March 13 2020

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In the latest event in our ‘Exit Interview’ series, Noel Lavery CB, recently-retired Permanent Secretary at the Department of the Economy, will reflect on his leadership journey in conversation with Nick Garbutt.

As a chartered accountant, Noel’s career started in the private sector. After moving to the public sector, he worked at senior levels in the Industrial Development Board, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. He was appointed as Permanent Secretary in 2013, leading the Departments of Agriculture & Rural Development and then Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs before his appointment to the Department for the Economy (DfE) in 2018.

At this event, Noel will discuss some of the challenges he faced in these roles including, most recently, his leadership of DfE through the extended period without Ministers, the RHI Inquiry and the Brexit preparation period. He will explore his approach to leading transformation and achieving delivery; dealing with uncertainty and austerity; building staff engagement and embedding collaboration. The conversation will also explore Noel’s personal highs and lows as a public sector leader.

Guests will have the opportunity to engage in discussion at the event.


12.00 Lunch & networking opportunities

12.30 Exit Interview commences

1.45 Event concludes.

A light lunch will be served. This event is free to all CEF Members.

Noel Lavery CB

Noel was born and educated in Belfast. He is a chartered accountant by profession and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

He trained with Price Waterhouse in Belfast and then worked as a finance professional for ten years with Northern Ireland based quoted textile group Lamont Holdings PLC. He was Group Accountant there prior to his departure in 1997.

Following an earlier two year secondment, Noel moved to the Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board working in areas including project appraisal and inward investment from 1997-2001.

Noel joined the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in 2001 becoming Finance Director in December of that year. He was promoted to Deputy Secretary over DETI’s Corporate Services and Business Regulation Directorate in 2003.

He joined the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in 2009, initially working on the devolution of Justice and Policing. He took over responsibility in OFMDFM for Finance, Corporate Services, the regeneration of former military sites, international relations including the NI Executive’s Washington Office and European Policy including the Brussels office in January 2010.

Noel joined the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) as Permanent Secretary in March 2013 working for former DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill. In May 2016 he became Permanent Secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) initially working for former DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen. In February 2018 Noel became Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy, and he retired from the NICS in November 2019.

Noel is actively involved in his local church. He has an interest in most sports particularly golf, tennis, cricket, rugby, football and athletics. He has completed six marathons since he was fifty. He became a grandfather in 2016 and now has two grandchildren.

Nick Garbutt

Nick Garbutt edits the public policy magazine Scope. He is a former editor of the Irish News, deputy editor of the Belfast Telegraph and a regular broadcaster and commentator. He combines his journalism with public speaking, PR and public affairs consultancy work.