Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to first ever female NI Fire Service chair and former Policing Board member Carmel McKinney

Former school principal was also one of the north’s leading experts in dyslexia

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service chairperson Carmel McKinney
Carmel McKinney.

The first female chair of the NI Fire and Rescue Service will be remembered for her “extensive expertise” and leadership skills following her death.

Carmel McKinney was appointed as chair of the NIFRS board in 2015, and served in the post until last year.

She was a serving member of the Equality Commission and a former member of the Policing Board.

The Belfast woman, daughter of former Irish News production manager Jimmy McKinney, has been praised for her distinguished career that began in education as a teacher.

Ms McKinney became the principal of the now-closed Vere Foster Primary School in west Belfast, and was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2008.

While chair of the NIFRS, Ms McKinney was appointed as an independent member of the Policing Board in 2020, and served until last year, when she was selected to join the Equality Commission by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

Throughout her career she won many awards, while outside of her work she was known in Irish dancing circles and was once invited to perform at the White House in Washington DC.

A spokesperson for the NIFRS said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our previous Board Chair, Ms Carmel McKinney OBE.

“Carmel dedicated many years of service to NIFRS, bringing extensive expertise and experience as a leader to the role. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Carmel’s family and friends.”

An Equality Commission spokesperson described Ms McKinney as a “dedicated member of our Board” who was “committed to making Northern Ireland a more fair and equal society”.

“Our thoughts are with Carmel’s family, especially her sister and our colleague, Sheena McKinney. Rest in peace, Carmel,” they added.

Others to pay tribute included Stormont health minister Mike Nesbitt.

“I was very saddened to hear of Carmel’s passing and would like to express my condolences to her family and friends,” he said.

“I served with Carmel on the Policing Board and found her to be very knowledgeable and supportive.”