can come into the business in two different ways. They can do a degree at college, get practical experience and do a series of very rigorous exams and qualify. Others will do their leaving certificate and are then recruited by the banks and insurance groups, and they will get on-the-ground training for five or six years. Both groups will eventually do the very same exams and would not be qualified unless they did. Is it fair to say that there is a lot of correspondence here. If both sides are prepared to sign up to the same level of rigorous scrutiny, then what is the problem?

Mr. John Graby:  The Act states that the requirements for taking an assessment are basically ten years’ experience in the field of architecture, work of an equivalent scale of complexity to that of the average architect, a portfolio of a minimum of four projects and compliance with Article 46 of the directive. Our admissions director, Ms Margaret O’Flanagan, is in regular contact. We can give advice and information. We have broken up the 11 requirements in Article 46 into a serious of indicators to make it easier for people to understand what is required. We have had other briefing sessions. There is information on the website. Members of staff are available at any time to give advice. They cannot give direction and they cannot evaluate, but they are certainly there to advise. When an application comes in, as we are not involved in the decision, a check is carried out to make sure that the various elements are actually there so that somebody does not have to go back to the start due to the lack of some minor piece of paperwork. That is the process and I must emphasise that it is the basic, average standard. It is nothing special.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I would like to remind all witnesses that if you wish to add to what either Mr. Graby or Mr. Montaut are saying, then please indicate to me that you wish to do so.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I would like to say that I am confident that I can answer every question comprehensively in a manner that would affirm the alliance’s position, but I cannot do it at this forum. I can do it by way of presentations later. I will do my best now.

Our difficulty with the standards is that they are taken from the directive. The directive standards are specifically to do with university training. The directive goes to the extent not alone of specifying the skills that an architect should possess, but it also states that these must be taught at a university and be examined after a four year full-time course of training. That is admirable, but to apply that to us is discriminatory, to put it bluntly. The Deputy asked what this means in terms of standards that should apply. We should be tested by means of an examination that tests what we know, and not what we do not know.

The Deputy might say that what we do not know may be what is appropriate. I would say the opposite is the case. The university training and the skills that are proven by a degree and by demonstration of Article 46 competencies do only one thing, namely, they are proof that the person who has succeeded in this has the potential to work successfully as an architect. Our position is quite different. We are not asking that our potential be considered. We are asking people to look at where we are and what we have done, look at our histories and then make up their minds. They should by all means be selective and decide that this guy is in and that guy is out. However, we have asked to be examined according to where our skills lie. We say that our skills are utterly appropriate because they are the skills required to do the blessed job. That is an off-the-cuff reply but I will give a rigorous answer at any stage.

What is our problem with the current regime? I have produced a schedule or record of work that shows how well we have done. Upon analysis one can see that the number of projects our people are getting is dwindling as result of registration. For example, we are now barred from being considered for school projects. Some of our people have carried out school projects in the past 15 years. The principal of a school may want a certain individual to be included in the list of potential candidates but the Department of Education and Skills takes the view that the school must only include registered practitioners. Ergo, we must become registered. I trust this gives some flavour of where the difficulties lie.

The proposed new certification regime deals only with registered practitioners. We have made a submission as part of the public consultation. We have pointed to solutions designed to tackle the root of the problem rather than the confectionary or periphery, which, I fear, is the way it is going. We are not counted as stakeholders and, therefore, we have not been invited to the past two stakeholder meetings because we are not on the register. We are being marginalised and pushed aside.

We will disappear from this altogether unless we do one thing. Let us suppose a client comes to me because I did a good job for him two years ago and he wants me to do another job. Let us suppose he has recommended that his neighbour use me as well and that he wants me to be the person to design, look after the builder and deal with everything. I can do that but I cannot sign off on it or provide the certificate which the client must have. The client may ask what I intend to do about that because he has no wish to use another registered person up the road or because he likes me and he does not know enough about the registered person. There is only one way forward if the client is not to fire me instantly, that is, for me to do all the work and for the registered person up the road to collect a fee for signing off on it. Under the new regime that will not be possible. The person signing off must be responsible for the work but that is the current position. It is like being salaried.

Let us consider what takes place in an architectural business. Who does the blessed work? It is the people one never hears about. Who gets the credit? The bosses do. I have been a boss and a partner in a practice and in those circumstances I have got the credit. One of our jobs won the inaugural Local Authority Members Association, LAMA, award for best residential housing in the country. The two partners, myself included, got the credit. Those in team behind us were crucial but they were forgotten. This is how we must address the position if we are not registered. We will become subcontractors to the registered practitioner up the road and he will sign off on work.

A question was asked about consumer redress. The content of the Act relating to consumer redress is rubbish. It should be rewritten to represent current best practice. I will go into detail on that matter another time. Consumers have redress already under ordinary consumer law, laws of contract, consumer protection legislation and so on. Mr. Graby can correct me if I am wrong but I understand that Ireland is unique in having statutory buildings standards that everyone must follow regardless of whether one does the work oneself or one engages a professional. This is how standards are met. One is in breach of the law if one does not follow the codes in statute. They are part of Irish law. The rest is extra, over and above.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I welcome the deputations and the various viewpoints put forward to try to enlighten us on this subject. Deep down, I suspect there is not much difference between all of us, and with some goodwill on both sides, this could be resolved. I am keen to work towards that, if possible. I am somewhat confused by Mr. Graby’s role. There are times when he seems to act as regulator and other times when he seems to represent the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI. Will Mr. Graby outline precisely his role in this affair?

I come from a rural background and I take the view that there is no substitute for experience. People talk about qualifications and improving standards. The Architects’ Alliance of Ireland has made it clear in their dealings with me that many of its members have 30 or 35 years' experience. Most have at least ten years' experience. As another Deputy noted, this will come to a natural end, and in this respect, I believe there is goodwill among some members of the RIAI.

I am unsure where the word “Royal” comes from. Is this because the institute adheres to British standards? What is the reason for the use of the word “Royal”? It would be fine if the institute was called the institute of Irish architects. That is an aside.

How many members are in the alliance? The perception I have gathered from the public is that an elitist group is being formed as a way of driving up prices. This is a way to get rid of the alliance. What happens to people if they do not qualify? What happens to their families? What happens to the staff they have employed over the years if they are not allowed into the newly formed institute?

It is somewhat similar to when a new directive on agriculture or the environment is introduced. A master farmer, expert in producing top quality food all his life, may be suddenly informed by someone that he cannot produce any more and then he would be out of business. I put it to Mr. Graby that the alliance has put forward two solutions today. The first involves registration of those with third level qualifications with at least five years' experience. The second is that those with ten or more years' experience should complete a postgraduate examination provided it is not set by the RIAI. What is wrong with these proposals? What difficulty does the RIAI have with them? It might be positive to address that.

