About Us - Board Members

Board Members

    • Paul Dinsmore - CHAIR

    Paul Dinsmore has over 20 years’ experience of working and volunteering in the voluntary sector.  He is currently Regional Manager with Volunteer Now responsible for the operational management of the organisation across the North-east.  Paul has been involved in voluntary work for a number of years - previously with Coleraine PHAB club and Speechmatters - and currently with Antrim Youth Information and Counselling Centre.  He was involved in the setting up of South Antrim Rural Network (now South Antrim Community Network) and spent almost ten years with the organisation, many of which as Chair of the Network.  It was through this involvement with SARN that enabled him to increase his understanding of rural issues and led to his involvement with Rural Community Network, joining the Board in December 2003. He was Chair of RCN from October 2009 - 2012 and again from November 2016.

    • Kenneth Rankin - VICE CHAIR

    Kenneth Rankin joined RCN as the community representative from Co Down in 2013.   Kenneth comes from a farming background and has been associated with the farming industry for 50 years and still owns a small farm. Kenneth has a wide range of experience within rural having previously worked for over 20 years in Health and Social Services delivering a service to rural communities. Kenneth has also a background in Health and Safety, planning issues, construction, and management with both public and private sectors.  Kenneth brings a wide range of experience to the Board having served in the following positions, Board member and also Vice Chair of NI Rural Development Council, chairman of the RDC audit committee, Independent audit function to RDC for 3 years, Chairman of Ulster Farmers’ Union County Down Agricultural Committee, Chairman of the Mid Down Agricultural Group, UFU  Rural Development Committee, European Monitoring Committee, Lower Bann Advisory Group, two Boards of Governors,  Lough Neagh Advisory Group and Northern Ireland Health and Safety Committee and Director of the Clanrye-Group steering Committee.  Kenneth also served for 5 years as a judge on the Calor Village of the Year award competition.  He is currently Vice Chair to the RCN Board.

    • Raymond Craig - SECRETARY

    Raymond Craig has been involved in rural community development for over 10 years and has been on the Rural Community Network Board for 6 of those years.  He has also contributed to collaborative working particularly in early years, primary and post primary education and has a deep understanding into the vital role of schools within rural communities.  As an advocate of the community planning process, he feels it is important to develop positive partnerships in order to create a future that enhances the quality of life for all within rural communities.  In his role as Adult Community Education Officer with North West Regional College he has been proactive in assisting rural community groups to become learning venues delivering a range of subjects including ICT.  This ensures that students are offered door step learning opportunities regardless of where they live.  He also has a keen interest in Third World Politics, debating and social inclusion issues.

    • Fergus Cooper - TREASURER

    Fergus Cooper has been co-opted on the Board and holds the position of Treasurer.

    Fergus Cooper OBE is a management consultant with Linen Green Marketing and lives in rural south Down. The former Head of Country of Save the Children, he chaired the Child Poverty Alliance in Northern Ireland from 2010-2013. He has worked in the public, private and third sectors, with over 20 years experience as a senior manager. He particularly enjoys working with young people, having begun his career with Children’s Community Holidays before joining the BELB youth service.

    In 1994 Fergus represented NIACRO at a peace conference in Gernika, that motivated his interest in peace and reconciliation work. In 1996 he established Cooper-Keaney Communications, a marketing communications consultancy that included a number of funders of the peace process as key accounts. Fergus has delivered specialist peace communications training in Croatia and Austria and participated in a number of conferences in Basque Spain.

    From 2012-16 he was a member of the Joint Forum between government and the community-voluntary sector. He is a member of CO3’s interim Chief Executives’ panel providing specialist advice and support to the boards of registered charities.

    In his spare time he coaches hurling and has managed Leitrim, Queen’s University and the Down minors.

    • Arnold Hatch

    Arnold is currently VICE President of NI Local Government association and past Mayor and deputy Mayor of Craigavon Borough Council representing the DEA of Portadown and elected in May 2014 to the new ABC council. He was nominated by TADA Rural Support Network to RCN. He is currently the alternate member on the NAT committee (COR) in Brussels and Board member on several voluntary bodies including East Border Region, Portadown 2000 and Lough Neagh Partnership.  Arnold is currently a member of the EU Consultative Panel and Vice chair of ABC Council’s Planning Committee.

    • Patsy O'Hanlon

    Patsy has been active in community development since 1991 when he worked towards the foundation of Middletown & District Dev Assoc and was involved with RoSA from 1992 until 2006, where he was a Board member.   He has served on RCN Board for many years and was also on the South Armagh Tourism Initiative and a member of the Cross Border IT project and the cross border Development of Infrastructure People’s Programme involving 4 halls in the North and 4 in the South. He represents Middletown on the Community Forum of NIHE and also the Ulster Canal.  Patsy enjoys sports and supports his local sports club and all activities in the Middletown and district locally. He is presently Secretary of Middletown & District Dev Assoc and has always shown a great commitment to community development throughout Armagh and Monaghan. Patsy’s greatest asset is his willingness to gather and disseminate information to ensure the spread of ideas and encourage local and regional networking.

