Paula Leathem - Chair

Paula Leathem is the Senior HR Business Partner for Northern Ireland Electricity Networks. Having worked in the organisation for over 34 years she has held a number of positions within the Customer Services area before moving into the HR team in 2003. A key member of the Senior Leadership team Paula leads on a number of the company’s key strategic HR initiatives which includes diversity, engagement, organisational development and change. Paula joined the Halifax Foundation board in 2013 and acted as Deputy Chair before taking over the chair position in 2021. She is a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute Personnel and Development. As a University of Ulster graduate she also has successfully completed a Coaching & Mentoring Certificate at Queens University Belfast and an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Level 5 Certificate in Leadership & Management. She also recently joined the Women in Business board. Paula lives in Carrickfergus and is married with 4 children and 3 grandchildren.

Barry Connolly - Deputy Chair

Barry Connolly is a Chartered Accountant with 20 years’ experience. He trained with KPMG in Belfast, before working with PwC for several years. He is currently Group Finance Director with Community Finance Ireland who provide social finance lending to charities, social enterprises, and third sector organisations across the island of Ireland. Barry is a native of County Fermanagh but has been living in Belfast for a number of years. Barry is also the Chair of Victim Support Northern Ireland.

Gillian Boyd

Gillian Boyd is the Deputy Manager for Cedar Foundation Youth Matters Service, a regional service for young people with physical disabilities, acquired brain injury and Autism. Gillian has worked in the community and voluntary sector for over 20 years specialising in Inclusion and Diversity, Fundraising, Detached Youth Work and Community Relations. Gillian has previously served on the board of Northern Ireland Children’s Enterprise (NICE) and served as Chairperson with Families Achieving Change Together (FACT) a cross-community victims and survivors charity. Gillian has a BSc (Hons) Youth and Community Work, Level 7 Supervision and Practice Teaching Qualification, CMI Level 7 Certificate in Leadership & Strategic Management, ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching & Mentoring and is currently completing MSc Autism at Queens University.

Áine McCoy

Áine is the People Partner for Lloyds Banking Group in NI, she has held this role since 2003 and prior to this, worked with in both the Private and Public Sector in HR. She is a Chartered member of the Institute of Personnel and Development and a Graduate of the University of Ulster.

Michael Prendergast

Michael Prendergast is a Senior Fraud Manager with Lloyds Banking Group where he has worked since 2005. Prior to this he has held a number of technical roles in the Private Sector both in Ireland and abroad. Michael is a graduate of the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and is married with two teenage children. He is an active school governor since 2004 and Third Sector mentor.

Ken Simpson

Ken Simpson is an accountant and for over 40 years worked in the media sector, 35 of which were as Finance Director of Belfast Telegraph Newspapers. In addition, he has a degree in Economics (Hons) from Queens University and an MBA (distinction) from the University of Ulster. In 2010 Ken moved to the voluntary sector and has held various finance roles with several leading Northern Ireland charities, including Young Enterprise, RNIB and the Red Cross. He is also a Trustee of a number of well known charities, as well as being a Trustee Director of a large pension fund. Ken’s main skills and experience are in the areas of finance, governance, risk management, change management, strategy development, operational planning, board and committee meetings and procedures, and grant application, monitoring and control.

Melvin Slaine

Melvin has worked for Lloyds Banking Group since 1994. He leads the Blackhorse Distribution Team in Northern Ireland. Responsible for P&L, Risk, Compliance and Sales Objectives via intermediary relationships. Melvin worked with the Halifax Foundation in 2017 to set up phase one of the mentor programme – which matched colleagues to charities funded by the Foundation to provide mentoring to a key member of staff. He was also instrumental in supporting the Foundation to set up Financial Literacy training for charities.

Brenda Kelly

Brenda is currently the CEO of Nexus an organisation providing support and services to victims of sexual trauma. She has 30 years’ experience of working in both the voluntary and community sector and public sector in England and Northern Ireland. Brenda is passionate about supporting local communities and groups to build their skills, ensuring that they are able to serve future generations. Throughout her career she has worked to develop and support disadvantaged groups and communities. She has extensive experience of developing and implementing strategies to support the development of organisations and over the course of 30 years, she has developed and delivered a range of training for voluntary and community groups in areas such as governance, planning and volunteer support.

Dionne Darragh

Dionne Darragh graduated from the University of Ulster, Jordanstown in 2006 and has practiced as a Solicitor since 2008, following graduation from the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. Dionne is a Director in O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, specialising in personal injury litigation, with particular expertise in catastrophic injury, amputation and severe fracture cases. She advises clients on a wide range of complex clinical negligence actions involving misdiagnosis, delayed cancer diagnosis, birth injury and surgical negligence claims. Dionne is a member of the Belfast Solicitors Association and the Law Society Clinical Negligence Practitioners Group. In her spare time, Dionne enjoys nothing more than heading out with her husband on their motorbikes. She is a road captain for the Belfast Chapter Harley Owners Group, and helps organise rallies, ride outs and events.

Jenny Ebbage

Jenny Ebbage has been a solicitor for over 30 years. Jenny specialises in advising third sector organisations and is the leading lawyer ranked Band 1 by Chambers UK in charity law in Northern Ireland for 12 years. She advises a wide range of charities from local community groups to international brands. A graduate of the University of Wales Cardiff and Queens University Belfast, she is a trustee of several charities and an Executive Committee Member of the UK Charity Law Association. Jenny is a contributor on Northern Ireland charity law to a number of publications including “ The Informed Trustee” online charity trustee training platform and is the NI Editor of Jordans Charities Administration Service and a writer for PLC Global Charity Law. She delivers board training and seminars for the third sector on charity law and social enterprise and has a particular expertise in charity mergers.

Niall Parfitt

Niall Parfitt is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience working with large organisations to SMEs. Niall also holds an MSc in Organisation and Management from Queen’s University, Belfast and a professional diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Niall runs his own inbound marketing agency, Atlanticus Digital. Niall also facilitates workshops and webinars across all of Ireland training on all aspects of digital marketing. Niall is currently a Trustee/Director of Headliners and was on the board of the South Eastern Regional College (SERC) as part of the Boardroom Apprentice programme in 2020. On a personal level, Niall is deeply passionate about giving back and has fundraised for a number of charities such as Children’s Heartbeat Trust, Down’s Syndrome Association and Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. In the last 3 years, he has completed 6 marathons including Dublin, Belfast and Derry. Niall lives in Banbridge and is married with two children.


Closing Date

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