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Belfast Healthy Cities

Our vision is that Belfast is recognised globally
as a healthy, equitable and sustainable city

Healthy Cities 21st Century

Governance and Board of Directors

Belfast Healthy Cities is an independent partnership organisation within the city with a specific remit to deliver the priority themes of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network within the local context.

Our key partners and funders include Belfast City Council and the Public Health Agency. Other partners and funders include Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Belfast Healthy Cities has been recognised as having charitable status by The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. We are governed by a Board, elected at the Annual General Meeting which is representative of the public, university, voluntary and community sector.

Board Members

Bryan Nelson

Bryan Nelson works in Belfast Health and Social Care Trust as a Co-Director Public Health managing the Trust’s Health Improvement, Community Development and Personal and Public Involvement teams.

Bryan has experience working in a number of roles in the NHS initially as a Podiatrist and then a variety of project management roles. Bryan has a strong desire to improve health and wellbeing and reduce the inequalities that exist in Belfast and across the region. To effect this change his belief is that this needs to happen in partnership and as such his work reflects this collective approach.

Outside work Bryan enjoys running, walking and watching his 3 boys playing hockey.

Carol Ramsey

Carol Ramsey took up the post of Director of Strategic Planning Division in December 2015 in Department for Infrastructure. She is a chartered Town Planner with over 33 years experience working in both the private and public sector, including posts in the NIHE, the former DOE Planning Service and in Belfast Regeneration Directorate in what was then the Department for Social Development.

During her tenure in DSD Carol notably was responsible for spearheading the comprehensive redevelopment scheme at Victoria Square in Belfast City Centre. She was also responsible for drafting and implementing Regeneration Policy in Belfast City Centre over a 13 year period.

Danny McQuillan

Danny joined Start 360 as CEO in October 2022. Start 360 is an innovative contributor of support services to young people and adults at risk, including their families, across Northern Ireland. Start 360 provides a range of services and interventions targeting the health, justice and employability needs of our service users. Danny was previously CEO of Social Justice charity Extern and CEO of Positive Life - Northern Ireland's only voluntary sector organisation providing dedicated support to all people affected by HIV. Prior to leading Positive Life his roles included Head of Development for the Multiple Sclerosis Society NI and Area Manager with the Alzheimer’s Society. 

For 30 years Danny has worked in the community and voluntary sector holding a variety of positions both voluntarily and in paid capacities. In his current role, Danny draws on his areas of expertise which include service development and delivery, service commissioning and quality assurance, policy development, public relations, fundraising and social media development. He has considerable experience of delivering services to people affected by homelessness, Mental ill health, Refugees, individuals engaged with the criminal justice system, living, and affected by dementia, older people services, training and employment services and services for young people and young adults. 

Danny is an enthusiastic believer in the positive impact of the community and voluntary sector and is particularly interested in getting young people interested in politics. 

Dr David Stewart

Dr David Stewart was the Director of Public Health for the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, from 1995 to 2007, and the Medical Director of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, from 2007 until he retired in September 2016.

He was a member of the Board of Belfast Healthy Cities from 1996 to 2007 and served as Chair for a three year period.  He chaired the Steering Group for the organisation of the International Healthy Cities Conference which was held in Belfast in 2003.

He is interested in the history of the development of public health in Belfast and leads occasional history walks around Belfast city centre.

Dr Elizabeth Mitchell

As a medical practitioner, Dr Mitchell's career in public health spanned over 30 years and covered all three domains of public health. She was Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Public Health), DHSSPS, until January 2014 when she was appointed to the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), initially as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine, and from March to November 2016 as Interim Chief Executive. she retired in November 2016 but came out for retirement during the COVID pandemic to work as the Director of the NI Contact Tracing Service.

Elizabeth is a trustee on the Management Council of Camphill Community Glencraig.

Elizabeth graduated with Second Class Honours from Queen's University Belfast in 1980. She is a Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) and a Member of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland.


Dr Karen Casson

Dr Karen Casson is a Lecturer in Health Promotion and Public Health and a member of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research Centre at Ulster University with responsibilities for postgraduate health promotion and public health education. She is also actively involved in funded research projects and supervision of Doctoral and MSc students.  She graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from University of Ulster in 2009 and has an Honours degree in Business Studies and a Master of Business Administration from University of Ulster and a Certificate in Health Economics from Aberdeen University.

