A business advocate who articulated the concerns of Northern Ireland traders through the Brexit process has been made an MBE.
Aodhán Connolly, the former director of the NI Retail Consortium, became a familiar face in the corridors of power in London and Brussels as he pressed the case of local businesses.
Mr Connolly, 45, recently left his role in the private sector to take up a new job heading up the Northern Ireland Executive’s offices in Brussels.
Originally from Portadown, Co Armagh, Mr Connolly chaired the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group (NIBBWG) – a body formed in 2019 to represent the interests of businesses through the UK’s turbulent departure from the European Union.
He insisted his MBE for services to the economy was an acknowledgment of the work put in by all members of the working group, rather than solely an accolade for himself.
“I am delighted to receive this honour,” he told the PA news agency.
“This award is as much a recognition of the collective work and dedication of the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group as it is for me personally.
“Their willingness to work in a spirit of collegiate cooperation made all the difference when we took the messages of the NI business community to the UK, European and world stage.
“I hope to continue that same spirit of cooperation as I represent Northern Ireland in my new role as director of the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels.”
Educated at St Patrick’s Grammar School in Armagh, Mr Connolly has also previously worked as a trade adviser to the British Retail Consortium, as a UK Trade and Business Commissioner and an account director at Chambre Public Affairs.
He recently won the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Outstanding Achievement Award 2022.
Mr Connolly is the chair of two Northern Ireland charities – Wheelworks Arts which works with young people combining the arts and digital technology in workshops, programmes and projects; and the Greater Village Regeneration Trust which delivers a wide range of services to benefit the local community in the Village area of south Belfast.
He is also a keen cook, linguist, runner and hiker.