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NIHRC thanks current Commissioners as term ends

26 Aug 2020

NIHRC thanks current Commissioners as term ends

The Human Rights Commission has paid tribute to the work of its current part-time Commissioners as their term draws to a close.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby commented:

“On behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank our outgoing Commissioners for their hard work, dedication and commitment to protecting and promoting the human rights of all in Northern Ireland during their term.”

“Over the last three years they have led the Commission’s legal challenge to termination of pregnancy laws in Northern Ireland and seen through to fruition the human rights enquiry into Traveller Accommodation. They have helped the Commission navigate the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic and the protection of human rights in the EU exit negotiations. During their time Commissioners have worked resolutely with their counterparts in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as part of the Joint Committee and with the Equality Commission. We wish them every success in the future.”

The current board of part time Commissioners commenced a three year term in August 2017, their term ends on 31 August 2020. The Chief Commissioner Les Allamby remains in post until his term ends in September 2021. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland appoints the NI Human Rights Commissioners.


Further information:

For further information please contact Claire Martin on: (028) 9024 3987 or by email on

Notes to Editors

1. The NI Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland.

2. The Commission has six part-time Commissioners. They are appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland following an open recruitment exercise. Commissioners should be as representative of the community in Northern Ireland as is practicable. The appointments process is in line with that used for most senior public appointments in the UK and complies with guidance issued by the independent Commissioner for Public Appointments.

3. The outgoing Commissioners are:

Helen Ferguson

Helen Ferguson has over 30 years’ experience of working in the community and voluntary sector. She,was the Director of Carers Northern Ireland from 1994-2015 and is currently employed as part-time Policy and Campaigns Officer with National Deaf Children’s Society. Helen is a member of the Equality Commission Northern Ireland.

Helena Macormac

Helena Macormac is a lawyer currently employed as Director for the National Association of Head Teachers Northern Ireland (NAHT (NI)). Prior to her role at NAHT she was Head of Strategic Advocacy at the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities. Helena is currently an Advisory Board member to the Black and Minority Ethnic Women’s Network Northern Ireland.

Paul Mageean

Paul Mageean qualified as a solicitor in 1991. In addition to his role with the Commission, he is a Parole Commissioner and Chair of Public Interest Litigation Support Project. He also sits on the Policing Authority and the Parole Board in the Republic of Ireland. Previously, Paul was a Legal Officer for the Committee on the Administration of Justice (1995-2004), and Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast (2013-2018). He was also a Commissioner for the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

John McCallister

John McCallister lives near Rathfriland, County Down. After studying at Greenmount College (CAFRE) he returned home to start his farming career. After many years of involvement with Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster serving in different roles he was elected YFCU President from 2003-05. With a passion for politics, John was then elected as a UUP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in March 2007 and re-elected in 2011 for the South Down constituency. John served as Deputy Leader of the UUP between 2010 and 2012. He co founded NI21 and was Deputy Leader for one year. After leaving the Assembly in 2016 John now works for YFCU and Ulster Farmers Union heading up a Land Mobility Programme and was appointed as a Human Right Commissioner in 2017.

Eddie Rooney

Eddie Rooney is a former Senior Civil Servant who was Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency (PHA), from its formation in 2009 until his retirement in 2016. Prior to joining the PHA, he was Equality Director in OFMDFM (now The Executive Office) and Deputy Secretary in the Department of Education. Eddie is a member of the Advisory Board of the Food Safety Promotion Board (Safefood) and an Honorary Member of the Faculty of Public Health.

Graham Shields

Graham Shields is the former Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland and a retired senior police officer. Graham was awarded the OBE for Services to Electoral Democracy in the 2017 Birthday Honour’s List.

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