RDC Appoints 5 New Members to its Board

24 June 2014

The Rural Development Council (RDC) has today announced the appointments of Patrick Casement, Liam Flanigan, Máire Gallagher, Stewart Johnston and Joe McDonald to its Board.

The appointments following an open recruitment exercise are for 3 years, with the option of reappointment for a second term.

Tony McCusker, Chair of the RDC said:  “I am delighted to welcome Patrick, Liam, Máire, Stewart and Joe to the Board, they bring an impressive mix of talents and skills that will further broaden the cross sectoral expertise of the RDC.

They are joining the organisation at a particularly exciting time when we have just embarked on the implementation of our strategic framework to 2016. I am looking forward to working with them during this important phase as we develop plans for the future”.

RDC, the rural development organisation for Northern Ireland, provides a range ofsupport, research, training and delivery services for individuals, farmers, farm families, groups, communities, social economy enterprises, public and private sector organisations.  The Board is responsible for the overall strategic direction of RDC.  They are supported by an enthusiastic and passionate staff team of 22 and collectively they work to secure a vision of 'a living, working, sustainable and shared countryside'. 


The new Board Members are:

Patrick Casement - 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 Flanigan - 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.

Máire Gallagher - Máire has worked for over 18 years in management roles, including: Director of School Employer Connections; Assistant Director of Groundwork NI; “Alliances for Health” Programme Manager with the Health Promotion Agency for NI; and European Projects Manager with Customized Training Services. In addition, Máire has served on a number of boards and committees, including the NI Committee of the UK Heritage Lottery Fund and the board of Foras na Gaeilge. Máire was raised in Donegal and Derry and lives and works in the North West.

Stewart Johnston - Stewart Johnston was educated at Bangor Grammar School and, after working in DHSS and Exchequer and Audit Department (now the NIAO), he spent most of his career in the NI Department of Agriculture. His early career there was in the HR function, of which in due course, he became head. After a stint in the Department's Milk Division and 5 years in the Finance and EU Co-ordination Divisions, he took charge of the Animal, Plant Heath and Farm Policy functions. There were many challenges facing the industry during that time but the major one came in 2001 with the outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease, in which the Department's Animal Health and Veterinary Divisions played an obvious and key role. When that crisis was resolved (2002), Stewart 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, which eventually bore fruit in 2007. Stewart retired from the NICS in 2009. His outside interests include travel, music and aviation.

Joe McDonald - 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.