Extension for members of Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside

Date published: 06 February 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced the extension to the terms of appointment of eight members of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC) until 31 August 2018.


Three of the members (Dr Sue Christie, Dr Alan Cooper and Prof Julian Orford) were first appointed to CNCC in February 2012. Those three members are in their second and final term on CNCC.

The remaining five members gaining an extension to their terms are in their first term, having been appointed to CNCC in February 2015.

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. None of the eight members being offered a term extension receive any payment for the role although they do receive expenses incurred while carrying out the duties of the post are met.
  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 eight members receiving an extension have carried out any political activity in the past five years.
  6. Oisin Murnion has three other public appointments (Trustee on Agri-search, Trustee on Mourne Heritage Trust and Trustee for Mourne Mountains West). Oisin does not receive payment for any of his public appointments.
  7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email DAERA Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.
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  9. Professor Susan Christie holds an MSc and PhD in Behavioural Biology. Before her retirement in 2014, she was the Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Environment Link. She has previously been a Special Advisor to the Environment Committee for Climate Change Inquiry within the NI Assembly. Since her appointment to CNCC in 2012, Prof. Christie has brought a breadth of knowledge of NI environmental issues as well as recent experience of co-ordinating the NI input to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. 
  10. Dr Alan Cooper lives in West Fermanagh. He retired as Senior Lecturer in Plant Ecology in the University of Ulster where he is still an active member of the Environmental Science Research Institute. His scientific research publications focused on applied ecological issues in the Northern Ireland countryside. He has previously been a member of the NI Committee for Nature Conservation, the NI Native Woodland Group and a member of the CNCC Ecology sub-group. Since his appointment in February 2012, Dr. Cooper has brought considerable expertise in the field of terrestrial and landscape ecology and practical experience of developing methods for monitoring countryside change.
  11. Phil Davidson lives in Upper Ballinderry near Lisburn. She is currently the Wildlife & Countryside Advisor for the National Trust in Northern Ireland where she provides nature conservation and environmental guidance to deliver high standards of sustainable land management nature conservation management and opportunities to get people closer to nature. She leads a number of groups including the Coastal and Marine Issues Group and the Countryside Rangers. Phil 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 where she developed strong leadership, management and strategic development skills and is currently a member of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group.
  12. Sean Kelly is Development Manager at Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) and prior to this was the Policy Officer at NIEL with specific responsibility for the co-ordination of a range of policy areas. Through this role, he has applied his knowledge of EU Environmental Legislation to inform local policy decision making and has coordinated a number of themed taskforces to influence policy development.  Sean also farms on a part-time basis on the family farm situated in Co Antrim.
  13. Stephen McCabe works for the Research and Enterprise Directorate at Queen's University Belfast (QUB). He was previously the Senior Policy Officer at Northern Ireland Environment Link. Stephen is a Chartered Geographer specialising in geomorphology, and was formerly employed at QUB as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Through these roles he has developed strong analytical skills and an understanding of key environmental and public policy issues. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Member of the British Society for Geomorphology. 
  14. Oisin Murnion lives in Kilkeel. He is a farmer who along with his wife Anne Marie and daughter Jolene are responsible for conservation grazing of an Area of Special Scientific Interest. Oisin’s vast experience has led to a successful Environmental grazing business evolving over the years. In this capacity through his experience of on the ground farming in difficult environments has brought his ability to analyse complex information and translate this into practical conservation management. Oisin is past Chair of the National Beef Association in Northern Ireland. He is also a Trustee of the Board of Agrisearch in Northern Ireland and the Chairman of Mourne Mountains West common land trust, which manages almost 5000 acres of ASSI. The family business currently manages over 600 acres of conservation land in Northern Ireland.
  15. Professor Julian Orford is Emeritus Professor of Physical Geography in the School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen's University, Belfast. Since his appointment to CNCC in February 2012, Prof. Orford has brought considerable high-level specialist expertise in environmental science to the Council. He has been a member of the Marine Working Group concerned with advising on the Marine Plan and associated shoreline planning developments in NI. He was previously Head of the School of Geography in Queen's University and was a member of the National Trust National Nature Conservation Panel.
  16. Emily Smyth is a chartered Landscape Architect, also trained in architecture, town and country planning, art and design, and education. Previously a lecturer in architecture and landscape architecture at the Belfast School of Architecture at Ulster University, Emily has been Chair of the Landscape Institute in Northern Ireland, and a founding member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Architecture & the Built Environment in Northern Ireland. Emily is also a practising landscape architect, and has led major physical, social and environmental assessment and regeneration schemes within and beyond Northern Ireland. Emily has strong communication skills and brings a detailed understanding of landscape to the Council.  

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