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government have stated openly and specifically that what the architects are looking for is not permissible under EU legislation and is not allowed. How then can the institute propose the establishment of a second category, namely, membership of the MRIAI? How is this not acceptable to the EU on the one hand while something the EU declares as unacceptable is accepted by the RIAI? There is some confusion and I call on the deputation to address it.

Ultimately, we should be conscious of competition. Does the Competition Authority have any difficulty with these proposals? It is bad to eliminate a competitive group. What does 30 years of work have to do with experience? Surely some allowance should be made for people on the verge of retirement such that they need not go through this procedure. Their work should speak for itself and if that work is not good enough, the RIAI should point out clearly why not and compare it with some of the work done by the RIAI over the years.

I am optimistic from what has been said here today. There are grounds for getting a resolution providing there is goodwill on both sides. I note from my dealings with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland that many members in the county see the plight and the difficulty imposed on those in the alliance. I call for every effort to be made to resolve it.

Mr. John Graby:  Ms Fagan is keen to make a comment on the practical side so I will be as brief as I can. I will start with the use of the word “Royal”. Mr. Martin McGuinness shook hands with the Queen recently. Mr. Drew Nelson was in the Seanad today. The world has changed. We have had this title since 1839 and we have been around for a long time. That is all it means. It is a part of our history.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Is it British standards that the institute is imposing?

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  We are hoping to get rid of it.

Mr. John Graby:  I have always quoted former Senator Mary O’Rourke in the Seanad during debates when she stated that her republican hackles used to rise when she heard the word “Royal” and that she had realised it probably means that she had been around for a long time without having made too many mistakes. We now say it is the RIAI.

A Member:  Is it not like IRA?

Mr. John Graby:  Sometimes people have got that wrong.

Mention was made of experience and Mr. Montaut spoke about it at great length. The problem is one must have a system. There must be some method. For example, the decisions of the technical assessment board can be appealed to the courts. It is in the Act, both on procedural and substantive grounds. There must be a clear process set out and the board has stated there is a clear process there.

It is all very well to state that somebody has been around for 30 years. He or she may be very good. Why do they not come forward to be assessed? It is as basic as that.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Why should they have to be assessed based on their work? That is what I am asking.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I have a similar question. We will let Mr. Graby answer that.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Mr. Graby can answer both so.

Mr. John Graby:  Let us go back to my earlier statements. Some 25 of the 27 EU member states regulate the practice and title of architect because it is in the public interest. It is as basic as that. It is about consumer interest.

I spoke about the massive opportunities for export of services of this country. There is no doubt about the reputation of Irish architects, plus the fact that there is now a regulatory system in place that says everybody has reached the same standard. Everybody has to reach the same standard.

On the school projects that Mr. Montaut mentioned, the Department of Education and Skills has taken the decision that those who receive State payment in fees should be architects on the register, chartered engineers and chartered building surveyors, and that does not seem unreasonable.

I will pick up the comment about the professional conduct process being rubbish. That is really quite extraordinary. It is indicative of something the alliance tries to do which is to find holes anywhere. It has two elements, namely, professional misconduct and poor professional performance. It is rigorous, it will be rigorous and it will be enforced rigorously. It flies in the face of all regulation of the State to say it is rubbish. I would like Ms Fagan to briefly talk about some of the practical consequences, to which I referred earlier.

Before I do that, I want to explain the MRIAI. It is actually very simple but like many matters, it is simple in only one sense. The detail is in our submission. In summary, it does not indicate a lower standard. It simply deals with some technical legal problems in a certain category of architecture qualifications and specific requirements of the directive for automatic recognition. I will take two examples. First, a United States architect who is fully licensed in the United States comes here. He or she must do a basic test about the regulatory framework here. Although fully licensed in the United States, he or she must spend three years here under supervised practice before he or she can go to another member state to acclaim automatic recognition. The MRIAI, if he or she leaves after one year, tells the other member state we must check this.

Second, as I stated earlier, the courses of two schools of architecture, one in Waterford and one in the University of Limerick, have not as yet been prescribed. They have gone through the process, they have professional practice examinations and they will be prescribed later in the year. In the meantime, they can use MRIAI in Ireland and if they go abroad, the MRIAI says they are awaiting prescription and listing in the directive but one can assess them in what is called the general system. It is a stop-gap measure. It does not imply a lower standard. We are clear to anybody who comes into the system that one can use MRIAI in Ireland.

The final matter is technical assessment. It is an important aspect in this area. Mr. Montaut did not mention Article 47. Article 47 of the directive simply recognises what is called social betterment measures. It is not required specifically that one must go through university. The new text of the directive, which is coming into place shortly, is much more sympathetic to the concept of recognition of prior learning, technical assessment, etc. When that comes through we will certainly notify the Minister that process will be prescribed as well and those who go through technical assessment will have fully automatic rights in Europe. That is the process.

The problem is these measures are technical and complex. As Mr. Montaut stated, it is difficult to give an immediate answer. However, that is the bones of it.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  What is Mr. Graby’s role?

Mr. John Graby:  I am the registrar appointed under the Building Control Act 2007 to act as the registrar. My role is to keep the register, to deal with the boards-----

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  For whom is the register?

Mr. John Graby:  It is for the registration body, which is the RAI. I am the registrar. I have to deal with keeping the register up to date, providing evidence in the register. It is the national register for architects. That is my role. It is defined in the Act.

Ms Michelle Fagan:  I wanted to bring in some of my experience in my practice. I am director of a small practice since 1998. As part of my work in that practice, we act as expert witnesses in medical negligence cases. For that, we produce housing reports where persons have had life-changing injuries or have developed debilitating medical conditions. The process of compiling the report involves visiting the particular person in his or her home to make an assessment of his or her current and future housing needs.

I visited 64 persons and their families in their homes in the past three years. Sometimes the house has already been adapted or extended for the new requirement. I visited 20 of these houses that have been extended to accommodate the specific requirements of the client, all of them built with the very best of intentions but only two of which have proved suitable. I will briefly describe one of the cases which illustrates a typical situation. I could do all 18, but this is only one.

The case involves a lady who, unfortunately, became wheelchair bound. She is in her mid-30s and is suffering from chronic pain since the late 1990s. Her husband organised to have an extension built onto their cottage to accommodate an accessible bedroom and an en suite bathroom. He got €18,000 grant aid for that work. He did not really know how much it had cost, but I estimate it would have cost €45,000 to €50,000 altogether in construction work.

When I visited there, as it was built, there was no direct fire escape from the bedroom which means that in the case of a fire at night, this lady would have to be roused from her medicated sleep, transferred into a wheelchair, wheeled through the hall, living room and kitchen to get out the back door, where there was a ramp. As there were three steps at the front door, that was not a possible route and it was unlikely that she or her husband would escape in the event of a fire.