    • John Waddell

    John has been involved in local rural community development for the last 15 years. He is a founding member of the Poyntzpass Community Regeneration Company Limited and currently holds the position of Secretary. He has been active in a number of projects which have led to the physical regeneration of the village. John is Chair of the Armagh Villages Forum, a partnership of 13 villages in Armagh, which has been successful in delivering village improvement projects through the Rural Development Programme. He has a keen interest in the social and economic regeneration of rural areas through the development of social enterprise at a local and regional level; and in building positive community relations. After almost 40 years in the public service he has recently taken semi-retirement in Rural Affairs Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. John is married with two adult children and three grandchildren and his main recreational pursuit is angling.       

    • Martin McCartney

    Martin has been Chairman of Maydown Community Association for the past nine years and is also one of the founder members of MCA thanks to the help and expertise of RCN and RCEP at that time.  He is currently Vice Chair of North West Ageing Well Together, a sub Group representing The North West, under the umbrella of Age NI.  He was an active member of the Future Forums Chairs Group, until this was amalgamated with other Forum Groups.    Martin is vice chair of The Waterside Area Safety Forum, which represents communities in the East Bank of Derry/ L'Derry.  He is on the Steering Group of Waterside Area Partnership Links Programme.  He is also joint Chair of the Strathfoyle/ Maydown Safety Forum and is involved with Age Sector Platform - Hands Off and Fuel Poverty Committees.  He is a Member of the Consultative Forum of AGE NI and has carried out work in a Peer Facilitators Role on behalf of AGE NI.  He is also currently serving as a Committee Member of PRG, Peace and Reconciliation Group.  He is a Committee Member of HURYT, Have Your Tomorrows and a Committee Member of ALLY Foyle, Adult Learning in Later Years.   He has in the last few months become a Founder Committee Member of a new Organisation in Derry called DEED, Derry Engaging and Empowering Dementia.

    • Nick Moore

    Nick Moore is the Chair of County Down Rural Community Network having been a board member of the organisation since 2008.  Nick has several years’ experience working with rural community groups and has previously served as an RCN board member since 2011.  He has worked in the science research and education sectors for over 25 years, and is also active in the early years and childcare sector as he and his wife Jill are directors of Chirpy Chicks Playgroup Ltd, a not-for-profit preschool playgroup based in the Ards Peninsula.

    • Rosemary Forde

    Rosemary is the Co Fermanagh community sector representative on the RCN Board

    • Frances Spence

    Frances Spence lives in Ardess, Co Fermanagh and is actively involved in her local Ardess Community Association and is a member of St Mary's Ardess Church of Ireland Select Vestry.   In 2002 Frances, along with other local community representatives, started up a charity, Orphan's Hope. The main aim of this Charity is to provide workers and teachers for local orphanages in China and pay for children to be fostered out of the orphanages by local Chinese people.   They also support the Dawn Project which creates a family where children can be fostered while they are in transition to find adoptive families and who have a medical need that requires care beyond what an orphanage can provide for them.   Frances is Assistant Guide Leader with North Fermanagh Rangers, Assistant Guide Leader with 1st Magheraculmoney Brownies and she is on the Fermanagh Executive Committee of the Girl Guide Association as the International Advisor and represents Fermanagh at Ulster level.    In her spare time she enjoys going to concerts and walking.   Frances is married and has two grown up children and two grandsons and has been the Administrator for Fermanagh Rural Community Network since 1998.

    • Paddy McEldowney

    Paddy McEldowney is Chief Executive of Easilink Community Transport based in Strabane.  He has been working in Community Transport for over 11 years. He has a particular interest in rural issues and is passionate about representing the many fantastic rural groups across Tyrone who do great work looking after their local people and communities – in many cases with limited resources and relying heavily on volunteers.

    • Rory O'Brien

    Rory is a committee member for Loughmacrory Community Development Association and works as a civil servant. He has 3rd level qualifications in both the business and property fields. He has been involved in the community sector for about 2 years and contributes youth and energy to both the voluntary and rural agenda.  He has a keen interest in all rural issues especially farming, broadband and childcare.  In his spare time he enjoys watching sports and travelling.

