Meet the VCSE Sectoral Advisory Panel

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The VCSE Sectoral Advisory Panel was formally established in Spring 2020, following an open call selection process managed by NICVA on the Community Planning Partnership's behalf.

The Panel comprises 15 representatives, drawn from across Belfast's large and diverse voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, reflecting a spread of themes, areas of the city, and large and small organisations.

The Panel's aims are

  • to ensure that the sector's voices are represented as part of the community planning process
  • to develop and improve cross sectoral relationships and partnerships
  • to promote effective community engagement

The current Panel members are:

Irene Sherry (Chairperson)
Ashton Community Trust

A community activist for over 20 years, Irene is head of Ashton’s Health & Wellbeing department and a strong advocate and strategist in the field of mental health and suicide prevention in the city of Belfast. Irene has been Chairperson of the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Thematic Group, Belfast Strategic Partnership which has worked to develop and embed and promote the Take 5 steps to wellbeing approach throughout the city. In 2001, Irene set up Bridge of Hope as a project of Ashton Community Trust to support people affected by the legacy of the conflict and to encourage better health and wellbeing.

Irene sits on the:

  • Community Planning Partnership.
  • People and Place Review Belfast Locality Co design Group
  • Belfast Agenda Refresh Working Group
  • Procurement & Commissioning Working

Natasha Brennan (vice chair)
Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group

Natasha has over 10 years' experience working within community development with 8 of those in south Belfast with LORAG. As part of her role, she has overall management responsibilities for health and wellbeing, outreach programmes, a regional chronic pain programme and children and family services. As well as managing LORAGs social economy project, she sits on a number of boards and groups including South and East Belfast Locality Planning for Children and Young People, South Belfast Surestart, Inner South Belfast Neighbourhood partnership, Regional Healthy Living Alliance, Wider University area PACT and Belfast Outcomes group for children and young people.

Natasha sits on the:

  • Community Planning Partnership.
  • Community & Neighbourhood regeneration Steering Group

Joan Devlin
Belfast Healthy Cities

Joan has extensive experience working in the voluntary and community sector across Belfast. She has been with Belfast Healthy Cities since 1996 and was Head of the Secretariat of the WHO (World Health Organisation) European Healthy Cities Network from 2008-to 2018. Healthy Cities pioneered the concept of collaborative working for health, engaging other sectors in innovative projects on new and emerging public health issues with a focus on reducing inequalities. Joan previously worked in Save The Children (SCF) Family Centres, including the Prisoners Visitors Family Centre and currently works with a number of local initiatives, including the Care Zone and Healthy North Belfast.

Joan sits on the:

  • Connectivity, Active Sustainable Travel (CAST) Group
  • Health Inequalities Steering Group
  • Community & Neighbourhood Regeneration Steering Group
  • City Development Board
Paula Powell
British Red Cross

Paula has been involved in the VCSE sector for 20 years and over the last 13 years has worked across various roles within the Red Cross from Co-ordinator for community-based services, to her present role of Business & Partnership Development Manager for Independent Living and Emergency Response Services. She now works within senior management, assisting in the  development of programmes in partnership with statutory, voluntary and the community sector.  Paula’s work has led her to membership of a wide variety of groups, including; Integrated Care Partnership, Belfast Health Development Unit Age Friendly Winter Planning/Loneliness and Social Isolation, Frailty Network, and the NI Ambulance Service Community Resuscitation Strategy Group.

Paula sits on the:

  • Living Here Board
  • Older People Steering Group
Susan Russam
GEMS NI

Susan has over 30 years’ experience designing employability services that support people who experience labour market disadvantage. Susan has an active volunteering role serving as a member of the Racial Equality Sub-Group and previously as an independent member of Belfast PCSP. Susan was awarded the MBE in 2007 for her contribution to social housing in Northern Ireland. In her current role as Chief Executive of GEMS NI, she works to develop innovative approaches to tackling unemployment, economic inactivity and worklessness, including interventions for older people in the labour market; support for new communities and people for whom English is a second language; and support for young people not in education, employment, and training.

