Announcement of the extension of the appointments of the Chair and Board Members of the Community Relations Council

Date published: 29 June 2023

The Executive Office has announced the extension of the appointments of the Chair and Members of the Community Relations Council (CRC). The Chair and Members were originally appointed for a three-year period from 31 May 2019. This was subsequently extended to 31 May 2023.


The appointments of the following Board Members have now been extended for a further period of 12 months from 1 June 2023 to 31 May 2024:

Martin McDonald (Chairperson)
Dr Maire Braniff,
Rory Campbell,
Claire Harris,
John McCallister,
Sheila McClelland,
Michael McDonnell,
Dr Audrey Simpson; and
Nisha Tandon.

Remuneration for the Chairperson is £8,200 per year and Board Member may claim £125 per diem, up to a maximum of £3,000 per year.

Notes to editors: 

1. The Community Relations Council is an arms-length body of the Executive Office which leads and support change towards reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust.  It is a key delivery partner in the delivery of the NI Executive’s Together Building a United Community Strategy.

2. Biographical details of appointed Members:-

Martin McDonald has over 40 years of experience in public service, commencing his career with local government in 1973. He later went on to work in the Town & Country Planning Service and in 1990 joined the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as a Rural Area Co-ordinator under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme. Martin is well recognised as a key figure in the development and implementation of major rural/community development initiatives. He joined the NI Rural Development Council as Chief Executive in 1999 and retired in 2011. He has also worked with the International Fund for Ireland, acting as their agent through RDC, for projects and programmes under the Fund's 'Sharing this Space' strategy.

Martin was a member of the NI Heritage Lottery Fund since 2011 and acted as Interim Chair between 2013 and 2016. He also acts as a non-executive director on the The Southern Health and Social Care Trust. Martin is a former director and Chair of Newry Credit Union and a former member of the NI Fisheries Harbour Authority.

Martin was awarded an MBE for Services to Regeneration in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

John McCallister lives near Rathfriland, County Down. After studying at Greenmount College (CAFRE) he returned home to start his farming career. After many years of involvement with Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster serving in different roles he was elected YFCU President from 2003-05.

With a passion for politics, John was elected as a UUP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in March 2007 and re-elected in 2011 for the South Down constituency.

He was the first MLA in have a Private Members Bill passed by the Assembly becoming the Caravans Act 2011 and the first member to pass a second Private Members Bill in 2016 when the Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act 2016 was passed. He served on ten different Assembly Committees and the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. John served as Deputy Leader of the UUP between 2010 and 2012.

After leaving the Assembly in 2016 John now works for YFCU and Ulster Farmers Union heading up a Land Mobility Programme.  He served as a Human Right Commissioner from 2017 to 2020.  He was appointed to the CRC Board in 2019 and as an Equality Commissioner in 2022.'

Audrey Simpson was formerly the Director of the Family Planning Association and was awarded the OBE in 2005 for promoting women’s healthcare in Northern Ireland. In 2011 she was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Ulster. She was a Commissioner with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland between 2003 and 2008 and has worked extensively in the voluntary and community sector including being Chair of the Community Development Health Network.

Sheila McClelland has been the chair of the Consumer Council for NI since 2015. She is also Chief Executive Officer of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Ireland since 2019. She is a panel member on the Competition and Markets Authority considering mergers since 2017. She is also a board member of Cooperation Ireland since 2017. She was CEO in Carrickfergus Borough Council between 2012 and 2015. She was previously an NI committee member of the National Lottery Heritage Fund from 2015 to 2022 and also has finished an appointment to the board of Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas where she served between 2013 and 2021.

Rory Campbell is a tech and commercial law partner with Lewis Silkin’s Belfast office. He has been advising the public sector, social housing providers and charities on corporate governance since 1994, and is regarded as a leader in his field by legal sector bibles, Legal 500 and Chambers. Rory has sat on the CRC Audit Committee since 2016.  He is also a keen supporter of the Rathlin Development Community Association.

Claire Harris is the Impact Consultant for The Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast and a co-founder and Director of Tell It in Colour C.I.C.  Claire completed her undergraduate degree with Queen’s University and an MPhil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation with Trinity College. She has since worked, both locally and globally, in the field of conflict transformation. She has worked for The Young Foundation and Belfast Interface Project, of which she now sits on the Board. Claire is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Belfast Hub and was named on the Northern Ireland 40 under 40 list for 2018. Claire’s work centres on social innovation and participatory engagement.

Nisha Tandon is a social entrepreneur, founder and director of ArtsEkta. She is also a member of Belfast City Council's Festival Forum strategy sub-group and was  Northern Ireland representative for Creative Lives BAME Advisory UK Panel.

In 2016, she was appointed to the UK board of Voluntary Arts. Nisha is a founding member of 'Stronger Together', a collaboration of organisations working in the field of racial equality. In 2014, Nisha was the first Asian women from Northern Ireland to be awarded the UK Asian Women of Achievement Award and was awarded an OBE for services to the minority ethnic sector in the 2014 Queen's Honours List. In 2015, she won the British Indian Award for 'Indian Spirit in the Community'. Nisha has also been awarded the Chief Officers Third Sector award for Leading Growth & Innovation. She was awarded Honorary Doctorate from Queens University Belfast for distinction in public service.

Dr Máire Braniff is a senior lecturer in Politics and International Studies at Ulster University. Between 2016 and 2018, Máire was the Director of INCORE, Ulster University’s International Conflict Research Institute.  Máire’s expertise is on the intersections between peace, memory and violent conflict, and how they impact upon communities, political parties, on individuals, and on relationships with power.  Máire holds a BA in Politics and European Studies, an MA in International Politics and a PhD from Queens University Belfast.

Máire has published a number of books on politics and societal change. These include: “Integrating the Balkans: from Conflict to EU Expansion”; and a number of co-authored and edited books including on three of the political parties in Northern Ireland as well as her recent edited book, Troubles Past? (MUP) with McAuley and Spencer. She also works across Northern Ireland to advance good relations through harnessing the potential of tourism and heritage in community-led initiatives.

Máire has held several research grants and is involved in local and international research partnerships. She also is an Academic Friend of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO) and a Board member of Training for Women Network (TWN).

Michael McDonnell is Chief Executive of the Choice Housing Group, a registered Housing Association and charity. Michael qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1989 and has worked in leadership roles within both the private and not-for-profit sectors across the British Isles before entering the housing sector. Previously, he served in a voluntary capacity as a non-executive director for a local enterprise agency and as a school governor.


Share this page

Back to top