Key NI business figures named in New Year honours list

Colin Neill has been made an MBE.

THE fire-fighter who's been effectively fire-fighting on behalf of the north's 70,000-plus hospitality workers over the last 20 months of Covid has received an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Colin Neill, who has been chief executive of industry trade body Hospitality Ulster since 2008, was among a number of business recipients of awards.

He said: "On a personal level, this is so very nice.

"But getting recognition like this is a team effort, and if it further highlights the problems within the hospitality sector, particularly at this very moment, so much the better."

In addition to the day to day operations of Hospitality Ulster, Colin is also responsible for the industries' strategic lobby and has spent a significant amount of time engaging with senior politicians both in the Northern Ireland Assembly and at Westminster.

Holder of an MBA from the Ulster University, he has held a number of other public and private sector positions, and is currently a board member of Tourism NI.

Colin, who is an electrician to trade, has also clocked up 27 years as a retained crew commander with the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.

The contribution of Marie Mallon for her services to industrial and employment relations in Northern Ireland during the pandemic has also been recognised with an OBE.

Already an MBE, the former senior director at the Belfast Health Trust chaired the independent and publicly-funded Labour Relations Agency between 2014 and 2021.

Three years after his appointment as chief executive of the north's innovation hub, Catalyst, Steve Orr has also been recognized with an OBE for his services to innovation.

Mr Orr's first major success came with Kineticom Inc, a technical talent firm he co-founded in 2000 in San Diego. In 2008, he took the experience gained in California and set up Connect at Catalyst in Belfast, then known as the Northern Ireland Science Park.

That put him in position to succeed Dr Norman Apsley in November 2018, who had served as chief executive of Catalyst for 18 years.

One of the best known figures in the north's agri-food industry, Trevor Lockhart, has been been an MBE for his services to agri-food and the economy. A former chair and vice-chair of the CBI in Northern Ireland, Mr Lockhart began his career in the USA, before returning to work with the Ulster Farmers Union. He joined Fane Valley Co-operative Society in 2004 and was named group chief executive in 2007, a position he continues to hold.

Fellow Co Armagh business figure Mairead Mackle has also been awarded an MBE in recognition of her contribution to economic development.

She is the founder and chief executive of Tarasis Enterprises, which encompasses her most established business, Homecare Independent Living, which she set up 27 years ago.

Ms Mackle is also a founder of the iCare charity, the Evolve women's network and a founding partner of LIFT Ireland.

Judith Owens' services to tourism have been recognised with an MBE. A key figure in Belfast's events and tourism scene, Ms Owens was head of operations and house manager at The Waterfront for almost 15 years. In 2011, she moved down the River Lagan to Titanic Belfast and was named chief executive of TBL International in 2016. She now oversees Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

One of the north's first chartered PR practitioners Jane Wells is also on the New Year's MBE list. A director at JComms, she joined the PR firm in 1988 and became its managing director a decade later. She also sits on the Safefood Advisory Board and is an advisory board member of the Ulster Business School's Centre for SME Development.

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