Boosting Our Economy - Celebrating Our Culture - Enhancing Our Children's Education

Boosting Our Economy - Celebrating Our Culture - Enhancing Our Children's Education

About Us


Our Board members are expected to commit approximately 8 days of their time per annum and the Chair commits approximately 20 days per annum. The length of each term of appointment for all Board members is from 3-5 years. Our Board currently consists of the following members:

Sir David Sterling KCB – Chairperson (February 2022 to 2027) 

David spent his career in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) working in a variety of roles. He was Permanent Secretary in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) from 2009 to 2014 and was responsible for the full range of DETI’s functions including policy on economic and business development, tourism, telecommunications, energy, business regulation, geological survey, trading standards and the Insolvency Service.

He was Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance from 2014 to 2017 when he was promoted to be Head of the NICS, a role from which he retired in August 2020. The devolved institutions were in suspension from the time of his appointment until the resumption of devolved government in early January 2020. His main challenges during his time as Head of the NICS were maintaining public services in the absence of ministers, preparing for Brexit, facilitating the resumption of the Executive in January 2020 and dealing with the first wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

He is currently the Chair of the Chief Executives’ Forum in Northern Ireland, an EY Associate and a board member of a number of charities including Ulster Wildlife, the Cancer Fund for Children, the Centre for Cross Border Studies and Women in Business NI.

Tom Gray (June 2020 to December 2023)

Tom is a 30-year tech veteran and is the driving force behind many of Kainos PLC most imaginative and successful customer and staff initiatives, including HealthHackEU, Kainos AICamp and Code4Derry.

Tom joined Kainos in 1988 as a Software Engineer and, subsequently took on roles in Support, Pre-Sales and Solution Architecture before being appointed CTO in 2005 and Director of Innovation in 2016.

Tom is also Chairman of Ulster University’s Industrial Liaison Board, founder and curator of the annual BelTech and AI Con conferences and is investor in, and Director of, a number of startups. Tom is a member of the Engineering Policy Group of IET NI, the CBI Tech Committee, and a member of the MATRIX Science Panel, having chaired the Turing AI Capability retort and co-chaired the MATRIX ICT report. Previously, Tom has been Director of Digital Catapult NI, Chairman of IET in NI, Industry Liaison for Manchester Connected Health Ecosystem.

Tom graduated from Queen’s University Belfast and holds a BSc. in Computer Science.

Mark Huffam CBE (July 2019 to June 2024)

Mark started his career in film and television on a Northern Ireland produced film, The End of the World Man, released in 1986, working his way through the Locations and Production departments. He became an Associate Producer and Production Manager on the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan, released in 1998. In 2011, he was a Producer on the first season of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones that brought much ongoing business to Northern Ireland. In 2015, he was a Producer on the science fiction film The Martian starring Matt Damon, which Ridley Scott directed. He received an Academy Award nomination for the film and won a Golden Globe.

Bringing new opportunities and support to communities, businesses and individuals is something he prides himself on and gives much of his time and expertise to support new entrants to the industry.

He was awarded a CBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to the film and television industries.

Mark continues to produce and support a range of projects across the UK and internationally.

Fionnuala Deane (July 2019 to June 2024)

Fionnuala is a founding director of Dog Ears children’s media company set up in 2010, based in Derry. Prior to Dog Ears, she ran an independent publishing company for twelve years. She has managed large-scale projects and budgets working with a mixture of public and private sources.

Fionnuala was an executive producer on series 1 and 2 of the multi-award-winning animated pre-school TV series Puffin RockPuffin Rock which has been acquired internationally by leading broadcasters including Netflix and available in over 25 languages. She was also an executive producer on recently launched Puffin Rock And The New Friends movie (the first animated feature to be made in Northern Ireland) and an executive producer on Saturday Club. Fionnuala is currently an executive producer working on a large scale 2D animated series with a large American Streamer due for release late in 2023.

Brenda Romero (July 2019 to June 2024)

Brenda Romero is a BAFTA award-winning game director, entrepreneur, artist and Fulbright award recipient and is presently studio director of Romero Games based in Galway, Ireland. As a game director, she has worked on 50 games and contributed to many seminal titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series and titles in the Ghost Recon, Dungeons & Dragons and Def Jam franchises. Away from the machine, her analog series of six games, The Mechanic is the Message, has drawn national and international acclaim, particularly Train and Siochán Leat, a game about her family’s history, which is presently housed in the National Museum of Play. In addition to a BAFTA and a Fulbright, Romero is the recipient of multiple lifetime achievement awards, a Grace Hopper Award, a GDC Ambassador Award, and many of the games she has contributed to have won numerous awards.

Michael Fanning (July 2022 to June 2025)

Michael is an award winning producer and director who has produced a range of current affairs and factual programmes for broadcasters across the UK and Ireland. He is Managing Director of Below The Radar, a Belfast based TV production company. He joined Below The Radar in 2006 having spent five years working in news and current affairs at UTV.

Michael is also a member of Northern Ireland Screen’s Strategic Resources Committee.

Richard Hanna (July 2022 to June 2025)

Richard is currently Director of Education and Language in the Ulster-Scots Agency. He is responsible for a range of work including school-based programmes and activities designed to promote Ulster-Scots culture and heritage at home and abroad.

He joined the Ulster-Scots Agency in 2017 having retired from The Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment where he held the position of Director of Education Strategy.

In his role in CCEA he was responsible for developing policy advice related to curriculum, assessment and reporting and for providing support and guidance to schools. He was also responsible for implementing statutory assessment and reporting arrangements in Northern Ireland schools.

Richard held a number of management positions in CCEA which included responsibility for leading the development and support for qualifications, on-screen marking of examinations and the development of adaptive computer-based assessments in literacy and numeracy.