Susan sits on the:

  • Jobs, Skills & Education Board
  • Labour Market Partnership Working Group

David Babington
Action Mental Health

David has been the Chief Executive at Action Mental Health Group since August 2010. His skills and experience in strategic leadership, people leadership, change management and organisational management will ensure that he is able to make a valuable contribution to community planning in Belfast. He has over10 years’ experience in promoting mental health issues to politicians and policy-makers both in Stormont and at Westminster and highlighting mental health programmes and their impact on the lives of beneficiaries. Action Mental Health is a regional charity, employing over 230 staff supporting people’s mental health and well-being through vocational training, supported employment options, personal development, health and well-being programmes, resilience building and counselling.

David sits on the:

  • Resilience & Sustainability Board
Dearbhla Holohan
Barnardo’s NI

Dearbhla has been involved in the voluntary and community sector for 20 years and currently works as an Assistant Director of Children’s Services for Barnardo’s NI overseeing a range of early intervention and family support services. She previously worked as a Youth Worker and Senior Manager at Include Youth for over 14 years leading on the development of strategic partnerships focused on early intervention with a range of community and cross-border partners. She is a board member of c21 Theatre Company and the Madlug Foundation.

Dearbhla sits on the:

  • Living Here Board
Laura Feeney
Save The Children

Laura has over 20 years’ experience working within the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector across Northern Ireland focusing on health inequalities, good relations, education and children and young people’s issues. She has provided representation on a range of multi-agency forums such as Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships, Health Forums, Community Safety Partnerships and Children & Young People Locality Outcomes Groups making a contribution to a wide range of specific community issues. In her current role as NI Senior Practice & Partnership Manager within Save the Children, Laura has an in-depth knowledge of the impact of poverty on children, families and communities and how this impacts on children's early development and learning and future educational attainment.

Laura sits on the:

  • Jobs, Skills & Education Board
Jim Bradley
Belfast Hills Partnership

Jim has been Partnership Manager at the Belfast Hills Partnership since 2004, building up the organisation into one which delivers a co-ordinated approach to managing the urban fringe area landscape to the west and north of the city for its wildlife and people. Jim sits on a variety of community group boards and committees including West Belfast Partnership's Environment and Housing Committee, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership Board and Ligoniel Improvement Association's Environment and Heritage Committee. Jim works with individual community groups, schools, sports groups and agencies to address the needs of local communities on a range of issues including environmental improvement, planning, political lobbying, volunteering, community events, community arts and education.

Jim sits on the:

  • Resilience & Sustainability Board
Michael Briggs
East Belfast Community Development Agency

Michael has been involved in the third sector in East Belfast in a voluntary and paid capacity for the past 37 years. He is currently the Executive Director of East Belfast Community Development Agency (EBCDA) supporting the development of organisations in East Belfast through governance, health development programmes, leadership development, finance management, HR, volunteer development and community development. Michael is keen to ensure that East Belfast is actively engaged in the Community Planning process to ensure that everyone may contribute to the success of the city. He has already led a number of engagement events and seminars to shape the implementation and delivery of the Belfast Agenda.

Michael sits on the:

  • Belfast Stories Oversight Group

Angie Mervyn

Education Manager, West Belfast Partnership Board (WBPB).


Since 2014 Angie has been the Education Manager in WBPB and has been responsible for establishing processes and structures with local schools and community, to address improvement in education attainment levels in west Belfast.

Angie works with education stakeholders in west Belfast, across Belfast and regionally, including community organisations, Nursery, Primary and Post Primary schools as well as the Education Authority and Department of Education.

This has resulted in the development and implementation of a series clusters whereby schools and community can come together to plan on an area basis and work with children, young people and their families. In total there are 51 Nursery, Primary and Post Primary schools and 13 community based After Schools on the network.



Anne Mc Vicker

Women’s Resource & Development Agency (WRDA)

Anne took up post in the Women’s Resource & Development Agency (WRDA) as Director in January 2014 and has an extensive wealth of experience acquired over the past 38 years delivering community development, skills building, strategic planning and peacebuilding activities within the Women's Sector. Anne has held a wide variety of roles, from working as a Welfare Rights and Housing Worker to working across communities playing a significant role in both the establishment & development of Shankill Women’s Centre and WOMEN’STEC.

