Public Affairs

Permanent Secretary reshuffle

Following the move to split the role of the Head of the Civil Service in late 2021, agendaNi details a number of shifts across Permanent Secretary level of the various Executive departments since the turn of the year.

Following the appointment of Jayne Brady as the new Head of the Civil Service in June 2021, former Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Permanent Secretary Denis McMahon took up the post as Permanent Secretary of The Executive Office (TEO), a role previously carried out by the Head of the Civil Service.

In the first half of 2022, a number of changes have taken place at the Permanent Secretary level including new appointments and re-positionings.

Department of Finance:
Neil Gibson

In February 2022, it was announced that EY’s former Chief Economist in Ireland Neil Gibson would be permanently filling the post vacated by Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance. Gibson, like Brady, was appointed following competition, from outside the existing ranks of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. A former Director of Oxford Economics, Gibson previously headed up the Ulster University’s Centre for Economic Policy.

Following Gray’s departure, senior civil servant Colum Boyle had been temporarily promoted to the position of the Department of Finance’s Permanent Secretary but was returned to the Department for Communities.

Department for Communities: Colum Boyle

Following his move back to the Department, in April 2022 Colum Boyle was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Department for Communities (DfC). Prior to his temporary promotion to the Department of Finance, Boyle had been Deputy Secretary for the Work and Health Group in DfC.

Department for Infrastructure: Julie Harrison

Part of a broader reshuffle, former Northern Ireland Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund, Julie Harrison joined the Department for Infrastructure on 1 April 2022. Harrison’s background is in research and analysis, social inclusion, grant making, and urban regeneration and she moves to the role having joined the civil service as Deputy Secretary in the Department of Justice in 2020. Harrison replaces Katrina Godfrey, who has moved to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: Katrina Godfrey

Godfrey transfers to the Department following three years as Permanent Secretary in the Department for Infrastructure. Prior to that she had held senior levels in TEO and the Department of Education.

Department of Health: Peter May

Department of Justice: Richard Pengelly

In a direct swap, Richard Pengelly has been moved from his post in health, a position he has held since 2014 to head up the Department of Justice. Peter May will now take on the role as Permanent Secretary Department of Health and Chief Executive of Health and Social Care. Health is now the fourth Permanent Secretary portfolio held by May, having served in both the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department for Infrastructure prior to justice.

Both May and Pengelly’s names had been linked to the Head of the Civil Service vacancy prior to the appointment of Brady. Pengelly vacates his health post after almost eight years as Permanent Secretary, a role he took on after a spell as Permanent Secretary of the former Department for Regional Development between 2013 and 2014. Prior to this he had been Public Spending Director in the former Department of Finance and Personnel.

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