Tuesday 28 September 2021


Ten young leaders from Northern Ireland have been selected for the British Council’s prestigious global policy programme – Future Leaders Connect – it was announced at Hillsborough Castle recently.

They will be among 63 delegates from thirteen countries taking part in a six-week online policy and leadership programme where they will gain exclusive access to policy experts and training, discuss their policy ideas with UK Parliamentarians and Government and be mentored by UK think tanks and other senior leaders. 

In partnership with the prestigious Møller Institute at Cambridge University, Future Leaders Connect aims to help successful applicants develop their skills, expand their networks and ultimately, make policy change.

For this Centenary year, the programme has been expanded in Northern Ireland to ten places instead of the usual two, thanks to the support of the Northern Ireland Office – with Northern Ireland delegates joining emerging leaders from Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam and the rest of the UK on the programme.

This year’s participants were selected from over 9,000 applicants worldwide in a competitive process where they pitched their innovative policy ideas for global change. Policy ideas from the Northern Ireland delegates included changes to integrated education, climate action and mental health provision.

Congratulating the participants, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, said: “I was delighted to meet the young people taking part in this year’s Future Leaders Connect programme and to hear about their ambitions for the scheme and beyond.

“I’m proud that the Northern Ireland Office is supporting the expansion of the programme this Centenary year, meaning more young people from Northern Ireland will be taking part.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to hear from leaders around the world and learn how governments can work together to tackle the great global issues of the day.”

Also speaking about the programme at Hillsborough Castle, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “We’re delighted to be able to announce the ten exceptional individuals from Northern Ireland taking part in this year’s global programme. Future Leaders Connect is an opportunity for emerging leaders in Northern Ireland to collaborate with their counterparts from all over the world, and to benefit from the sharing of ideas and knowledge in tackling global issues and challenges.

“The application process was extremely competitive, and we are certain that our ten young leaders whose backgrounds range from law and politics to housing and the environment, will make positive changes in Northern Ireland. We wish them every success in the programme.”

This year’s Future Leaders Connect programme will officially kick off from 11 October and run for six weeks online until 19 November. For more information on Future Leaders Connect or British Council Northern Ireland, visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org or www.britishcouncil.org/futureleadersconnect.

Notes to Editor

Northern Ireland’s Future Leaders Connect participants:

Emma Boyle

Emma is an Investigations Officer in the legacy unit of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. Her role is to investigate security forces related deaths which happened during the thirty year conflict in Northern Ireland. She holds a Bachelors of Law from Trinity College Dublin, and is currently completing a Masters in Law at Ulster University’s Transitional Justice Institute in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights. 

Emma worked previously as a Family and Civil Law Paralegal for one of Northern Ireland’s leading solicitors, and as an Anti- Money Laundering Officer in the Financial Crime Department in PwC Belfast. She is passionate about gender equality and in her previous role at PwC she was a founding member the Northern Ireland Gender Balance Network – the first regional network operating outside of PwC’s London offices. She has walked the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, and trekked the Tour du Mont Blanc crossing the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. Her most recent expedition was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with colleagues from PwC UK and raising over £10,000 for the company charity, Barnardo’s. 

Rory Clifford

Rory is the Interactive Manager at Northern Ireland Screen and Chair for audience development agency, Thrive. He has over 10 years marketing and sales experience in the film, TV, gaming and immersive industries in Northern Ireland.

Connie Egan

Connie Egan is from Northern Ireland and is a Councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council. She also works as a Researcher for the Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Education Committee. 

Connie attended Queen's University Belfast where she graduated with a degree in Politics and Philosophy in 2016. Following university, she worked for a political party, and latterly shifted her focus to research as part of her role assisting the Chair of the Northern Ireland Education Committee. That position has seen her focus on increasing the provision of integrated education in the divided society of Northern Ireland, alongside pupil wellbeing. It has involved developing legislation, currently progressing through the Northern Ireland Assembly, which would see the exemption of teachers from fair employment laws removed. Connie was elected to Ards and North Down Borough Council in 2019, becoming the youngest woman to do so in the borough. Connie is committed to helping build peace and reconciliation.

Donal Griffin

Donal Griffin is a marine biologist from Northern Ireland, and has researched, monitored and studied everything from jellyfish and prawns, to blue whales and basking sharks. After completing his Master's degree investigating the diving behaviour of the basking shark (the second biggest fish in the world), at Queen's University Belfast, he continued to volunteer his time to help protect these wonderful shark species. 

