25 June 2020
I am writing to you with a heavy heart to inform you that, after due deliberation, the IOS Council has decided to cancel our planned conference at Lough Eske Resort in October. There are several reasons for this:
Most obviously, the uncertainty surrounding the current COVID-19 situation remains a major factor in our deliberations, and at present gatherings of up to only 100 people are being considered. So also, the hospitality sector itself has been in lockdown, and is being opened up gradually but with restrictions. It is almost certain that a degree of social distancing will apply, and this will have a palpable impact on the number of delegates / exhibitors that can attend. We have been unable to visit the venue to scope out how, if at all, we could plan our academic sessions, the Wilde discourse, and the Gala dinner, all of which are integral to running a successful meeting. Obviously our trade fair has been impacted too, and calls for participation have been met with an extremely muted response. Furthermore, international travel may also continue to be restricted, and this would affect the ability of external speakers and/or delegates to plan their trips.
Traditionally our IOS conferences have been jam-packed events, and it is difficult to envisage a scaled down version that is academically balanced, socially appropriate and financially viable.
All in all, given the fact that we had almost three months of a near total inability to progress arrangements, the IOS Council has decided to replace the physical event with a (largely) virtual one based at RCSI, Dublin, on the same weekend, in order that we may still come together in a spirit of collegiality. This will allow a certain number of trainees to make presentations, and would also facilitate a few guest speaker contributions - virtually if necessary. It would also permit us to have an AGM and an IOS Council meeting as we are required to do by our Constitution. The College is extremely well versed in running virtual platforms, and would provide a degree of reliability and back-up that is not available at the venue hotel.
All in all, it is deeply disappointing that we will not be able to see each other in full force in October. However, given the uniqueness and fluidity of the situation, the inherent commercial and other risks involved, and the need to hark to current public health guidelines (not least for our more senior members!) the Council felt that it was best that we arrive at this conclusion at this time, and start working apace on an alternate event.
With best wishes,
President / IOS
(on behalf of the Council)