Karen joined University of Ulster in 2000 after working as a researcher in the arenas of housing and health and social research for 11 years.  Her particular interests are in health and social inequalities, maternal and infant health, Personal and Public Involvement, young people’s health and social needs, health literacy, physical activity, sexual health and economic evaluation.

Karen is Vice Chair of Belfast Health Cities Board and chairs the multiagency Health Inequalities Group led by Belfast Health Cities.  Karen is also Vice-Chair of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) User Group, a member of the NILS Steering Group and a Co-investigator on the Administrative Data Research Network.

Nigel McMahon

Nigel is the principal government adviser on the environment and health. He began his career in the Environmental Health team at Belfast City Council before joining the Department of the Environment, where he headed up the Air and Environmental Quality Unit, focusing on air quality and noise control policy. In 2002 he joined the Department of Health as Chief Environmental Health Officer. Nigel previously acted as public health policy adviser to WHO on health economics and air pollution and chaired the Board of Belfast Healthy Cities. He is a current Board member.

Nigel is a Visiting Professor with the School of the Built Environment at Ulster University and lectures on the Masters in Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast. He is also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.

Alistair Beggs

Alistair Beggs was appointed Director of Strategic Planning, Department for Infrastructure. in February 2018, and his Directorate is responsible for processing planning applications deemed to be of regional significance or those which may be ‘called in’ from the local councils. In addition, the Directorate carries out a plan scrutiny role as part of the two-tier planning system and oversees the regeneration of both Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast and the former barracks at St Lucia, Omagh.

A graduate of Dundee University, Alistair is a Chartered Town Planner with 30 years’ experience working in a wide range of planning posts, including 13 years with the Planning Appeals and Water Appeals Commissions. Prior to that he worked with Dundee City Council, Angus Council and Fife Council.  Alistair is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Northern Ireland Executive committee.

Professor Ruth Hunter

Professor, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Ruth’s work primarily involves investigating how we can improve our urban environment for better population health, including evaluation of natural experiments (such as large-scale urban regeneration programmes).

Ruth has particular expertise in the application of systems-thinking and complexity science methods. She has secured research grants from the NIHR, MRC, ESRC and GCRF-British Council.

Ruth is a member of the Public Health Research funding panel for the NIHR and recently held a Career Development Fellowship from the NIHR on public health interventions for health behaviour change.

She is a member of the WHO expert panel on urban green space interventions, Non Communicable Disease prevention, Health and the SDGs and other aspects of urban environment and health, and an executive board member for WHO Belfast Healthy Cities.

Justine Daly

Justine is an urban designer and regeneration specialist at The Strategic Investment Board (SIB).  She is also an Expert Advisor with the Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) for Architecture & the Built Environment (NI) and a Board Member of Belfast Heathy Cities.
Justine is a Recognised Practitioner of the Urban Design Group and a qualified architect with private, semi-public and public sector experience.   She has extensive experience of leading multi-disciplinary teams, preparing masterplans, regeneration strategies, design principles, site capacity exercises and development briefs in addition to providing design advice and negotiations. 
Justine started her career at Urban Initiatives, the first holistic urban design and transportation consultancy in the UK.  She gained extensive experience and an appreciation of the complexities of delivering long term regeneration.   In 2000 she moved to Dublin to be an instrumental part of the team at Dublin Docklands Development Authority which gave her the opportunity to realise the masterplan for Grand Canal Harbour and translate the design principles into a new successful urban quarter.   In 2003 Justine was a participant of the Leaders for Tomorrow programme at JFK School of Government at Harvard, where she met her now husband.  Since moving to Belfast in 2004 she worked at GVA Grimley and subsequently as Urban Design Director at Turley before joining SIB in the Urban Villages team in 2016.

