NILGA Strategic Partners

NILGA Strategic Partners

NILGA has appointed eleven Strategic Partners that work closely with the Association to help develop and inform practical and policy ideas for strengthening local government in Northern Ireland.

Paul O’Brien - Association for Public Services Excellence

Chief Executive

Association for Public Service Excellence is a not for profit local government body working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.

APSE Website

Majella McCloskey - Centre for Effective Services

Senior Manager

The Centre for Effective Services (CES) is a not for profit, intermediary organisation with offices in Dublin and Belfast.  We connect policy, practice and research, helping to ensure the implementation of effective services, to improve the lives of people living across the island of Ireland. 

CES Website

Neil McInroy - Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Chief Executive

Neil oversees the running of CLES and the development of the organisation, including collaborations with other bodies. A leading commentator on economic development and public policy, Neil has featured in Local Government Chronicle’s annual top 50 most influential people in local government. He has been involved in public sector policy and delivery for over 25 years.

Neil has collaborated with a broad range of local, regional and national governments and agencies across UK and in Europe, Asia, US and Australasia. His particular skills are in strategic policy, local economic and social research, analysis and development; research methodologies and facilitation.

CLES Website

Charlie Fisher - Development Trusts NI

Programme Manager

Charlie has over 25 years of project management and development experience working across the public and community & voluntary sectors.  His professional experience is in social, community, economic and asset-based development, area/community planning and community ownership.  Charlie possesses a comprehensive understanding of the third sector and policy underpinning its development. His knowledge and experience extend across the island of Ireland and the UK and has established strong institutional links and cross-national networks.

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Charlie has had full responsibility to manage and deliver the Community Asset Transfer programme for DTNI. He has worked as lead partner with the Department for Communities in implementing the NI Executives CAT policy framework.  Charlie represents DTNI and its member’s interests at the UK inter-regional Development Trust Network which considers policy and practice across UK regions.

Charlie's role brings him into close contact with local government authorities in NI, working with officers and elected members. He is an advocate for community planning policy & practice to better engage 3rd sector organisations as co-producers of public services. Through DTNI he advocates for community rights and reform of local government including the introduction of enhanced devolved powers for planning, economic development and support for communities to lead in commissioning, procurement and service delivery. Through DTNI he is the point of contact for NILGA and is presently engaged in bringing forward new policy and practice to advance resilient local economies and community wealth building. 

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DTNI Website

Michael McQuillan - Enterprise Northern Ireland

Chief Executive

Michael McQuillan became Chief Executive at Enterprise Northern Ireland in July 2018. Prior to that he was the Director of the Business Institute at the Ulster University Business School.

An entrepreneur by background, Michael was involved in several businesses. Most notably, perhaps, as co-founder of ‘The Streat’ coffee chain - he established the business in 1999, expanding it organically and then through franchising, leading to an acquisition by a major food distribution company in 2010.

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Through McQuillan Associates Michael consulted and mentored more than 250 SMEs across Northern Ireland from 2010 to 2014. He is a Board Member of Tourism NI and a Non-Executive Director on several Northern Irish businesses. Michael was appointed as a Visiting Professor to Ulster University in 2011 and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Michael’s business success and advocacy of and involvement in skills and enterprise development underpin his career-long contribution to Northern Ireland's business arena.

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Enterprise NI Website

Roger Pollen - Federation of Small Businesses

Head of External Affairs NI

FSB Northern Ireland has around 6,000 members – business owners who join for the benefits that membership brings to them individually, and because of the collective campaigning work that FSB undertakes to ensure the policy environment is one where small businesses can thrive.

Small businesses are at the core of the local economy. They account for 99.9% of all businesses in Northern Ireland and employ more people than all larger businesses and the entire public sector – combined!  Our team in Northern Ireland works closely with all the local political parties - engaging with local government, with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, parliamentarians at Westminster, and the Civil Service, as well as with other stakeholders and strategic partners, to campaign for all small businesses.

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We regularly make our voice heard in the media to highlight small business issues, and we ensure our members’ interests are being represented at all levels of government so that the priorities and concerns of the small business sector are considered.

Our market leading services also level the playing field for smaller businesses, so that they have 24/7 access to legal and employment advice, tax advice and much, much more.

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FSB Website

Helen Quigley - Inner City Trust

Managing Director

Helen Quigley is Chief Executive Officer of Inner City Trust Group, a member of Academy of Urbanism and the governing body of Ulster University; Chair of Fashion and Textile Design Centre, Deputy Lieutenant for the Borough of Londonderry, Freeman of the City of London and recently elected Vice Chair of the Heritage Trust Network.

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Helen is also a Fellow of the Institute of Accounting Technicians and worked in an accountancy practice in Derry for 30 years. She is a former councillor and Mayor of Derry (2006-07) and served as the president of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) in 2008-09.  As a public representative, Helen has held various positions both on Derry City Council and outside bodies.

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Inner City Trust Website

Colin Jess - Social Enterprise NI


Colin joined Social Enterprise NI in June 2016 having spent 38 years working in local financial institutions. Most recently Colin worked for Ulster Bank in Belfast and recently left after 28 years, holding a senior management position in Business Banking. Over the past three years Colin held the post of Lead Ambassador for the Banks strategy in working with the Third Sector in NI and RI and has developed a large network of stakeholders across the charity, social enterprise and community and voluntary sector.

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Colin also led the banks Public Sector strategy and particularly working with the NI Councils in respect of their new responsibility for driving social, women and youth enterprise. Colin also works with organisations such as Young Enterprise NI and Prince’s Trust. Colin is a Non-Executive board member and Chair of the Finance and Governance Committee of Women in Business, a recently appointed ambassador for charity Start360, and a Mentor with the Entrepreneurial Spark programme in Belfast. 

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SENI Website

Alan McVicker - Strategic Investment Board

Strategic Adviser

The projects the Strategic Investment Board works on have a significant positive impact for the citizens of Northern Ireland, protecting and improving the health, wealth and natural environments of the communities of the people who live here.

SIB supports a broad range of fascinating and often complex projects and programmes and my own experience within the organisation reflects this. My current workload ranges from promoting world class infrastructure to sustainably managing a variety of waste streams, to the regeneration of towns like Portrush, and more recently working on a digital enterprise project to be located on NI’s pilot Enterprise Zone.

SIB Website

Nichola Hughes - Sustainable NI


Sustainable Northern Ireland came into existence in 1998 as a collaborative project of NI Environment Link, WWF and the Local Government Training Group. Our objective, then as now, was to promote the adoption of sustainable development principles by local authorities and other agencies of government.

SNI Website

Gráinne Walsh - Stratagem

Head of Consultancy

Established in 1998 as the new Assembly took shape, Stratagem connects organisations with politics and gets results. We take your issues and messages, apply our strategic, creative and political know-how, and provide you with the support you need to make meaningful impact.  Whether it is pressing for legislative change, or increasing awareness of your priorities, we can build you a strategy which delivers. 

Our team of experts from the world of politics, law and communications makes us Northern Ireland’s leading public affairs consultancy. We work across sectors, from manufacturing to energy, arts to business, charity and health. We navigate the process of converting ideas to outcomes. We are members of the Association of Professional Political Consultants.

Stratagem Website

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