In addition, on a minor note, the door to the en suite, which was built to the correct standard and in which everything was in the right place, opened inwards which meant that if she fell, which she was likely to do as she had a history of doing so, she would block the bathroom door and it would be very difficult to get her any help. Most annoyingly, her new bedroom was built in such a way that the space at the end of the bed was so narrow that she could not get her wheelchair through so that the other half of her own room was not accessible to her. To correct this, she would have to move out until the walls of the bedroom could be demolished and rebuilt, and associated work done to the roof, etc. One of the windows could be made into a door onto a terrace, which could lead to a place of safety. The bathroom door, obviously, could be easily reversed. The estimate was that the construction would cost €25,000 to €30,000 in addition to the money that she had already spent to achieve this contemporary accommodation and no further grant aid would be available in that instance.

Of the 20 projects I visited which had these extensions, two had registered architect involvement. Only those two achieved an acceptable standard. The others were not designed by registered architects. Those I visited are in a highly-stressful position and have tragic situations. They spent their money and expected the benefit from some expertise. They thought they were getting an architect but found themselves still dealing with the same problems. This should not have happened in 18 out of the 20 cases. This is the argument for the standard, knowing what the standard is and everybody signing up to a standard.

I would like, if it is possible, for Ms Shaffrey to add to this with another short example.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  On a point of information, at the Garda College in Templemore two accommodation blocks, which were designed and constructed in recent years to the highest quality, have been recently closed down by the health and fire inspectors because of inadequate planning for fire escapes. The then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform used top-quality architects in the country at enormous expense. The buildings are now closed. We all could give examples.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Regardless of who built the structure, what is the penalty applicable in such a situation, whether it is a registered or unregistered architect?

Ms Michelle Fagan:  There is no penalty for 18 out of the 20.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  There is no penalty.

Ms Michelle Fagan:  There is none for those.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  In those 20 situations, whether the person was a registered member of RIAI or was a member of architects alliance, there is no professional sanction. Has the RIAI sanctioned or dismissed any members over the past 180 years?

Mr. John Graby:  Yes.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  On what grounds?

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: Information on Tony McLoughlin  Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  Did Mr. Graby state a short while ago that he had received no complaints?

Mr. John Graby:  We have received no complaints about the current building standards. However, I refer to the 18 cases where the work did not comply with the relevant regulations. This comes back to the issue of a measurable benchmarking standard. If a registered architect did not provide a proper service, it can be stated very clearly that he or she should have known that. If a civil case were taken, it would be a very persuasive argument that as a professionally qualified architect, he or she should have known. A complaint to the professional conduct committee, if serious enough, can result in a fine, an expulsion, a suspension or an attachment of conditions.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The institute operates a complaints process and can impose a sanction whereby a current member can be delisted or penalised.

Mr. John Graby:  I think I have explained -----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  In simple English, please.

Mr. John Graby:  -----that the Minister, Deputy Hogan, has yet to appoint the committee. When it is in place, then this will happen. As an expression of our commitment -----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  But in 180 years of practice, the institute has not put this in place.

Mr. John Graby:  There have been complaints-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  My point is that Mr. Graby made very strong play of how long the institute has been in existence and in this time it has not established a disciplinary process.

Mr. John Graby:  At all times there has been a disciplinary process.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I ask Mr. Graby to explain the disciplinary process.

Mr. John Graby:  There is a code of professional conduct to which architects have adhered and a professional conduct committee has dealt with complaints from the public. We have also run a mediation system - this will also be a feature of the Act - because for many consumers it is important that matters be sorted out in a timely fashion. An experienced architect would meet the parties to see what could be done. On occasions, fees have been returned and architects have been directed to carry out the work without an additional fee. All those processes have been in place.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I remind speakers to be more brief in their presentations.

Ms Gráinne Shaffrey:  I will just add to what Ms Fagan has said by way of example of the need for standards. I am a registered architect in private practice and a director of Shaffrey Associates Architects. We provide specialist urban design and conservation architecture as well as general architecture services. Over the years we have been asked to take on a number of projects which have had planning difficulties. These have mostly been within town centres and in some way may relate to protected structures or areas of architectural cultural heritage significance. These projects are located in a number of counties such as Cavan, Kildare, Kilkenny-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I must interrupt because I am sure Mr. Montaut could give a list of people who could give their resumés. I need something relevant to this afternoon’s discussion.

Ms Gráinne Shaffrey:  I will give an example of -----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I do not need a resumé because I could provide 20 resumés. I need something relevant to this afternoon’s discussion.

Ms Gráinne Shaffrey:  Okay. The bottom line - Mr. Montaut mentioned it himself - is that the Architects Alliance of Ireland seeks to be examined against where members' skills lie. The question at issue is to do with standards. We must aim to meet standards. If we only depend on working within our own sphere of experience then we will never expand or develop awareness and knowledge of other areas. This is why it is so important to continue the process of the continuing professional development programme which is a requirement of practice. Ms Fagan and I have explained that the practice of architecture is increasingly complex. Mr. Graby mentioned that since the 1990s there has been a raft of legislation. Even since the Building Control Act was introduced there has been new legislation. The profession has become increasingly complex and carefully regulated. Registration is critical because it provides the consumer, the client and the public with greater certainty of standards. The implication for regulation of registration for professionals such as Ms Fagan and myself is that we must keep up to date with changes in the regulations. Measures are in place to address situations where we do not meet those standards and these are by means of competencies and the code of professional contact. This means that to practise as a registered architect is not something for us to take on lightly and we do not do so. It is a considerable public and personal responsibility. It is serious and important business.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  The answer is that architects should be included. If consumer protection is only afforded through the Act, which I do not admit to agree with, then the architects should be on the inside rather than being left on the outside of the blessed tent. That is as far as I need to answer today. If we were to have a competition about who clears up after whom in the profession, we will take that on but there is no point in me starting there.

Mr. Anthony M. Collins:  I listened very carefully to Mr. Graby’s response to Deputy Coonan’s statement concerning the MRIAI qualification. I only became aware of the existence of this qualification very recently, about two weeks ago in fact, while preparing for today’s meeting. It strikes me this proves beyond any doubt whatsoever that in so far as rules governing who can use the title “architect” in Ireland are concerned, this Legislature is entirely sovereign and is not bound by any rule of EU law whatsoever in exercising that power. Of course, it might lead to a circumstance in which - as Mr. Graby pointed out in his presentation - one could have a lower standard and no recognition of qualifications overseas and a lower standard here. That is a matter for the committee. However, what has become quite clear to me is that the legal position - whatever doubts one could have had about the advice given, and I gave very clear advice by looking closely at the directive and the legal basis of the directive is that there is no basis in EC law for the EU to adopt a directive telling Ireland who can or cannot use the title “architect” in Ireland. There is no basis for a directive that would do this. The directive does not do that so there is not a legal issue.