Anne is a founder member of RTA-Reclaim the Agenda from 2010 and a Director of both Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network-NIRWN, Women’s Platform and Alliance for Choice. Anne is a trade union activist within UNISON and has held Chairperson positions at both regional and national Women’s Committee’s.

Anne was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate from University of Ulster for her contribution to working with women in disadvantaged communities and addressing gender inequalities over the past 30 years.

Róisín Wood

Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

Róisín Wood is the CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, and previously the CEO of Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Róisín was awarded an OBE in 2018 for services to tackling discrimination in football. In October 2020 Róisín took on a new challenge as an Inclusive Leadership Consultant.

Within the Community Foundation Róisín has brought with her the passion and commitment towards an inclusive society, enhancing the focus of the Foundation’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion, transformative funding strategies, supporting grass roots community organisations and advocating for the VCSE sector at all levels.



Peter Lynch

The Blackie River Community Group

A community activist for over 20 years. Peter previously worked in Tar Anall and The Blackie River Community Group. He sits on the boards of several organisations and works at The West Belfast Partnership Board.

Peter sits on:

  • The Belfast Labour Market Partnership
  • The Community Planning Partnership.

Terry Quinn

West Belfast Strategic Health & Wellbeing Forum

Terry Quinn has worked within a number of community development & strategic planning roles for over 15 years within west Belfast. He has experience within the areas of urban regeneration, community safety, community planning & partnership working. Terry currently works for the West Belfast Partnership Board and coordinates its Strategic Health and Wellbeing Forum. The role includes coordinating an engagement strategy on a population health & wellbeing plan for west Belfast and developing a coordinated planning approach to public health issues. He also leads the WBPB lobby for safe cycle & walking infrastructure, campaigning for a greenway through west Belfast. Terry currently sits on the following boards, West Belfast Housing, environmental & planning board, Dementia Friendly West group, Healthy cities Greening the city advisory group, west Belfast active travel group, Age friendly Belfast, & Belfast Drug & Alcohol Coordination team.

Terry sits on:

  • Belfast Agenda delivery boards - The Living Here board and the Resilience and Sustainability board.



The VCSE Sectoral Advisory Panel was formally established in Spring 2020, following an open call selection process managed by NICVA on the Community Planning Partnership's behalf.

The Panel comprises 15 representatives, drawn from across Belfast's large and diverse voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, reflecting a spread of themes, areas of the city, and large and small organisations.

The Panel's aims are

  • to ensure that the sector's voices are represented as part of the community planning process
  • to develop and improve cross sectoral relationships and partnerships
  • to promote effective community engagement

The current Panel members are:

Irene Sherry (Chairperson)
Ashton Community Trust

A community activist for over 20 years, Irene is head of Ashton’s Health & Wellbeing department and a strong advocate and strategist in the field of mental health and suicide prevention in the city of Belfast. Irene has been Chairperson of the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Thematic Group, Belfast Strategic Partnership which has worked to develop and embed and promote the Take 5 steps to wellbeing approach throughout the city. In 2001, Irene set up Bridge of Hope as a project of Ashton Community Trust to support people affected by the legacy of the conflict and to encourage better health and wellbeing.

Irene sits on the:

  • Community Planning Partnership.
  • People and Place Review Belfast Locality Co design Group
  • Belfast Agenda Refresh Working Group
  • Procurement & Commissioning Working

Natasha Brennan (vice chair)
Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group

Natasha has over 10 years' experience working within community development with 8 of those in south Belfast with LORAG. As part of her role, she has overall management responsibilities for health and wellbeing, outreach programmes, a regional chronic pain programme and children and family services. As well as managing LORAGs social economy project, she sits on a number of boards and groups including South and East Belfast Locality Planning for Children and Young People, South Belfast Surestart, Inner South Belfast Neighbourhood partnership, Regional Healthy Living Alliance, Wider University area PACT and Belfast Outcomes group for children and young people.

Natasha sits on the:

  • Community Planning Partnership.
  • Community & Neighbourhood regeneration Steering Group

Joan Devlin
Belfast Healthy Cities

Joan has extensive experience working in the voluntary and community sector across Belfast. She has been with Belfast Healthy Cities since 1996 and was Head of the Secretariat of the WHO (World Health Organisation) European Healthy Cities Network from 2008-to 2018. Healthy Cities pioneered the concept of collaborative working for health, engaging other sectors in innovative projects on new and emerging public health issues with a focus on reducing inequalities. Joan previously worked in Save The Children (SCF) Family Centres, including the Prisoners Visitors Family Centre and currently works with a number of local initiatives, including the Care Zone and Healthy North Belfast.