    • Anne O'Reilly

    Anne O’Reilly has over twenty five years in the voluntary and community sector. She has a wealth of experience, working in the age sector for 20 years both as CEO of Age Concern and AgeNI following her lead role in the merger with Help The Aged.  She has a long track record of work in the women’s sector, as member and now Chair of NIRWN (NI Rural Women’s Network) over the last 10 years. She has an active interest in equality, community development, has a high level of policy and advocacy expertise, and is committed to advocating for an even greater increase in the voluntary and community sector role in the social, economic and cultural life of NI.  She has a strong expertise in strategic and business planning; risk management; project and change management as a result of her both her governance and leadership roles in various organisations.  She is a member of the voluntary and community sector Joint Forum working to develop stronger working relationships between government and the sector.  Anne was recently appointed as Non-executive director of both the Belfast Health & Social care Trust and the NI Social Care council supporting work on Older people, Children and young people in care; the role of carers and work on public and personal involvement.

    • Chris McCarney

    Chris McCarney represents the NI voluntary sector on RCN Board

    • Cllr Terry Hearty

    Terry has been a councillor from 2001.  Terry is a governor of St Joseph's Secondary School Crossmaglen and Clonalig & Anamar Primary Schools.  He is an active member of Crossmaglen Day Care Liaison committee, and the Council's Enterprise Regeneration and Development Committee, Audit Committee, and the Louth, Newry Mourne and Down Joint Council Committee.  Having a keen interest in rural development, Terry sits on the Ring of Gullion AONB Management Board, the Mourne Gullion Lecale LAG Board, and indeed the two previous boards associated with the Rural Development Programme: SOAR and Leader.  Terry is the Party spokesperson on agriculture and campaigns locally against drugs and antisocial behaviour in south Armagh.

    • Herbie Francis

    Herbie joined Larne Borough Council as a Promotions & Events Officer in 1979, during a difficult recession period; he was able to secure a few major events for the Borough.  He moved to Tourism and Community Development Manager in 1999 and in 2003 was appointed Acting Director of Development with responsibility for Community Relations, Community Development, Community Safety, Tourism, Arts, Museums and Access to the Countryside.  Herbie was actively involved with Economic Development within the Borough, assisting the Chief Executive.  He also played an important role overseeing all Civic events and PR working with the Mayor’s office.  Herbie was asked to join the Church Vestry on the Property and Finance Committee, using his expertise to assist in drawing down funding in a hope to redress ailing finances and church attendance.   Also a member of the Rotary Club in Larne since 1980, he held the role of President in 1990-1991.   He devotes a lot of his spare time ensuring that young people get the opportunity to travel through Rotary to enhance their own personal well being and careers.  The National Trust approached Herbie in 2005, to assist them with an audit and survey of all their land and property within Northern Ireland and he still works with the Trust today.  Herbie was appointed by the Minister, to the Rural Development Council from 2005 to 31 March 2013 helping to steer the organisation through very changing and challenging times resulting in the Council today operating over two sites with a staff of thirty employees and an annual budget of £1.7million (excluding) grants.  An avid Gardener, Herbie spends any free time together with his wife, Thelma growing their own home produce and travelling extensively.

    • Cllr Declan McAteer

    Cllr Declan McAteer was born into a farming family and has maintained and strengthened this connection with the rural community through his entire working life primarily through his profession as an employee with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Countryside Management Branch. There, he has just completed 35 years service working  "in the field" directly with farmers. Also being a small part -time farmer gives him an added insight into that industry.  He is proud to state he has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with the farming community.

    Through lifetime experience he has gained a sound knowledge of the rural area and recognises the wide diversity of its inhabitants and their varying needs. This knowledge and experience has been augmented by his personal membership and work with various local organisations for example Burren Community Forum, Ballyholland Development Association, Burren GAA club, Youth Club and school Board of Governors. 

    He is a Councillor with Newry and Mourne and serves the predominately rural District Electoral Area of Crotlieve. He represents his area with the aim of enhancing it's development and ensuring it's sustainability. In Council he is currently Chairman of the Finance committee. In 2012 / 2013 he held the Chairmanships of both Agriculture Fisheries and Rural Development and Planning committees. He is also on the management boards of Drumgath, Mayobridge and Burren's Community Associations.

    • Noelle Donnell

    Noelle Donnell was co-opted onto the RCN Board in January 2017.

    Noelle has over 20 years’ experience as a volunteer and as a paid worker within the rural sector in Northern Ireland. This has included working as a project co-ordinator on various community development and Good Relations projects.  She has been a committee member of a number of organisations, including local farmers’ groups, village groups and as part of umbrella groups like The Villages Together. She is a Director of Hummingbird (NI) CIC, a rural based Good Relations company, with specific experience in flags, emblems and sectarian symbolism and is currently a social partner on Derry & Strabane LAG. She has served on District Policing Partnerships as an independent member from their inception in 2003 until 2008, I served as Vice-Chair for two years.

    She has a Masters Degree in Sustainable Rural Development with Queen’s and graduated with a commendation in 2011.  Her dissertation was on Gender Inequality on the Family Farm, looking at women and their gendered roles and identity on an intergenerational basis.

    She has her own consultancy for close to 15 years, the main focus on this has been rural community development. She works with groups on issues like good governance to ensure they can operate legally and effectively.