Tony McCusker- Chair
Tony McCusker was born and educated in Portadown, and served in a number of Government Departments including the former Northern Ireland Assembly and the Departments of Health and Education and Environment. He was one of the founding members of the Central Community Relations Unit before joining Making Belfast Work in 1993. As Director of Making Belfast Work, Tony led a Government initiative on urban regeneration tasked with the economic, social and environmental regeneration of the most disadvantaged parts of Belfast. In 1997/98 he was Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Environment with policy responsibility for a wide range of public services including Water, Transport issues, Road Safety and the Fire Authority. In February 1998 he was appointed as Director (Political Co-Ordination and Support) in Central Secretariat which supported the work of Northern Ireland Departments and its links with the Northern Ireland Office. He was involved in the negotiations to establish the new devolved administration in Northern Ireland and implementing other elements of the Good Friday Agreement. He was Director in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister with responsibility for the Executive Secretariat and Corporate Services from December 1999 to January 2002. He joined the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as Deputy Secretary on 14 January 2002 and was responsible for the Department’s Policy Group. He led the 2003 Common Agriculture Policy negotiations for NI and represented DARD regularly at UK and EU strategy meetings on agri-food, rural issues, the environment and fisheries. Tony retired from the Northern Ireland Civil Service on 30 August 2005 and since then has undertaken a wide range of advisory work in Northern Ireland and in several European countries. He is also a Board member of the UK Community Foundations.
Kim Addis is a qualified solicitor working in-house for Bank of Ireland in its specialist property group. Prior to joining Bank of Ireland in 2009, Kim worked in private practice for over 12 years where her clients included the RDC and other rural and community groups. Kim worked closely with the RDC over a number of years to deliver and monitor grant funding to a wide variety of projects under the EU’s Peace II Programme. For over seven years Kim was involved in a voluntary capacity in managing a cross-community social enterprise after-schools club in Holywood with particular responsibility for statutory compliance and fund raising. Born and educated in Dublin, Kim’s interests include walking, sailing, reading and cooking.
Patrick Casement lives near Ballycastle where he ran a family farm for 35 years, rearing beef and lamb. He was a founder member and first Chairman of Green Glens Marketing, a farmers' co-operative with more than 100 members. He was then a Board member and subsequently Chairman of Ulster Agricultural Organisations' Society, the parent body for agricultural co-operatives, and represented them on the Board of Family Farm Development. He has always had a strong interest in the natural environment and has been involved with a number of conservation organisations including the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Trust, where he was Chairman of the Committee for Northern Ireland (2000-2010), a member of the national Council (1998-2014) and a Trustee (2006-2011). He served on the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, a Statutory Advisory Council to the DOENI, as a member from 1989 to 1996, and as Chairman from 2008 to 2014. He is currently Chairman of Northern Ireland Environment Link, and a member of the National Trust's Rural Enterprise Panel.
Liam was appointed as Town Clerk and Chief Executive of Limavady Borough Council in 2005 and has been very active in recent years within the sector preparing the way for the Review of Public Administration in Local Government. He is currently Chair of the Solace N.I. branch, the professional body for Local Authority Chief Executives. Previous to working for Local Government Liam was the Director of Housing Services with Fold Housing Association which he joined first in 1980 and he was very involved in the development and management of social and special needs housing in many of our rural areas. He is married with four children living in the countryside outside Maghera where he is an active committee member of his local community group, Carntogher Community Association/ Cumann Forbartha Charn Tóchair, where he is involved in a number of cultural and environmental initiatives. His hobbies include bird-watching, fishing and hill walking and looking after the families various pets and animals.
Alan Hunter has been an active farmer for 35 years on a traditional family farm. A diverse range of enterprises are carried out on the farm including renewable energy (biomass wind and solar). Alan is interested in other models of diversification. As a mature student Alan gained an Msc in Environmental Management, a qualification which led to delivering Good Farming Practice to fellow farmers, and acting as a facilitator in the Farm Family Options programme. Alan is currently on the board of the Arc North West Local Action Group, having served on the last two LEADER Programmes. Community involvement is an interest that he has pursued over the last fifteen years as vice chairman of Greysteel Community Enterprises. Outside interests include all types of sport with a particular interest in golf and the Ulster Rugby team.
Joe McDonald joined Asda in May 2013 as Corporate Affairs Manager in Northern Ireland. He is part of the wider Corporate Affairs Team based in the organisations headquarters in Leeds. He represents Asda on all aspects of policy affecting the retailer in Northern Ireland including: planning, business rates, alcohol legislation and local supply chain. Joe’s role also entails building relationships with stakeholders and promoting the work Asda delivers in areas such as the responsible retailing of alcohol and Asda’s Community Life Programme. He is also Asda’s UK Public Affairs representative on agri-food and clothing supply chain issues. Joe was previously the head of Membership and Communications with the Ulster Farmers’ Union. Joe is also a member of the Business in the Community Arena Network steering group and the Chartered Institute of Managers. He is a graduate of Queen’s University where he attained a BSc in Economics, an MSc in Agricultural Economics and an MBA. Joe is married with three children. In his spare time he enjoys playing music and is Youth Officer with his local GAA Club.
Eddie worked for the European Union for twenty-three years, first for the European Parliament and then the European Commission. After holding a range of press and public relations postings with the Parliament in Luxembourg, Brussels, Strasbourg and London, he returned home in 2002 to head up the European Commission’s Office in Northern Ireland. After six years he moved on to work for the Commission in Stockholm and Dublin before retiring in 2011. A graduate of Queen’s University, Eddie’s working life began in Pembrokeshire where he worked in local government as a planning and economic development officer. Since retirement Eddie has devoted most of his time to looking after a smallholding in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains.
Stewart Johnston was educated at Bangor Grammar School and, subsequently joined the NI Civil Service. He spent most of his career in the Agriculture Department, in corporate services, and subsequently commodity, animal, plant health and EU Divisions. Stewart subsequently transferred to head the Executive Secretariat in the Office of the First & deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), and was involved mainly in co-ordinating the work of the NI Departments during the Assembly's suspension and, later, assisting with the political efforts being made to allow its restoration in 2007. Now retired, Stewart's interests include travel and music.
Wesley grew up and still lives on a small livestock farm in Markethill, Co Armagh and he graduated from Edinburgh University with a Degree in Agriculture in 1989.He started his career with the UFU in 1991, firstly as Policy Officer for Pigs, Poultry and Fish Farming before moving across to cover Dairying and heading up the Union’s Policy Team in 1995 and more recently the Union’s Communications Team.During his time with the UFU he has represented the Union at local, UK and EU levels and has been centrally involved in the UFU’s activity on virtually all of the major issues affecting Northern Ireland’s farmers over the past twenty years including: several CAP reforms; BSE, Foot and Mouth Disease, and Dioxin crises; £3 million Snow Hardship and £1.3 million Fodder Transport Schemes; a major ongoing Farm Safety Initiative; deregulation of the NI Milk Marketing Board; establishment of AgriSearch and Animal Health and Welfare NI; EU Nitrates Directive implementation; several farm capital investment and agri-environment schemes; secured £6 million of agri-monetary compensation for LFA farmers; major review of agri food related bureaucracy; introduction of sheep electronic identification; development of NI Executive’s Rural White Paper; introduction of £3 million Young Farmers’ Scheme; National Park opposition; Fermanagh flooding; Open Farm Weekend; retailer protests and creation of UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator; ‘Horsemeat Scandal’; NI Agri-food Strategy Board input; introduction of Bovine TB Badger TVR trials; and introduction of a mobile ‘farmer health check’ service.