However, on the point made by Deputy Coonan, the answer to that proves beyond doubt that if, for Irish domestic purposes, he can recognise a US architect, then anyone can be recognised. I am not suggesting that just anyone should be recognised but I am simply saying the committee’s hands are untied and it is free to do as it wishes and legal advice to the contrary is simply wrong. One might say it deserves a certain amount of respect; all legal advice deserves a certain amount of respect. However, as we know, courts often get it wrong and that is why there are courts of appeal and legal argument. Whatever doubts one could have had about the position, the situation is now crystal clear and the committee also has the benefit of the statement from the European Commission. Again, that is not necessarily binding either because the European Commission can sometimes get it wrong as well.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  If I may make an interjection before I bring in any other speakers. Mr. Montaut and Mr. Graby will know that I have been through a similar process although not in the same field. A Green Paper on education decided that a new formal degree should be put in place for those working in the field of adult education. Some workers in the sector had been working for 20 years in adult education although they had no formal training, no third level degrees but they had undergone on-the-job training. Other workers had third level degrees that were probably not considered relevant to the new job. Several hundred people were affected by this development. We set about finding a solution. The questions we had to decide on included the issue of registered practitioners, how to ensure that other workers in the field would not be blocked, the recognition of the professional qualification by the Department of Education, and how to ensure future job security for those without the qualification.

I have a test for each of the delegations. The test for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland relates to the issue of suitable training and qualification alternatives. Dublin City University was alluded to as a possible alternative academic route. This is a fair suggestion and one I do not believe the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC, the governing body for educational qualifications, would resist. If there is resistance from it, I would like to know the reason for it because HETAC’s responsibility is to ensure accreditation processes are intact and it does not have loyalty to specific third level institutions, whether it is University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin or any other university. In summary, Mr. Montaut has proposed a solution to the problem of alternative accredited academic routes for architects.

Three years ago the joint committee discussed this issue with the Architects Alliance of Ireland. If its members had submitted to the six month accreditation process with portfolio, the alliance would not be represented at this meeting. Some of those present in the Visitors' Gallery may not have attended the meeting in question when the main issue was the portfolios. As someone who left school at 14 years of age and now has two third level degrees, I understand the problem faced by the AAI. I am somewhat disappointed to learn, however, that it has not encouraged its members to avail of the option of providing a single portfolio which can be completed at reasonable cost in six months, perhaps subject to some negotiations. Why is this option being resisted? Obtaining the status of qualified architect is a big return for incurring an expense of a couple of thousand euro and working for six months on a portfolio. The cost is measurable in money and time.

The Architects Alliance of Ireland has the wrong end of the stick on the issue of academic portfolios and what is known as acquired prior experiential learning. It is not what a student can do in the future but what he or she has done in the past. Yesterday afternoon an AAI member dropped in to me a portfolio of 96 pages featuring work carried out by members of the alliance since 1990. I cannot understand the reason the AAI is not using this evidence of work done by its members as the foundation for a portfolio demonstrating its academic abilities. An academic standard must be in place and applicable to everyone. The approach must be measurable and reasonable and allow those who have not attained an academic qualification to do so. Having been through a similar process, I know the consequences of making it a requirement, but it is necessary.

The portfolios focus on specific learning outcomes. Someone teaching a student will be assured that at the end of the teaching module his or her students will achieve a set number of specific learning outcomes. A chef will know how to operate an oven and mixing bowl and what ingredients are required to prepare a Christmas cake. An architect taking a specific model will also be required to attain a number of specific learning outcomes. The portfolio is not an examination but a means of demonstrating that a person has acquired the necessary competences in certain areas. I would fail all of the examinations I sat ten or 20 years ago. The purpose of a portfolio is not to set someone up for failure but to allow him or her to provide evidence that he or she has done a certain amount of work in a specific area.

The impression I had from a previous engagement with the Architects Alliance of Ireland was that producing a portfolio would cost approximately €25,000 and that as many as a dozen portfolios would be required, given the number of competencies involved. We have learned this afternoon, however, that a portfolio can be produced within six months for approximately €5,000. If that is the case, why are so many still engaged in the AAI campaign? Surely they would have achieved a more tangible and measurable outcome if they had gone through the portfolio process.

Mr. John Graby:  The issue of learning outcomes is very important because that is what this is all about. It may not be realised, but Ireland is a leader in Europe in recognition of prior learning. HETAC, for example, has recently awarded a PhD to a particular student who did not receive a secondary education and went straight through the process. I spoke about Article 46 and the indicators. The reason the work is used is to demonstrate the learning outcomes. In the early days some of the applications were submitted in an A3 file box. The most recent application we received which was successful was of a much different scale. One uses one’s work to demonstrate that one meets the requirements. We encourage anybody to undertake the process. As I noted, 33 submissions have been received, of which 31 have passed. No one argues that the process is easy, but it only takes six months to complete. The testimonies are included in the documentation we provided. As I indicated, people found the exercise highly enlightening.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  May I see the documentation?

Mr. John Graby:  It is Appendix 3 on page 32. A summary of the testimonies is provided on page 11. I emphasise, however, that the testimonies were requested after the process had been completed and obviously not beforehand.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Examples of the work submitted by applicants may include drawings of a particular building and a definition of their role in a specific construction project. If the project was completed jointly with other architects, for example, this fact would be noted.

Mr. John Graby:  Establishing who did what has been an issue and we provide a mechanism to ensure this is clear. Sometimes it is difficult to obtain evidence that a person was working in a particular place. In that case, a tax return may show where a person was working at a certain time. Solutions can be found to all of the problems one encounters.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I expect the absence of evidence is the reason for failure.

Mr. John Graby:  Yes, that would usually be the case. The board has on occasion sought additional information because the candidate did not present the necessary information. There is a difficulty in that regard.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I had to put together 12 portfolios. It would have been easier to complete a master’s degree. Candidates must present evidence for each of the learning outcomes set out. It should be borne in mind that accreditation of prior experiential learning, APEL, portfolios may only be accredited at pass level. If someone does not present sufficient evidence to achieve the learning outcome, is he or she informed that competence has not been shown in certain areas and given an opportunity to address the issue without being required to spend another €4,500 to start the process all over again?

Mr. John Graby:  The expert panel of architects has on occasion asked candidates to demonstrate certain competencies they have not demonstrated. The board has done likewise. Candidates are given an opportunity to demonstrate their competencies and learning outcomes.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  At what cost?

