Northern Ireland committee

Mental Health Foundation

Paul Sweeney

Committee Chair

Paul Sweeney

Paul has a wealth of experience working in the voluntary, community and public sectors in Northern Ireland.

From 1987 to 1994 he was the Director of the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, which supported community-based self-help initiatives.

He joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) in 1994, initially on secondment, as an adviser on community development and reconciliation. Throughout his subsequent career in the NICS he held a number of senior positions including Deputy Secretary in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister, Permanent Secretary in the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure and Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education.

Since retiring from the NICS in 2017 Paul has undertaken a trustee role in a number of not-for-profit organisations involved in regeneration, culture and young people.

Paul said: “I consider it a privilege to be appointed into this role and to be afforded the opportunity to build on the success of the Fund's grant making in the years ahead.

“The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector across Northern Ireland has responded to the challenges of COVID-19 with leadership, resilience and compassion. I believe that The National Community Fund is well placed to continue supporting local people as we re-build after the immediate pressures of the pandemic."

Anne-Marie McClure

Anne-Marie McClure

Anne-Marie McClure has worked and volunteered in the community and voluntary sector over the past 29 years and is stepping down as Chief Executive of Start360, a regional provider of support services to young people, adults at risk, and their families across Northern Ireland. Anne-Marie has many years’ experience on a range of Boards and Forums including the Northern Ireland Joint Forum and NIADA (Northern Ireland Alcohol & Drugs Alliance). She is Chair of CO3, the third sector leadership organisation, and was a public appointee to the Youth Council of Northern Ireland (YCNI) until 2019.

Anne-Marie said: “I am privileged to be given this opportunity to continue to facilitate positive change within communities as a member of the NI Committee. I want to see more active participation opportunities for those people and communities we are here to support and serve. It is they who know what is needed and just as importantly the actions necessary to make the change.

“Our communities are facing very difficult times. The need will be much greater so the impact of National Lottery funding must be felt all the more. I am committed to working together with and supporting the NI Committee and staff team to build on the successes of our grant-making to date whilst ensuring The Fund’s support is delivered where it is needed the most.”

Norman McKinley

Norman McKinley

Norman McKinley has spent his professional career working as a senior leader in the Voluntary Sector across the UK and was the Executive Director of UK Operations for the British Red Cross for six years prior to his retirement at the end of 2021. Norman is also a volunteer member of the Independent Monitoring Board at Hydebank Wood Prison and an active volunteer with the South Belfast Foodbank.

Norman said: “Having seen the sector collaborate so successfully in responding to COVID-19, there’s a great deal of potential to harness and strengthen as part of local resilience building.

“I’ve seen first-hand the significant impact that The Fund has had both nationally and locally to improve the lives of vulnerable people and I’m pleased to be able to support the important work of the NI Committee at such a critical time for the Voluntary and Community sector in NI.”

Kate Clifford

Kate Clifford

Kate has 25 years of experience working and volunteering in the community sector in rural Northern Ireland. Since 2013, she has held the post of Director of Rural Community Network having previously worked to build peace and understanding as a Rural Enabler working with Institutions such as the GAA, Churches and the Orange Order.

She is passionate about addressing inequalities in society and working to challenge policies and practices which continue poverty and disadvantage. She has experience of working with government departments and international agencies on issues of rural development, peacebuilding, gender equality, poverty and health inequalities. She is a firm believer in locally led community development movements and has spent much of her working life supporting small groups of people to make positive and lasting changes in their communities.

For ten years Kate worked as the Education and Training Manager in the Rural College teaching on the MSc Rural Sustainable Development Programme. She is graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, holding a BSc in Agricultural Economics and Management and an MSc in Rural Development.

Kate said: “I am delighted to be appointed to the National Lottery Community Fund’s NI Committee. I have witnessed first-hand the impact the National Lottery investments have made locally, from huge multiannual funding streams to the essential investments of Awards for All, small scale funds which are the lifeblood of many smaller groups who do important work in our communities. It is an honour to be appointed to this Committee and I look forward to helping to shape the strategic focus of this important fund in this region in the coming years.”

Cara Cash Marley

Cara Cash Marley

Cara has worked and volunteered in the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland for the past 17 years and is currently CEO of Groundwork Northern Ireland, a community development and regeneration Charity offering services across NI.

She has experience in service delivery, business development, governance and strategic development across the women’s, community education, learning disability, social enterprise, sexual violence and community development sectors.

A firm believer in empowering people and communities through user centred, collaboratively designed services, Cara has worked with government departments and ministers as well as partners across the community and voluntary sector on ground-breaking initiatives.

A graduate of the University of Dundee in Leadership and Management Cara is also a trustee for a small local charity as well as a guest speaker for both the University of Ulster and Belfast Met Business Schools.

Cara said: "I am absolutely elated to be appointed to the National Lottery Community Fund’s NI Committee. I have witnessed first-hand the impact the National Lottery Community Fund support has made, from the big multi-annual funding streams to the small but essential investments through Awards for All.

“The openness of the Fund, the way in which it actively listens to community needs and responds is amazing, and I feel so privileged to now be part of that. I look forward to helping drive the strategic focus of the National Lottery Community Fund and ensuring the voice of charities, communities and individuals is heard at that level.”

Nick Garbutt

Nick Garbutt

Nick Garbutt is a journalist and public relations consultant. He is a former editor of the Irish News and deputy editor of the Belfast Telegraph. He currently edits ScopeNI, Northern Ireland’s public policy magazine.

Nick is a member of the Transformation Advisory Board, which advises the Health Minister on health and social care reform. He also has more than 20 years experience as non-executive director of a range of charities across sectors ranging from the environment, the arts, young people and social housing. He has a strong interest in good governance.

Nick said: “It’s an honour to be appointed to the committee. It is also a great responsibility. During my time in post I want to help make a tangible difference to individuals and communities across Northern Ireland. These are difficult times for so many, and I expect that to translate into enormous demands on funds such as ours. That makes it all the more important to ensure that every penny is well invested and helps to bring about positive change.”

Nick believes that citizens should have much more power over their own lives and is a passionate supporter of expanding the democratic process through Citizens Assemblies, Participatory Budgeting and involving people more closely in designing the public services we all rely on.

Nick added: “That’s the main reason why I wanted to get involved with the National Lottery Community Fund. It puts people in the lead, and that’s exactly how it should be. Those who need support are best qualified to tell us how we can help.”

Northern Ireland committee meeting minutes

If you would like to see older agendas and minutes or those for non-current committees, please email

Management expenses