Joan sits on the:

  • Connectivity, Active Sustainable Travel (CAST) Group
  • Health Inequalities Steering Group
  • Community & Neighbourhood Regeneration Steering Group
  • City Development Board
Paula Powell
British Red Cross

Paula has been involved in the VCSE sector for 20 years and over the last 13 years has worked across various roles within the Red Cross from Co-ordinator for community-based services, to her present role of Business & Partnership Development Manager for Independent Living and Emergency Response Services. She now works within senior management, assisting in the  development of programmes in partnership with statutory, voluntary and the community sector.  Paula’s work has led her to membership of a wide variety of groups, including; Integrated Care Partnership, Belfast Health Development Unit Age Friendly Winter Planning/Loneliness and Social Isolation, Frailty Network, and the NI Ambulance Service Community Resuscitation Strategy Group.

Paula sits on the:

  • Living Here Board
  • Older People Steering Group
Susan Russam
GEMS NI

Susan has over 30 years’ experience designing employability services that support people who experience labour market disadvantage. Susan has an active volunteering role serving as a member of the Racial Equality Sub-Group and previously as an independent member of Belfast PCSP. Susan was awarded the MBE in 2007 for her contribution to social housing in Northern Ireland. In her current role as Chief Executive of GEMS NI, she works to develop innovative approaches to tackling unemployment, economic inactivity and worklessness, including interventions for older people in the labour market; support for new communities and people for whom English is a second language; and support for young people not in education, employment, and training.

Susan sits on the:

  • Jobs, Skills & Education Board
  • Labour Market Partnership Working Group

David Babington
Action Mental Health

David has been the Chief Executive at Action Mental Health Group since August 2010. His skills and experience in strategic leadership, people leadership, change management and organisational management will ensure that he is able to make a valuable contribution to community planning in Belfast. He has over10 years’ experience in promoting mental health issues to politicians and policy-makers both in Stormont and at Westminster and highlighting mental health programmes and their impact on the lives of beneficiaries. Action Mental Health is a regional charity, employing over 230 staff supporting people’s mental health and well-being through vocational training, supported employment options, personal development, health and well-being programmes, resilience building and counselling.

David sits on the:

  • Resilience & Sustainability Board
Dearbhla Holohan
Barnardo’s NI

Dearbhla has been involved in the voluntary and community sector for 20 years and currently works as an Assistant Director of Children’s Services for Barnardo’s NI overseeing a range of early intervention and family support services. She previously worked as a Youth Worker and Senior Manager at Include Youth for over 14 years leading on the development of strategic partnerships focused on early intervention with a range of community and cross-border partners. She is a board member of c21 Theatre Company and the Madlug Foundation.

Dearbhla sits on the:

  • Living Here Board
Laura Feeney
Save The Children

Laura has over 20 years’ experience working within the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector across Northern Ireland focusing on health inequalities, good relations, education and children and young people’s issues. She has provided representation on a range of multi-agency forums such as Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships, Health Forums, Community Safety Partnerships and Children & Young People Locality Outcomes Groups making a contribution to a wide range of specific community issues. In her current role as NI Senior Practice & Partnership Manager within Save the Children, Laura has an in-depth knowledge of the impact of poverty on children, families and communities and how this impacts on children's early development and learning and future educational attainment.

Laura sits on the:

  • Jobs, Skills & Education Board
Jim Bradley
Belfast Hills Partnership

Jim has been Partnership Manager at the Belfast Hills Partnership since 2004, building up the organisation into one which delivers a co-ordinated approach to managing the urban fringe area landscape to the west and north of the city for its wildlife and people. Jim sits on a variety of community group boards and committees including West Belfast Partnership's Environment and Housing Committee, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership Board and Ligoniel Improvement Association's Environment and Heritage Committee. Jim works with individual community groups, schools, sports groups and agencies to address the needs of local communities on a range of issues including environmental improvement, planning, political lobbying, volunteering, community events, community arts and education.

