Our Board

Sam Knox – Chairman

Sam has been Chairman of Sustainable NI for 10 years, having been a founder member of the organisation.

He retired in 2011 from his post as Group Chief Environmental Health Officer. In that capacity, he has provided, over the years, the critical linkages between Sustainable NI and local government. In a previous role, he led a team that managed the highly successful STEM project (Sustainable Through Environmental Management). STEM’s work led to nine councils achieving the environmental management benchmark, ISO 14001, two of which were cross-border county councils. This project also assisted over 250 SMEs to secure accreditation under BS 8555.

Sam is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and is currently its President in Northern Ireland. He is also a Director of Road Safe NI, formally known as the Road Safety Council.

Graeme Bannister

Graeme qualified as an Environmental Health Officer in 1990 from the University of Ulster, and worked in Public Health, Food Control and Health and Safety for North Down BC from 1990 to 1997, when he left to take up the role of Principal EHO and then Environmental Health Manager with Ards BC.  During that time, Graeme also became responsible for the authority’s emergency planning arrangements and sustainable development.  On 1st March 2015, Graeme was appointed as the Director of Community and Wellbeing for Ards and North Down Borough Council. While maintaining overall accountability for environmental health, he is now also responsible for the new Council’s leisure services, parks and cemeteries, plus the Council’s full range of community and cultural services.

John Barry

John Barry is Professor of Green Political Economy in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queens University Belfast.  His areas of research include green moral and political theory; normative aspects of environmental and sustainable development politics and policy; governance for sustainable development; the greening of citizenship and civic republicanism; green politics in Ireland, North and South; the Transition Movement; peak oil and climate change; the governance of science and innovation; the link between academic knowledge and political activism and policy making; trust, legitimacy and public policy; citizenship, public policy and governance; theories and practices of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.   

His books include, Rethinking Green Politics: Nature, Virtue and Progress, Environment and Social Theory, and Citizenship, Sustainability and Environmental Research. His latest work is The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon-Constrained World.

John is also a Green Party Councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Sue Christie

Sue is an ecologist, originally from California and resident in Northern Ireland for the last 33 years.  She has worked within the voluntary environmental sector for most of that time, as Director of the Ulster Wildlife Trust and Project Manager for NI2000 prior to joining Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) as Director in 1992. She retired from NIEL in 2014 and now works in a voluntary capacity with a number of local charities and groups, especially Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (of which she is Vice-Chairman), Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, Waste Programme Board and the Belfast Food Network.  She concentrates on work promoting the ecosystem services approach to land management (and is a trustee of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network) and resource efficiency and the circular economy through various boards and working groups.  She is starting to work with a local charity to develop the Eco-Schools programme on Madagascar and to promote awareness of Malagasy biodiversity in Northern Ireland schools.

Patricia Mackey

Patricia is an accomplished sustainability specialist with over 15 years’ experience, primarily within the local government sector. She was responsible for the development of the Sustainability Audit Matrix and was a key contributor to the creation of the Sustainability Assessment Tool, both of which have been vital aids to councils in demonstrating their compliance with the Duty for Sustainable Development.

Patricia is a former Executive Director of Sustainable NI before moving to North Down Borough Council in 2013 where she became responsible for sustainability, environmental management and biodiversity. In 2015 she was appointed Community Planning Manager for Ards and North Down Borough Council where she is working hard to integrate the principles of sustainable development throughout the process of community engagement and in the development of the Community Plan.

Gary McFarlane

Director CIEH NI

Gary McFarlane holds a BSc (Hons) degree in environmental health and an MBA, both from Ulster University.

Gary was appointed as the Director for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in Northern Ireland in late 2001. As director he is involved in contributing to the development of healthy public policy working with government ministers and departments, local authorities, universities, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Currently, much of this work seeks to re-establish the critical links between environment and health within the context of sustainable development and public health. This includes advocacy work with policy makers and politicians as well as working with practitioners, academics and researchers to build awareness, understanding and capacity in this area. Gary has authored and contributed to several publications and delivered presentations on these topics at regional, national and international level.

Gary is currently the lead within CIEH on sustainable development issues, including developing the organisation’s own credentials through the introduction of sustainable, strategic management, corporate governance and operations.

Gary is also currently the co-chair of the Public Health Alliance, a board member of Sustainable Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL), and chairs the advisory board to the environmental health undergraduate programme at Ulster University. Gary has also been appointed to the Safe Food Scientific Advisory Committee.

Karen Smyth

Karen Smyth has worked for the Northern Ireland Local Government Association since 2002. She has been Head of Policy since 2008, taking a particular interest in planning. Karen has a background in Environmental Health, working as a local government EHO for ten years prior to taking up her post at NILGA.  Karen is currently a Non-Executive Director of Sustainable NI and the Building Change Trust; she was previously Chair of the Board of Directors for a social enterprise in Belfast.  Karen holds a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Health and a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

Leo Strawbridge

Leo started his career working in the public sector, leading teams in maintenance and energy related projects in a nuclear reprocessing facility. Returning to NI, Leo joined Seagate Technology, during its initial start-up in Derry. He later moved to Derry City and Strabane District Council where he has worked for over ten years, leading teams on council and wider district projects. Leo is the current Chair of the NI Energy Managers’ Forum which develops creative and innovative thinking on energy consumption reduction in the eleven district councils. Leo is also Chair of the Local Government Sustainable Development Forum with a remit to promote and drive the sustainability agenda with local government.

He continues to play a pivotal role within the council, leading teams in energy management, Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations and the annual electricity and gas tender processes for the majority of local councils. Leo is actively involved in the Community Planning process, developing a strategy for the Council area to achieve its goal of a low carbon economy by engaging with the wider community, industry and the public sector.

Leo is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, a Chartered Environmentalist and a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Murray Watt

Murray Watt is a graduate of the Universities of Dundee and Stirling. He has more than two decades of experience in tenant participation and community development; he currently provides advice and support to community and voluntary groups in Belfast. He also undertakes policy and information work for the charity, Supporting Communities NI. Murray has served on the board of Sustainable NI for many years; he is also a Board member of Northern Ireland Environment Link and Community Places. Murray held a public appointment for seven years as a Commissioner on the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.