Mr. John Graby:  There is no cost.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I do not know how many of these questions I can answer. We were asked why we have not availed of the opportunity given to us in the Act. I do not have access to the submissions that have been made but I have seen two portfolios. One guy went out twice to his car to bring the material in to the room. The point is not whether he was correct in preparing that much information, it is that there is no standard to refer to in respect of what is to be produced or what is adequate.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  So there is no template.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  There is no template, neither is there a defined pass standard. There is huge uncertainty about what will be sufficient. A question was asked about going back if one does not quite do it. This is a once-only opportunity. If one fails technical assessment, one is not allowed back at all. The only option is to appeal, at a possible cost-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  A person can fail technical assessment because he or she cannot show the competencies, which is appropriate and adequate. Is Mr. Montaut stating that it can be failed because people are not being given the opportunity to provide further information? If someone fails technical assessment, that is fair enough.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Except one can re-sit many other examinations.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  That is the point I am making. If, in the case of a portfolio, one fails technical assessment, it is not the same as failing an exam and being allowed to re-sit it. Failing technical assessment means that one cannot demonstrate the competencies required. What Mr. Graby has stated - it is open to Mr. Montaut to contradict him - is that the panel will inform someone who fails technical assessment that he or she is deficient in demonstrating competencies in particular areas and ask whether he or she can provide information in respect of another development in which he or she is involved which demonstrates that he or she actually possesses those competencies.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  That sounds very fair. I had not heard of it before. It does not, however, alter the fact that when one goes in and does one’s preparation, one does not know what is expected.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  We are talking about two separate matters here. I will admit that a number of years ago I would have failed any exam I sat. If was doing a portfolio, I would know what was required because I have been through the process. If, however, someone was presenting a portfolio to me, I would know not know how to explain to that person what is required. That is a different process. In the context of a portfolio, the situation is very clear: it is either a pass or a fail. It is not a case of obtaining an honours or a credit. A portfolio will only pass if the client or the student can demonstrate that he or she possesses the full range of competencies as required in the rules relating to the submission of portfolios. Let us, therefore, separate the-----

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I will try to deal with that matter properly. First, I was not aware of-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  We discussed this matter in detail when our guests were before us three years ago. If Mr. Montaut considers the record-----

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I was not aware of how the process is conducted.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I am surprised by that because we discussed this matter at length three years ago. I had been through the process myself and the major issue I had on that date - and in respect of which I lashed into Mr. Graby and not Mr. Montaut - related to the costs involved and how difficult and technical were the requirements. From what I have heard at this meeting, the RIAI has made significant progress in simplifying the process and reducing the costs relating to it.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  The costs we were referring to then were not the application costs which, at that stage, were €6,500. I think that was clearly stated. It was the cost to the applicants of carrying out the preparation about which we were concerned. The Chairman may state “That is too bad”. The people to whom I spoke did not take six months to prepare, they took a year. The difficulty with which they were faced was that they were obliged to produce ten projects for each of the ten years in order to be able to cross-reference the 63-point checklist of skills against their past performance. They were also obliged to provide evidence of ownership of the projects. The provision of that evidence is onerous because, for example, evidence from clients - the obvious source - is not accepted if one is self-employed.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Is Mr. Montaut stating that Architects Alliance of Ireland applicants who put together portfolios are not provided with any guidelines by the RIAI in respect of how they should do so?

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Not exactly. I believe the format relating to presentation is described. It states that for each project one must have an A3 page with a photograph, a description and the name of the architect who has endorsed the fact that this is one’s work. I could not go out and obtain endorsements from another architect.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Well Mr. Montaut should be in a position to do so. If a person has done work for someone else, one should be able-----

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Excuse me, the other person is my competitor.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  No, I am referring to another architect verifying that the work one has done is one’s own. I may be wrong - if I am that is fine - but the way I understand portfolio preparation is that the entity for which one does work can verify that it is one’s work. Such an entity could be a firm, an entity or a local authority.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  It is improper for me to try to go into detail on this.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Mr. Montaut is here in order that he might go into detail. Perhaps Ms Kirwan or Mr. Collins can support his position but he is here to answer in detail.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  The answer to the question is that I am not privy to the details of the process, while John Graby is privy to them.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Mr. Montaut should not bring Mr. Graby into it.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I cannot refute what he has to say. My understanding of the system-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Has Mr. Montaut made an application to prepare one of these portfolios?

Mr. Brian Montaut:  No, I have not.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Mr. Montaut has chosen not to go down the portfolio route.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Absolutely.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Fair enough.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I will answer the Chairman’s question in this way, the competencies that are demanded to be ticked off include adequate knowledge of the history and theories of architecture and knowledge of the fine arts as an influence on the quality of architectural design. That is information which could be procured and studied. I cannot quibble about that. A graduate would also be obliged to be in possession of the knowledge requested. In order to have the relevant box ticked, we are obliged to do more than that to which I refer - this may be a reflection of the earlier discussion on outcomes - by showing where, in our past work, we applied this esoteric knowledge. We are saying that the test is not applicable. There is a recognition of prior learning, RPL, expert in Maynooth who will inform the committee that what has happened here is that RPL has been picked at.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  If that allegation is brought forward, I would be quite prepared to consider it. However, RPL, accreditation of prior learning, APL, and the other different theoretical models used in education in respect of the accreditation of learning in the field are valid. The members of the Architects Alliance of Ireland have been presented with an opportunity to go down this route. If the organisation has a difficulty with the methodology used, I would like Mr. Montaut to outline it. I hope I will not hear from him that the organisation is not prepared to engage with the methodology to which I refer.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Two of our members have undergone technical assessment and have passed.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  How many have applied?

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Only eight people have applied for technical assessment altogether. John Graby’s figure of 33 is misleading. There have only been eight applications in respect of technical assessment, which is all that is in operation under the Act. The other 25 people have undergone a private examination procedure which has not yet been accredited.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The committee will be engaging in deliberations on this matter next week. My view on it is that a great deal of focus has been placed on the grandfather clause, which is necessary. However, very little focus was placed on the APL approach. If Mr. Montaut can correct my perception in this regard, I would welcome it.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  What I am saying is that we are prepared to be examined in a way which everyone would see as appropriate. We believe that we can demonstrate that, in many respects, the existing way is inappropriate.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Okay.

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  I decided to undergo technical assessment when it was first introduced. I attended one of the briefing sessions given by Mr. Graby and I was very impressed with what he had to say. I began to put together my portfolio but I started to run into problems when I came across the competencies relating to Article 46, which relate to the fine arts and the more theoretical side of architecture. I would not have been using these in my day-to-day work and they were not really applicable to me. Another colleague of mine was also preparing a portfolio but we both gave up on and shelved them. Another problem I encountered was the fact that an architect with whom I had worked had returned to Germany. Getting verifications was, therefore, a non-runner.

Just getting my projects together and putting them into order for the portfolio would have taken three months. I was working on it at a fairly constant pace. If I had begun doing the drawings and all the rest-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The drawings would not have been new, however, they would have been completed previously.

