F&M Whelan wins at Irish Steel Awards

27 Mar , 2024  

F&M Whelan Steel Engineering was one of the big winners at the recent Irish Steel (IASF) Awards 2023 in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise.

The Co. Wexford-based structural steel experts were victorious in two categories and first runner-up in another. They were winners in the ‘Steel Structures in Medium Construction Projects’ category for Nolan Transport’s “Johanna 1” warehouse building in Drinagh and in the ‘Steel Structures in Construction Projects’ category for The Garden Restaurant in Kelly’s Resort Hotel, Rosslare. The first runner-up prize was secured in the ‘Unique Fabrications – Non-Architectural’ category for work completed at Sigginstown Castle in Wexford for Liz and Gordon Jones.

The Irish Association of Steel Fabricators (IASF) was set up almost a decade ago with the aim of promoting standards within the steel industry and sharing information about CE marking. Based in Portlaoise, the organisation now has over 1,400 members who are certified and have standards in place. The IASF offers guidance, compliance and certification for fabricators and steel-related products. Through its partners, it offers weld testing, weld inspection, weld training, load testing and reporting, paint testing and testing to include intumescent, safety training that covers every aspect of engineering health & safety, insurance / engineering company audits, Tekla training and compliance. The body strives to make compliance easy and understandable, and a very worthwhile task. 

No strangers to winning prestigious accolades, the Irish Steel Awards recognise F&M Whelan Steel Engineering’s commitment to excellence. “To be nominated is an honour in itself, so to win in two categories and be first runner-up in another is extremely rewarding and a gratifying acknowledgement for all the team, and the standard and quality of work they produce,” says F&M Whelan Finance Director Aisling Whelan.

F&M Whelan Steel Engineering is a leading Irish steel fabricator specialising in the fabrication and fitting of structural steelwork and cladding as well as light steel fabrication, architectural steel, balconies, handrails and stairs. The company has fabricated steel for everything from large-scale pharmaceutical developments to agricultural units and domestic construction projects. It can undertake steel-only contracts, cladding-only contracts, steel and cladding together, supply-only or supply and fit, making it a one-stop shop for all your steel and cladding needs.  

The second-generation family business was founded in 1986 by Francis Whelan Snr who started out on his own fabricating and erecting agricultural sheds, and carrying out light metal works. His younger brother Martin soon joined him and in 1991, Francis and his wife Mona set up what is now F&M Whelan Steel Engineering.

Francis retired from the business last year – following in the footsteps of Martin – to focus on his passion for horses and racing. He handed over the reins to his son Fergus, who is Managing Director, and daughter Aisling, who is Finance Director, while the siblings’ younger brother Francis Jnr is also involved in the family business. Other key personnel include Contract Awards Manager Kevin Whelan, Contract Operations Manager Tom Sinnott and Detail & Design Manager Alan Jones.

Operating from a state-of-the-art facility in Duncormick, Co. Wexford, F&M Whelan Steel Engineering currently has 50 people on its payroll, including highly qualified and experienced designers, fabricators and erectors, and is actively recruiting for a number of positions across varying departments.

“Skilled and experienced tradespeople are difficult to source in Ireland, especially in the area of steel fabrication and steel and cladding fitting. As a result, we always have open apprentice positions for steel fabricators / welders and steel and cladding fitters to train interested men or women from the ground up,” Aisling explains.

“To meet the demand, we also work with a number of subcontractor site crews who we have long-standing and trusted relationships with. They are aware of the standard and quality of work that is required which means we can stand over the quality of their workmanship.”

Following the flow of work as it is awarded, the process starts in the estimating department with quantifying and pricing tenders submitted, and pursuing new leads and potential projects. From there, F&M Whelan’s highly experienced and skilled team of detailers issue fabrication drawings to the workshop fabrication department. The workshop is made up of machine operators, metal fabricators, welders, quality inspectors, spray painters and apprentices.

The purchasing and material coordinating department oversees raw materials in and finished products out. When finished steel is dispatched from the yard, the contracts management team looks after all aspects of the delivery, fitting and sign-off of fitted steel and cladding on site. As with any company, admin, finance, HR, Health & Safety and other support functions are also integral to the overall running of the business.

F&M Whelan Steel Engineering’s ability to deliver quality workmanship, irrespective of the size or complexity of the project, has made it the steel specialist of choice for many of Ireland’s leading building contractors, including PJ Hegarty, Sisk, BAM, John Paul Construction, Clancy, Arkmount Construction and ABM Europe. Other repeat clients include successful family-run building firms such as Mythen Construction, Kealy’s, Esmondes, Cleary Doyle, Robert Quinn, McKelan Construction, William Doyle & Sons and TTFC.

Commenting on F&M Whelan’s current projects, Aisling says: “In the workshop, we are finishing fabrication of 420 tonnes of steel for an overseas data centre. When that is completed, we will start work on two separate pharmaceutical projects – one in Cork and another in Limerick for a new client who we are delighted to be working with. We have another large-scale development of warehouses for an existing client as well as a healthcare unit, so the planner is thankfully full until early next year, with a number of smaller local projects also thrown into the mix.

“On sites, we are completing a warehouse development in Dublin for Rhenus Logistics and another warehouse in Waterford for Store-All. We have also just signed off on a large balcony project at Mariner Way in Dublin and another one in Kilbarry, Waterford. So we’re very busy across all departments at the moment.”

Asked what gives the family business the edge over the competition, the affable Finance Director replies: “Francis Snr has a great many adages that he was often heard relaying to staff in the office and workshop… sayings like ‘measure twice, cut once’, ‘the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory’, ‘you’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind’, ‘people buy people’ and so many more I could list. He could have written a book with them all! These sayings are probably the building blocks of the culture and fabric of F&M Whelan.

“We insist on checking and rechecking work to eliminate errors and mistakes before they leave the yard. We place a strong emphasis on quality control, recording and traceability, not shying away from the hard tasks or challenges, but just getting stuck in and solving the issues at hand for our clients.

“Overall, the key players in F&M are constantly striving to be the best version of themselves, to get the best from the team and to build a team that will stay and grow with the company.”

Aisling concludes by saying: “One of the hardest things to replace is lost knowledge and the talent of top-quality, skilled and experienced staff. Of course, people come and go, but at our core we have a group of talented people – that match the best in the business – who have been with the team for many years and continue to give their best, and raise their game year-on-year as is required to not only compete, but to advance, evolve and excel in our industry.”

F&M Whelan Steel Engineering



Co. Wexford.

Telephone: +353 (0)51 563 220

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.fmwhelan.com

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, March 2024, Vol 10 No 3