Michael Boyd, Chair

Michael Boyd works at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in a Senior Engagement and Communications role leading on Sport and Human Rights, Business and Human Rights, Climate Change and Human Rights, and international relations with the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

Michael is a volunteer Board member of the charity Street Soccer NI that uses sport as a hook to help homeless and disadvantaged people. Michael previously worked for the Irish FA for more than twenty years where he was part of the senior leadership team for sixteen years. His Football For All campaign is credited with transforming NI football, making the sport more fun, safe and inclusive. In 2016 Michael set up the Irish FA Foundation, a charity with a focus on how sport can promote:

  • Peace and Reconciliation
  • Crime Prevention
  • Positive Mental Health
  • Employability and Education

Michael has set up numerous multi-sport programmes which use sport to help empower young people and promote positive mental health. In 2018 Michael received the prestigious Ulster University Outstanding Graduate of the Year Award for his services to sport and community relations across Northern Ireland. Michael has a wealth of experience working in the Sport sector, Charity sector, Business sector and promoting Human Rights both here in NI and internationally. His main areas of expertise include developing strategy, international relations, sport and community development.

Professor Ian Montgomery, Treasurer

Ian Montgomery is Professor of Design and Director of Brexit & Sustainability at Ulster University. Previously he was a member of the University’s Senior Leadership Team and Pro Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement following a Deanship of the Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment. He is Ulster University’s representative on Belfast Healthy Cities.

He was previously Head of the School of Art and Design and Director of the Research Institute for Art and Design at Ulster University. His main research interests are in the areas of design theory, knowledge transfer, and design perception and has supervised PhD students across and beyond the art and design disciplines.

Ian obtained his first degree in Design and following a period in industry, a DPhil in Design while working as an academic on Ulster University’s Belfast campus.

Ian completed two terms on the Board of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  He was a Management Board member of the Higher Education Academy’s Art Design and Media Subject Centre and a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD). He also served on the British Council’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee and its Going Global Steering Committee.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers and the Design Research Society. Ian has been Chief External Examiner, external examiner and chaired international panels in the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, Mauritius, and the Far East and has established numerous international academic partnerships in the US, the Middle East, China, Hong Kong and Europe. He was awarded an Individual Excellence Award by the Chinese Cultural Confucius Awarding Body and holds an Honorary Professorship from Hubei Normal University, Huangshi (China). He is currently a Board Member of two Northern Ireland grammar schools.

Linda Armitage

Linda has 36 years of community development experience and 14 of these years have been dedicated to health improvement, health promotion and early intervention, in local neighbourhoods using a community development approach.

Linda’s current role as Health Development Director at East Belfast Community Development Agency, is to manage the Health Development Unit. To play a key role in supporting East Belfast communities via multi-agency and community partnership working, to achieve and fully implement the East Belfast Health Framework which contains the following themes: Healthy Hearts, Healthy Minds, Healthy Relationships, Healthy Bodies and Healthy Neighbourhoods.

Linda is also an active member of the Belfast Local Commissioning Group and brings a community sector perspective to this work. 

The past 3 decades of leadership development has provided Linda with a continuous learning curve on how to lead in different ways with all ages and situations. Her career to date has included many great opportunities to implement community development values in local communities in NI, England and USA. These roles have included play development, family support, social justice, restorative work, youth and community work and health development.

She has a BA in Youth and Community Work and Applied Theology, ILM level 7 Leadership and Management and Level 5 Chartered Management Certificate. Linda is also a qualified coach with ILM Level 5 Mentoring and a member of the Association for Coaching.

Linda is an outgoing people-person, who embraces life optimistically, listens well, is creative and organized. Reading, art, appreciation of the outdoors, family, food and friends, laughter and adventure, are all important in her life equation.

Dr Lizzy Pinkerton

Dr Lizzy Pinkerton works for the Belfast Hills Partnership and as Scheme Manager oversees day to day operations of the organisation along with developing plans and securing funding for new programmes of work.

Lizzy graduated from Queen's University Belfast with a degree in Environmental Biology and a PhD in Plant Science. She has worked within the Northern Ireland Environmental sector since 2005 and is a Board Member of Northern Ireland Environment Link.

Lizzy has a particular interest in increasing community engagement in local green spaces as a means of improving health & wellbeing as well as biodiversity/habitat improvements and climate mitigation measures which make up part of the vision for Greening the City.