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  Yes, but one must present it in a certain way. One could not just produce drawings from 20 years ago and present them for assessment. I do not think A3 format would be acceptable. I started in an age when I worked with ink, tracing paper and a fine blade. One could ask how one would get that work. One has to sit down and do a certain amount. Presentation is important as well. If one is presenting a portfolio, presentation goes a long way, especially for a person who would pull it out and look at it. I would dispute that it would take six months. To do a good job it would take the best part of nine months to a year. Plus, to do that I would have to take time out of work so my income would be reduced. At that stage the cost was €8,500. I do not know if Mr. Graby appreciates it but one would have to get someone to bind it and do a good job with the presentation. It is not as easy as just talking about €4,500.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I know it is not easy.

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  I do not know if the Chairman has seen the competency as set out in Article 46. I would be interested to hear if the committee thinks it is fair for the likes of me, a grandmother, to fulfil the criteria.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I was the youngest in my class by 15 years. I would not take an ageist position. I would focus on the presentation aspect of the matter.

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  I applied for membership of the Chartered Institute of Building, CIOB. I went through the process in six months and I was granted chartered status. It was a fair and equitable account of my practical knowledge. I had two interviews in Ascot and I was awarded chartered status. It took me six months. What I ended up with was a small template compared to a technical assessment but to get to where one wants in order to be able to present it takes about six months to bring everything together, say exactly what one wants and to cut out what one does not need to say.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Is that qualification accepted in this country?

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  Yes. Then I did an assessment for the architectural and surveying section of CIOB and I was successful in that. Now I have applied to register as a building surveyor. I hope to get that this month.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  I welcome both groups to today’s meeting. What we are about is ensuring the customer gets the best service at the end of the day. The Architects Alliance and many of its senior members have served the public very well over the years. Reference has been made to a historical situation, buildings being inspected and 18 not passing in connection with members of bodies other than the RIAI. One could look at that in the context of RIAI membership as well. To which bodies do the high profile cases that were assessed in recent months belong? It has been stated that the RIAI has had no complaints about its members. Does the RIAI have to wait for complaints? Does it not automatically call in members whose names appear in newspapers, look at their competencies and examine where they have fallen down and in how many cases? What does the institute do in such situations?

The Chairman referred to the APL system and the competencies and criteria set down. I was involved in drawing up portfolios. It is accepted practice now in all of the universities that accredited or acquired prior learning on competencies is accepted. The competencies are open and available. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, set down competencies for teachers who had not qualified. They are now accepted under accredited prior learning rather than the old standards. I accept Ms Kirwan’s point which was very well made. She has been accepted under the chartered system based in Ascot. The RIAI accepts standards from American architects. Grandfather clauses are accepted in some American states. In turn, the RIAI accepts them, which leads one to ask why it cannot be open to a grandfather clause in this country wherein competencies would be set out.

I stand to be corrected, but a major flaw as I perceive it is that the three people who sit on the technical assessment team for undergraduates are all members of the RIAI and they make a recommendation to the board. I will ask the Chairman to take up the matter when we examine it again. Mr. Graby said the system is working. I accept that it is working for some but it does not work for a minority. It is not working for at least 250 members of the alliance who have served the public for 25 years or more. As Deputy Coonan stated, their livelihood has been taken from them by the stroke of a pen. There might be a conflict of information involved. I will have to research the matter for myself. Mr. Montaut stated that a regulatory impact study was not undertaken but Mr. Graby said it was undertaken. I must examine what criteria were used in the regulatory impact assessment and when it was carried out.

The members of the Architects Alliance now find they are considered as criminals. The legislation was not introduced by the Government but by a previous Government. I am a member of Fine Gael. I will examine the legislation. A previous Minister, Mr. John O’Donoghue, proposed an amendment to the Bill.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I must interject. I was a Member of the Dáil at the time and the Minister did not present the amending legislation on the floor of the Dáil. If both parties examine the proposed legislation they would see that it did not do any favours to either side of the argument.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  Perhaps we should consider new amending legislation.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Mr. Graby and Mr. Montaut hope that we will not refer to Mr. John O’Donoghue’s Bill because it would not do either of them any good.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  I am new in the Seanad and I have researched the matter. My approach is that we must go forward rather than back. Perhaps we should examine the legislation, find the flaws and recommend amendments. We will have to go through such a process.

The Architects Alliance has proposed two means of qualification, A and B. It is not afraid of assessment. The Chairman has fleshed out many of the questions I wanted to ask about the required competencies. The problem is how the competencies are set and who they favour. It would be of benefit if we could set reasonable competencies that would be acceptable to both sides and come up with an amendment to the legislation in that regard. Only a small number of people are involved. I try to ensure in every aspect of life that everyone who does a job is qualified to do it. Part of the recognised system of education is accredited prior learning and that is where the legislation has fallen down badly as it does not allow for accredited prior learning.

A speaker referred to an expert in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. We should invite him to come before the committee. The Minister, or Chairman, should bring him in.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I am soon to be Minister.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  I do not know the person concerned or if it is a he or she but I would appreciate it if someone could give the Chairman the person’s name.

It is not correct to compare the fee of €7,500 for a six-month qualification process with a university course. It is akin to comparing apples with oranges rather than like with like because one learns something new at university. Architects have learned on the job. I know because I was trained in both ways. I have academic qualifications in a BA and an MA but the best training I got was on the job. I am a Montessori teacher and I got much of the training by doing. Learning by doing is the new way in education. The new curriculum is going down the road of learning by doing.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  It is the university of life.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  The university of life is another way of doing. We must ensure that the old school of theoretical learning is not given precedence. It is good and valuable. I went through it myself.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I invite Senator Keane to summarise her points.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  I will conclude but the Chairman said we will have another meeting to make recommendations.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Yes.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  I seek clarification on a number of matters. Is there a timescale on this?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Yes. We will finish about-----

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  I am not talking about the meeting but the Bill and the option-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  It is just today, one meeting.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  -----of being able to get a grandfather clause inserted in the Bill.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Perhaps Senator Mulcahy should have a conversation with his party colleague, the Minister, Deputy Hogan.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  I certainly have done that.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I should explain to all the witnesses and the people in the Visitors’ Gallery that we are dealing with the subject of competencies. It is not within the competency of this committee to resolve this issue. Ultimately, it is an issue for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to resolve. We can make recommendations but we should not give anybody the impression that this committee will make a determination that will resolve it. We can only make recommendations.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  My question was on the timescale as to when a possible change could be made.

I was disturbed by something Ms Fagan said when she spoke about the 20 investigations she carried out and that only two architects were members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RAI. I would like the record to be clear on that. Is it the case that the other 18 were members of the Architects’ Alliance of Ireland? I would be concerned if that was-----

Ms Michelle Fagan:  No. I had no evidence of any membership. I do not think the alliance has a published list of members, therefore, I have no idea who is or is not on it. I have no reason to think that anybody in the alliance would have done any of these buildings. I am not saying that they are incompetent.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  It is important to clarify that when a global statement is made that perhaps it was members of the alliance.

