Tom Parlon’s new CIF contract alongside his successor’s reveals lobby’s political priorities

Business Comment: He’ll be CIF’s Mick McCarthy, while Hubert Fitzpatrick is Stephen Kenny

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) appears to have taken a leaf from the Football Association of Ireland's book, by giving a contract to a veteran leader while at the same time naming his successor two years ahead of time, as the football crowd once did with Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny.

The CIF has awarded its long-serving director general, Tom Parlon, a contract extension until the end of 2023, when he will retire at the age of 70 after 16 years leading the organisation.

At the same time, the builders' lobby group has also named the crown prince to its country king; Hubert Fitzpatrick, its current chief operating officer, will become director general-designate at the beginning of 2023, before taking over the role proper in the middle of the year. Parlon still stay on staff until the end of 2023 as part of a handover process.

The CIF’s succession planning reveals a little of the competing political priorities within the building industry’s top lobby group.

It is an extremely broad organisation, representing associations of everything from painters and decorators to the large commercial contractors that build facilities for multinationals and civil and engineering firms.

At the same time, it also includes the Irish Home Builders Association, which has its own distinct and powerful voice within the CIF, and whose members uniquely are at the heart of the biggest issue facing the State – which brings its own lobbying priorities.

Parlon, a former Progressive Democrats TD and minister, and one-time head of the Irish Farmers’ Association, is a canny operator who is well adept at negotiating competing priorities. He knows to speak for all sides of the construction industry and not just housebuilders, or any other single section. A political bruiser, he is said to have battled hard for his latest and final contract.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has a long history of expertise in housing issues. He was once the CIF’s director of housing and planning, while he has also worked in similar areas for local authorities.

As the CIF’s chief operating officer, he has worked with all sectors.

The decision by the federation’s leadership committee to give a new contract to Parlon, while at the same time anointing housing boffin Fitzpatrick as his successor, is a deft example of how a broad church such as the CIF keeps all of its faithful happy.