Extension to appointments on the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside

Date published: 04 November 2019

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has announced the extension to the terms of appointment of the Chair Dr Hilary Kilpatrick and seven members of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC).


Dr. Kirkpatrick was a member of CNCC from 2009 to 2014 and Chair from March 2014. Dr. Kirkpatrick’s first term as Chair was previously extended and has now been extended again until 29 February 2020.

Three of the members, Dr Sue Christie, Dr Alan Cooper and Professor Julian Orford, were first appointed to CNCC in February 2012. Those three members are in their second and final term on CNCC. Their terms of appointment were previously extended and have now been extended again until 29 February 2020.

The remaining four members Phil Davidson, Sean Kelly, Oisin Murnion and Emily Smyth, are in their first term of their appointment, having been appointed to CNCC in February 2015. Their terms of appointment were extended previously and have now been extended again until 29 February 2020.

Notes to editors: 

1. CNCC is a Statutory Advisory Council to DAERA established under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

2. The aim of CNCC is to provide independent advice to the Department on matters affecting the Countryside and Nature Conservation. CNCC does not employ any staff although it is provided with support staff by DAERA.

3. The position of Chair attracts an annual salary of £9,740 and also receives any expenses incurred while carrying out the duties of the post. None of the seven members being offered a term extension receives any payment for the role although they do receive expenses incurred while carrying out the duties of the post.

4. These appointment extensions were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland’s Code of Practice.

5. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland requires the political activity of appointees to be published.  None of the seven members receiving an extension have carried out any political activity in the past five years.

6. Biographies

Dr Hilary Kirkpatrick (Chair)

Dr. H. Kirkpatrick (Chair) is an environmental consultant who has worked in the university sector as a lecturer in environmental science, specializing in conservation management and for the UK statutory nature conservation bodies in both science and policy roles.   A member of the Rural European Platform and one of the authors of a recent book on the ecology and economy of less favoured areas in Europe, Dr. Kirkpatrick has published scientific papers, reports and book chapters as well as general articles on nature conservation.

Professor Susan Christie

Professor Susan Christie holds an MSc and PhD in Behavioural Biology. Before her retirement she was the Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Environment Link and has been a Special Advisor to the Environment Committee for Climate Change Inquiry within the NI Assembly. Prof. Christie co-ordinated the NI input to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. 

Dr Alan Cooper

Dr Alan Cooper was a senior lecturer in Plant Ecology within the University of Ulster and has brought to Council considerable expertise in the field of terrestrial and landscape ecology and practical experience of developing methods for monitoring countryside change.  He previously served as a member of the NI Committee for Nature Conservation.

Phil Davidson

Phil Davidson is a former Wildlife & Countryside Advisor for the National Trust and has significant experience of collaborating with partner organisations and the wider community to deliver effective and positive environmental outcomes. She was previously Head of Conservation with Craigavon Borough Council and a member of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is the Parliamentary & Development Officer at Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) and through that role, he has applied his knowledge of EU Environmental Legislation to inform local policy decision making and has coordinated a number of NIEL themed taskforces to influence policy development.  Sean also farms on a part-time basis on the family farm.

Oisin Murnion

Oisin Murnion is a farmer who is responsible for conservation grazing of an Area of Special Scientific Interest. His success in this capacity has come from his ability to analyse complex information and translate this into practical conservation management. Oisin is a former Chair of the National Beef Association in Northern Ireland.

Professor Julian Orford

Professor Julian Orford is Emeritus Professor of Physical Geography in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University, Belfast.  Since his appointment to CNCC, Prof. Orford has brought considerable high-level specialist expertise in environmental science to the Council. He was previously Head of the School of Geography in Queen's University and a member of the National Trust National Nature Conservation Panel.

Emily Smyth

Emily Smyth is a chartered Landscape Architect, trained in both architecture and town and country planning.  Previously lecturer in architecture and landscape architecture at the Belfast School of Architecture at the University of Ulster, Emily has also practised as a Landscape Architect, and been Chair of the Landscape Institute in Northern Ireland.  She is a former member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Architecture & the Built Environment in Northern Ireland. 

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