Jim sits on the:

  • Resilience & Sustainability Board
Michael Briggs
East Belfast Community Development Agency

Michael has been involved in the third sector in East Belfast in a voluntary and paid capacity for the past 37 years. He is currently the Executive Director of East Belfast Community Development Agency (EBCDA) supporting the development of organisations in East Belfast through governance, health development programmes, leadership development, finance management, HR, volunteer development and community development. Michael is keen to ensure that East Belfast is actively engaged in the Community Planning process to ensure that everyone may contribute to the success of the city. He has already led a number of engagement events and seminars to shape the implementation and delivery of the Belfast Agenda.

Michael sits on the:

  • Belfast Stories Oversight Group

Angie Mervyn

Education Manager, West Belfast Partnership Board (WBPB).


Since 2014 Angie has been the Education Manager in WBPB and has been responsible for establishing processes and structures with local schools and community, to address improvement in education attainment levels in west Belfast.

Angie works with education stakeholders in west Belfast, across Belfast and regionally, including community organisations, Nursery, Primary and Post Primary schools as well as the Education Authority and Department of Education.

This has resulted in the development and implementation of a series clusters whereby schools and community can come together to plan on an area basis and work with children, young people and their families. In total there are 51 Nursery, Primary and Post Primary schools and 13 community based After Schools on the network.



Anne Mc Vicker

Women’s Resource & Development Agency (WRDA)

Anne took up post in the Women’s Resource & Development Agency (WRDA) as Director in January 2014 and has an extensive wealth of experience acquired over the past 38 years delivering community development, skills building, strategic planning and peacebuilding activities within the Women's Sector. Anne has held a wide variety of roles, from working as a Welfare Rights and Housing Worker to working across communities playing a significant role in both the establishment & development of Shankill Women’s Centre and WOMEN’STEC.

Anne is a founder member of RTA-Reclaim the Agenda from 2010 and a Director of both Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network-NIRWN, Women’s Platform and Alliance for Choice. Anne is a trade union activist within UNISON and has held Chairperson positions at both regional and national Women’s Committee’s.

Anne was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate from University of Ulster for her contribution to working with women in disadvantaged communities and addressing gender inequalities over the past 30 years.

Róisín Wood

Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

Róisín Wood is the CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, and previously the CEO of Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Róisín was awarded an OBE in 2018 for services to tackling discrimination in football. In October 2020 Róisín took on a new challenge as an Inclusive Leadership Consultant.

Within the Community Foundation Róisín has brought with her the passion and commitment towards an inclusive society, enhancing the focus of the Foundation’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion, transformative funding strategies, supporting grass roots community organisations and advocating for the VCSE sector at all levels.



Peter Lynch

The Blackie River Community Group

A community activist for over 20 years. Peter previously worked in Tar Anall and The Blackie River Community Group. He sits on the boards of several organisations and works at The West Belfast Partnership Board.

Peter sits on:

  • The Belfast Labour Market Partnership
  • The Community Planning Partnership.

Terry Quinn

West Belfast Strategic Health & Wellbeing Forum

Terry Quinn has worked within a number of community development & strategic planning roles for over 15 years within west Belfast. He has experience within the areas of urban regeneration, community safety, community planning & partnership working. Terry currently works for the West Belfast Partnership Board and coordinates its Strategic Health and Wellbeing Forum. The role includes coordinating an engagement strategy on a population health & wellbeing plan for west Belfast and developing a coordinated planning approach to public health issues. He also leads the WBPB lobby for safe cycle & walking infrastructure, campaigning for a greenway through west Belfast. Terry currently sits on the following boards, West Belfast Housing, environmental & planning board, Dementia Friendly West group, Healthy cities Greening the city advisory group, west Belfast active travel group, Age friendly Belfast, & Belfast Drug & Alcohol Coordination team.

Terry sits on:

  • Belfast Agenda delivery boards - The Living Here board and the Resilience and Sustainability board.



Ask the Panel a question

Submit a question to be put to the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sectoral Advisory Panel. The Panel will endeavour to respond at their earliest opportunity.

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Page last updated: 24 Oct 2023, 11:23 AM