Before joining CCEA, Richard was a post-primary teacher for 18 years.

He has held a number of non-executive positions and has been a member of the Governing Body of Stranmillis University College since 2014.

Richard is also Chair of Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

Róise Ní Bhaoill (July 2022 to June 2025)

Róise worked for the Irish-language charity, the ULTACH Trust until 2019. She served on a range of committees and boards including Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta (The Trust for Irish-medium Education, of which she was Chair), Colmcille (promoting Irish and Scottish Gaelic links), The European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, the Raidió na Gaeltachta Commission and various panels and subcommittees of the Community Relations Council, the Human Rights Commission and the Arts Council.

She is the author of Ulster Gaelic Voices: Bailiúchán Doegen 1931, a collection of recordings of some of the last native speakers of Irish in Ulster. She also authored Taisce Focal, Scéalta beaga do dhaoine móra for adult learners of Irish and Ceol Leat! for the Irish-medium preschool sector. She has edited the MERCATOR Dossier on the Irish language in education in Northern Ireland and was joint-editor of Gaelic-medium education provision: Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and the bilingual short story collection Bás in Éirinn | May You Die in Ireland. She edited Our Tangled Speech, a collection of essays on language and politics, by her late colleague Aodán Mac Póilin. Her first short story collection was published recently.

Susan Picken (July 2022 to June 2025)

Most recently, Susan was Director of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, a cultural regeneration agency working in and around Belfast’s historic city centre Cathedral Quarter. Amongst the projects the trust delivers is Belfast’s yearly Culture Night event, the city’s largest free arts event with annual audiences of over 90,000.

Between 2008 and 2017 Susan was head of the Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT). Part of Queen’s University, the two-screen QFT is Northern Ireland’s only dedicated cultural cinema delivering a world-class, year-round programme of feature films, documentary, archive and specialised films and event. During Susan’s time at the QFT, she managed all aspects of programming and operations, building audiences of around 100,000 each year and overseeing the cinema’s full conversion to digital technology.

In 2012, Susan oversaw the introduction and set-up of Film Hub NI, part of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Film Audience Network, a major UK wide audience development project based around a series of regional and national film hubs. Film Hub NI delivers a range of audience development and screening based support across NI and has had a significant positive impact upon film culture in the region.

Prior to this, Susan had many years’ experience working in cultural cinema in London. Roles included running events at London’s National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank) and running the film programme at the Hospital Club, the members’ club for the creative industries.

Susan canvassed on behalf of the Alliance Party in the 2017 General Election.

Susan is also a member of Northern Ireland Screen’s Audit and Risk Committee and Investment Committees.

Peter Weil (June 2020 to May 2025)

Starting in the early sixties as a child actor on BBC Northern Ireland Home Service’s Children’s Hour, Peter went on to become Head of BBC Radio Ulster; Head of Network Television, BBC North; Senior Vice-President, Discovery Networks International; General Manager, Animal Planet International and Chief Executive, CTVC (part of the Rank Foundation).

Peter has produced programmes with Sir Robin Day, Sir David Frost, Jeremy Paxman, Dame Esther Rantzen, Paul Clark, Miriam O’Callaghan, Gerry Ryan, Emma Barnett and Gloria Hunniford. Peter was the first Head of Youth Programmes at BBC Northern Ireland and was subsequently appointed the editor of BBC One’s Wogan. He launched First Edition with Jon Snow, a schools current affairs programme on Channel Four for 9-13 year olds, which ran for eight years. As General Manager of Animal Planet he commissioned Meerkat Manor which subsequently aired on Animal Planet USA, BBC Two and Channel 5. He also pioneered TrueTube, an online channel which specialises in religious education and citizenship.

The channel won the BAFTA award for Children’s Channel of the Year in 2017. During his period as CEO of CTVC, the company won an RTS award for best edited documentary (Welcome to Mayfair) as well as three nominations for a Grierson documentary award.

In 2000 Peter was invited to become a fellow of the Royal Television Society and in 2002, while working in the USA, he was appointed an Alternate Director for the Emmys committee.

Peter is currently a Governor of Stranmillis University College where he chairs the Finance and General Purposes Committee. In addition, he chairs Northern Ireland Screen’s Investment Committee.

Together with a board which included Baroness May Blood, Monica McWilliams, Carol McCann, former Principal, St. Dominic’s Grammar School and Dr. David Gallagher, former senior Vice-Principal and Head of Politics at Methodist College Belfast.

Peter’s proudest achievement was to launch Politics in Action in 2017. At a time when neither the Assembly nor the Executive were sitting, thirty post secondary schools from across the Province came together to participate in a pan Northern Ireland shared education initiative which involved visits to Stormont, Westminster and Leinster House and the opportunity to quiz MLAs, MPs and TDs.

Carmel Mullan (June 2020 to May 2025)

Carmel has a diverse range of financial experience gained over 30 years starting with ‘Big 4’ training. She is a qualified accountant and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland. She spent 13 years in practice with Ernst & Young where, as an Audit Senior Manager she managed UK, ROI and internationally based assignments.

For 15 years, Carmel was Group Financial Controller at UTV Media plc which was a media group responsible for the provision of the regional Channel 3 television licence in Northern Ireland, radio services in Ireland and GB; and digital services in Ireland. Carmel was a strategic member of an executive team that built the national business through acquisitions, diversification into new business areas and tendering for new radio licences.

In recent years Carmel has performed consultancy roles in strategic projects, risk management, corporate governance and compliance. She currently acts as Financial Advisor and Company Secretary to the Board of Diaceutics PLC, having successfully project managed the Company’s IPO and consequential listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Carmel is a Commissioner on the Board of The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and is a member of their Audit & Risk Committee.

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