RIAI competitions were viewed for years by those of us who weren't members as mere croneyism writ large.
Then I got to talk to some members who I expected to be tarred with the same brush but instead they nodded wisely and said:
"You're right - we never win either...!"
So even within the RIAI there was perceived to be a cabal that won all the competitions.
Exactly how objective this point of view is I don't know.
As to the original poster - welcome to the RIAI Competition environment.
I prefer to see full and frank comments posted á la the AAI awards, where the selection process is actually documented into the form of a book.
Very impressive stuff and useful insights gained into the heads of judges.
The pity is that both in the AAI and the RIAI - many of whose members are part of both organisations, there is a slavish devotion to clipped modernism and rationalism that is hard to dislodge or better.
Some weird and wonderful "erratics" are creeping in though and I hope to see great things in what seems to be a resurgence of Irish design.
This could be the reason for the pithy negative comments - known in college as having had a "hard crit".
Buck up, learn from the winners and do better next time.
Remember, a collection of painted 40ft. containers won the Point Deport / Dublin Parlour competition, in front of many more mature and considered designs.