William F. Roe and Patrick J. Dowling, engineering graduates of UCD and the RCScI from the 1920s, led the ESB's rural electrification scheme, which made such a significant contribution to the modernisation of rural Ireland. Identified by the Irish government as a top post-war priority, the scheme commenced in 1946. The Shannon scheme had facilitated the supply of electricity to the cities, towns and larger villages of Ireland, but the outbreak of the second world war had deferred the extension of the network to rural communities. Overall management of the project was the responsibility of Roe and Dowling, two of the most experienced ESB engineers, and at its peak between 3,500 and 4,000 field staff were employed. In parallel with the construction programme went a comprehensive educational and promotional campaign to ensure widespread acceptance and utilisation of the new power. By the end of 1979, when the scheme was completed, over 468,000 homes, farms and businesses in rural Ireland had been connected to the national electricity network.