Following a few years working as an environmental consultant all around the world, Donal started back at University to complete his PhD on fish-jellyfish interactions and how that may impact on the fishing industry. Now, Donal is working at the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force which is a coalition of non-government environmental working together towards, healthy, productive and resilient seas for Northern Ireland. As the result of years of collective effort, including an initial outreach lecture tour organised by Donal in 2014, he recently coordinated a targeted campaign to gain legal protection for basking sharks in Irish waters.

Keysha Jaime

Keysha Jaime, a Puerto Rican American living in Northern Ireland. She is a third year PhD Candidate at Queen's University Belfast where she studies climate change-related human mobility. At present she is consulting with communities and local perspectives in the South Pacific to better inform policy-making decisions regarding climate migration. Her research ultimately aims to consider lived experience and perspectives to make more informed policy recommendations that considers the needs of communities. Beyond her research, Keysha is part of Global Shapers Belfast Hub and part of Voices in Mobilities and Migration (VIMM) Network, an international online community that facilitates a dialogue on research exploring migration and mobilities. Keysha is open and excited to new projects and collaborations.  

Stephen Jones

Resilience Co-Ordinator, Climate Northern Ireland

Stephen has over 7 years' experience co-ordinating climate change adaptation in Northern Ireland, holds an MSc from Queen's University Belfast and has experience as a Red Cross Volunteer on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without its own climate legislation. This hinders central government ambition, but also means that local government is unsupported, despite the UK Climate Change Committee recognising it as vital to climate action.

In this context, Stephen supported Derry City and Strabane District Council to develop the first climate change adaptation plan in Northern Ireland. He then created the Local Government Climate Action Network (LGCAN) in late 2019, which acts as a forum for training (supported by an online platform) and collaboration between councils, and a conduit for communication with partners, such as government departments, NI Local Government Association and NGOs. There is no regulatory requirement for this work, and yet despite the pandemic, he has facilitated 6 councils to hold cross-organisation climate vulnerability workshops and begin developing adaptation policy. Stephen will be leading a session to showcase this work in the Green Zone at COP26 in November.

Katie Matthews

Entrepreneur & Educator  

Katie is a 29-year-old, multi-award-winning entrepreneur, growth mindset educator, speaker, founder, mentor, trauma-informed practitioner and mental health and well-being trainer. Katie has 12 years lived experience with mental illness, and is passionate about supporting other's mental health, entrepreneurship, leadership, community development, growth mindset development and supporting our next generation young people. 

Katie is the founder of 4 businesses: The Mind Tribe UK, Excel In Education Tutoring School, Odence and Bloombug, as well as founding two voluntary organisations: Young Entrepreneur's Network NI and FYLA Global (Female Youth Leadership Academy) and runs her podcast: The Omni Voices Podcast. 

Katie is an Independent Board Member and Vice-Chair of the Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon Area Policing Community Safety Partnership, the Northern Ireland National Director for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, a forum fellow for the Washington Ireland Programme, sits on the UK BBRS SME Liaison Panel and was a regional judge and panel chair for The Diana Award 2020 & 2021. 

Katie has recently been named 2021 Young Business Person of the Year for Northern Ireland by the Belfast Telegraph.

Emma McIlveen

Emma McIlveen is from outside Ballymena, Northern Ireland. She is a barrister who specialises in employment law. Prior to coming to the Bar, she spent a year at Harvard university as a Kennedy scholar. She is now qualified to practice in (NI), GB and the Republic of Ireland. She is a mother of 3 young children and is passionate about encouraging (NI) a to adopt family friendly policies which support women to advance their careers alongside raising their family. 

Katrina McDonnell

Co ordinator - Rape Crisis N Ireland 

Katrina is a First Class graduate in Business & Hispanic Studies from The University of Liverpool (2017).

She founded The Homeless Period Belfast in 2016 - a project that aims to alleviate the issue of period poverty and eradicate the taboo that surrounds menstruation. 

She was awarded 'Woman of the Year' at the Northern Ireland Women's Awards in 2019.

In 2020, she spearheaded a campaign for free period products in all schools in N Ireland which was successful and approved by the NI Executive. Free period products are now accessible in all primary, secondary and special schools in N Ireland.

Andrew McFarline

Andrew started his career in the social housing sector in 2014, working in a range of frontline and strategic roles. In addition to being employed as a Communications Officer, in the Housing Executive's Customer Engagement and Campaigns Team, he is a board member of North Belfast Housing Association. 

He graduated from Queen's University Belfast in 2011 with a BA (Hons) in Modern History with English.  Andrew is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

For further information please contact:

Claire McAuley Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504  claire.mcauley@britishcouncil.org Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – www.facebook.com/britishcouncilnorthernireland Instagram: BritishCouncilNorthernIreland

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. In 2019-2020 we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 14.5 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org