Ms Michelle Fagan:  The point is that we must have standards.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  Point taken. I have worked on different projects in the past with both members of the RIAI and members of the alliance. We are talking about 250 or 260 people who, like everybody else, are trying to survive and many of whom have 20 to 30 years' experience in the trade. I left school when I was 14, like the Chairman, and I have done reasonably well since then but if somebody has worked for 25 to 30 years in a small community, which most of them work in, they would get very little business if they were not doing a good job because word would soon go around that they were a cowboy outfit or whatever and they would not get the work.

I agree with many of the points made by the Chairman. There must be a meeting of minds to sort out this issue and come up with a template with which people can reasonably work to their own timescale. Otherwise, we have to go down the route of the grandfather clause. I was not a member of this committee previously. Like Senator Keane, I was elected in the past 12 or 14 months but Deputy Daly made the point that on the last occasion this was raised, and I am open to correction by the Chairman on this, it was stated that the grandfather clause could not be introduced because a European legislation issue arose. I am led to believe that is no longer the case.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I suggest the Senator should read the full report because two interpretations could be taken on that. I am trying not to make a judgment on that issue but two interpretations can be taken of that European ruling.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  I will be guided by the Chairman on that but we are dealing with the possibility of 250 or 260 people being put out of business at the stroke of a pen but it will not happen on my watch. As Members of Parliament we cannot stand over that and allow it to happen. We must come up with a solution that ensures everybody will remain employed. It is a finite resource. Effectively, the 250 people we are talking about will wind themselves out of the system over the years, like the rest of us, and therefore we must find a solution and stop kicking the can down the road.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  The Senator might make suggestions or propose solutions at this stage rather than make commentary because I must call Deputy McLellan before concluding the meeting.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy  Zoom on Tony Mulcahy  The Chairman has outlined the solution, namely, a much more simplistic template that ensures people who are trying to survive in business, day in and day out, and turn over a profit will not have to work for 12 months to get qualifications through the system. In fairness, the registrar, in consultation with the Chairman, is the person who should come up with that solution. They are the people with the expertise in this area, not us. Realistically, we should put the onus on them to come back with that solution within a few months.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  The Architects’ Alliance of Ireland put forward two solutions.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Senator Mulcahy is not a member of this committee but he contacted me directly on the issue. It is an issue on which he has a major concern and we will move to make some recommendations on it. I acknowledge his attendance this afternoon, not being a member of the committee.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan  Zoom on Sandra McLellan  I apologise for my late arrival; I was delayed in the Chamber. Deputy Stanley took many of the questions but the witnesses are a group of people with a proven track record. It should be easy to achieve the standard, without what is an almost unmovable obstacle in the form of the standard being put in their way.

It is reasonable to expect that a grandfather clause could be inserted in the Bill. We are dealing with 250 people, not thousands of people, all of whom are of a particular age. This issue will phase out over a short period of time and it would be terrible if they were put on the scrap heap and left without employment.

We will discuss the issue again next week, and everybody has asked a number of questions, but I have one question. Is it true that the institute awarded points to its members who completed training in political lobbying directed against the 2010 grandfather clause?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I ask the witnesses to respond to the comments from Senators Keane and Mulcahy and Deputy McLellan. I will hear concluding comments from Mr. Garvey and Mr. Montaut.

Mr. John Graby:  Will I conclude?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I think Ms Shaffrey wants to come in.

Ms Grainne Shaffrey:  Yes. I wanted to make the point that there is an incredible amount of agreement here. We agree there is a need for a standard. There is agreement that the way a standard is assessed is through competencies. That has been established. The members would want to know, if they were engaging any one of us, that we all met those competencies. There is provision in the Act to assess those competencies, and it acknowledges approved prior learning. The success rate to date is approximately 80%. It is greater than the pass rate for the standard if I have completed my five year degree and done my two year professional practice examination. There is support, and that is one of the reasons for that. It is possible and therefore there is no reason the members of the Architects’ Alliance of Ireland should not be able to come through the grandfather provisions in the Act. The success rate is 80% and there should be no reason for fear. That is an important point to make.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Does Ms Fagan, Ms Kirwan or Mr. Collins want to make any concluding comments?

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  To come back to the Chairman’s concern that the Architects’ Alliance of Ireland members were against doing the technical assessment in the Act, I have gone through the technical assessment in Part 5, as have other members. We have no difficulty doing that. I think that answers the question. It is the technical assessment, with Part 3, that we have the issue with. The bar has been raised so high for grandfathers, if members wish to call us that, or people with 20 years' experience who have been doing the job in a competent way. I am also a member of the Irish Building Control Institute, IBCI, and I am very conscious of standards. I would agree with regulation but it must be inclusive of people who have prior standing in the community.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  What would Ms Kirwan see as the single biggest difficulty in terms of the experiential learning approach or the portfolio approach? What would be the two major blockages in that regard?

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  The two biggest concerns I would have is filling out the competencies for Article 46-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Is that because of an absence of clarity in terms of the competencies or because there is so much-----

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  If the Chairman reads through them he will see it is broadened out to 63 small sections. One must show those competencies within one’s projects. I doubt if anybody, even somebody who left college 20 years ago with a degree in architecture, would be able to sit down-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Is this Article 46?

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  Article 46, the European standard.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  I agree with Ms Kirwan. I have a question for the RIAI witnesses. In terms of the tables being turned the other way, I am aware of a school which has barred RIAI architects from applying for projects. Is there a distinction between what one might call “real” and “unreal” architects? The architects from the institute must employ engineers. Many in the Architects’ Alliance of Ireland are civil engineers who have architectural practices. Therefore, they are qualified in both competencies, whereas the institute’s members are qualified in only one. In the building regulations, one needs two competencies to sign off on a building. One needs an engineering qualification to assist the architect. One is falling down regarding competencies in the sphere of learning if one is to account for co-learning and the development of the whole project.

It is matter of comparing like with like. One is asking people who have competencies in civil engineering and architecture to say they are less qualified than those who have a competency in architecture alone. This is what we must examine.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Has Ms Kirwan finished her contribution?

Ms Margaret Kirwan:  I could stay here all day.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  I will allow Mr. Montaut, who commenced the proceedings today, to have the last word. We will begin with Mr. Graby. I had hoped the point on liability would have been covered this afternoon. Forthcoming legislation is creating the potential risk that architects will be solely liable. Perhaps Mr. Graby will address that and respond also to Deputy McLellan’s point.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Two proposals were put forward by the alliance. Will Mr. Graby state the difficulty he has with them? His doing so might be of help to us.

Mr. John Graby:  There have been many references to the need for a grandfather clause in the Act. There are grandfather processes in the Act; that is a reality. Reference was made to learning outcomes. This is what it is about. We all recognise that if a group wants to believe something is exclusive or discriminatory, it will find reasons to support its argument.

There is a vast amount of information on the website. As I stated, members of staff are available to give advice, help and information. We have had briefing sessions. There are answers to all the problems outlined in respect of trying to find somebody, obtain records, etc. We dealt with this in briefing sessions. Often, there are various ways of proceeding. Ultimately, the system is working. People have been assessed as grandfathers. As stated in the Act, there are practical training assessment procedures, which are working. What we try to do in the context of Article 46 is indicate precisely the learning outcomes. One can take four projects and use those to indicate one’s competencies.

Consider the issue of esoteric knowledge of the fine arts. There are 40,000 protected structures in Ireland. An architect needs to know and understand what he is looking at, albeit not in detail. He needs to know the age of the building and its background. This is not esoteric knowledge, however; it is basic. The other requirements in the directive are very much about understanding the technical aspects of construction, urban design, planning issues, etc. There is nothing esoteric about this.

Reference has been made to having a “proven track record”. This is a valid point but it is a matter of who proves one’s track record and how. The Act sets out to provide a mechanism for those who have experience and practical training to demonstrate their track record through technical assessment or the register admission examination. That is all it is about. The system is in place and working.

I mentioned the briefing we held earlier this year, in January. Forty-seven people turned up. The majority of them, certainly 35, are preparing their applications for assessment. Nobody suggested the process is easy. It presents a considerable opportunity to demonstrate one’s competency to qualify as an architect. As stated, it opens all kinds of opportunities, including State work and work in another jurisdiction. It is an opportunity, not a threat. It does not intend to criminalise anybody but represents a considerable opportunity. If the alliance members were to step back slightly, examine the systems and talk to our representatives, including our admissions director, Ms Margaret O’Flanagan, they would find there are not the kinds of problems they imagine are in existence. If one wants to find problems, one will always find them.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Deputy Noel Coonan raised two matters, namely, liability and the adding of accreditation points.

Mr. John Graby:  The building control (amendment) regulations have been the subject of much talk. There was concern that the objective of the regulations was to pin one individual, architect, engineer or building surveyor with total responsibility. There have been two stakeholders’ meetings. Circumstances have changed and there is recognition in the Department that the person assigned to inspect and sign off will have to rely on certification by others associated with the design and construction stage. It is accepted there will be a need for an overall co-ordination certificate.

The work has started on the statutory code of practice, which will set out what should be done by architects, engineers and surveyors and what local authorities should do in respect of building inspections. The objective is to have this well advanced by the end of July. The Minister said the code would not be in place until early next year, but there has been good progress. There has been much heat and anger associated with this but there is progress now. It is a question of everybody in the design and construction chain taking responsibility, signing off and ensuring they meet their responsibilities.

A very important issue for consumers, as raised in our submission, which we will circulate to those who are interested, is the question of latent defects insurance.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Will Mr. Graby do that?

Mr. John Graby:  I will certainly do that. Latent defects insurance means the insurance company will fix the problem in the first instance, provided one has proceeded through legislation rather than on a voluntary basis. Thereafter, the company may look to see who is responsible. That is the real answer for the future. The other answer is that people ought to take responsibility and meet defined standards.

With regard to CPD points, the difficulty, which is hard to believe, is that the architecture profession is rather quiet. Architects do not engage very much in politics. There are significant challenges, including local area plans, the subject matter of the amendment the Chairman does not want us to mention and the building control (amendment) regulations. We found people did not know how to lobby politicians so training was given. Where there are defined learning outcomes, we give CPD points. Deputies may rest assured that we will not be out every day but, where there are key issues, we will want people to engage in the political and democratic processes.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Could Mr. John Graby clarify that because I find it very interesting? I would have a Master’s degree in my profession if lobbying were included. I would probably have a PhD and Mr. Graby would be calling me Dr. Lynch. While I acknowledge one must engage in various practices regarding advertising and the media, was prescribed or descriptive lobbying accredited by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland?

Mr. John Graby:  “Accredited” is the wrong word. Training was given and people got one CPD point after their-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Was it prescriptive and descriptive lobbying?

Mr. John Graby:  There is an explanation of how the system works, how-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  That is not what I am asking. Was the lobbying directional?

Mr. John Graby:  No. It was a matter of telling people how to proceed if they wanted to say something about the many issues people need to talk about.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Could Mr. Graby respond on the two solutions?

Mr. John Graby:  They first appeared today. As I stated and as stated in our submission, it appears as if the alliance wants a special position. It wants to dismantle the entire Building Control Act simply to meet its own ends. On first glance, I find it difficult to understand how this would work. There would be substantial difficulties in regard to existing legislation. Certainly, if the committee wants to examine these, we will do so. However, I could not give a reaction now.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I came here with one focus, which was to deliver a solution or solutions in answer, as I thought, to the 2010 hearing. I have learned through the Chair that I did not address all the questions that were then raised. A lot of detailed points were made today and a lot of questions were not answered. If it is possible for us to be provided with a transcript of today’s meeting quickly enough-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  It will be ready within a few days but if Mr. Montaut was to contact the clerk-----

Mr. Brian Montaut:  I mean in time to send the joint committee-----

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  It also can be retrieved completely from the Oireachtas website within two or three days.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Then I will put the work into providing the joint committee with the answers and information that is needed.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  That would be perfect. I leave open the invitation to both groups that if further additional points are to be made that can be facilitated. However, we would need to have such information by Friday.

Senator Cáit Keane: Information on Cáit Keane  Zoom on Cáit Keane  While the witnesses are present, for academic purposes, what would be the problem with putting out of the scenario altogether the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland? Why not do what everyone else does, which is if one has five or six years’ experience and if UCD or whatever university sets down criteria for accredited prior learning, then this should apply to everyone? What would be wrong with that? What would be wrong with all the components of the National University of Ireland having in place a standard for accredited prior learning? What gives the witnesses the qualifications for assessment?

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  These are issues on which members should make recommendations next week. I ask Mr. Montaut to make his concluding comment.

Mr. Brian Montaut:  Members will be glad to hear that was my concluding comment. We are very happy to have had an opportunity to speak again.

Chairman: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  That concludes this stage of the joint committee’s consideration of this topic. Is it agreed that members should consider the evidence they heard today in private session when the joint committee meets next week? Agreed.

I thank Ms Michelle Fagan, Ms Gráinne Shaffrey, Mr. John Graby, Ms Margaret Kirwan, Mr. Brian Montaut and Mr. Anthony Collins for assisting members with their deliberations today. The witnesses are now excused and I thank them for their attendance.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.54 p.m. untiil 2.10 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 July 2012.


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