NIGALA Board Profile


MR BERNARD MITCHELL was appointed as the new Chair to the Agency, from 3 November 2011 to 2 November 2015. He joined the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Postgraduate Management Training Scheme in 1978 and remained within the service until his retirement. He has worked in all parts of Northern Ireland and has experience of managing hospital, social care and community services, including ten years as Chief Executive of the former United Hospitals Health and Social Services Trust. From 1 June 2006 until his retirement on 31 March 2011, Mr Mitchell held senior positions, on secondment, in the DHSSPS and the Health and Social Care Board.

MS PATRICIA NICHOLL is the Chief Executive of the Agency. Patricia qualified as a Social Worker from Queen`s University Belfast in 1983. Throughout her career she has worked primarily in the field of Family and Childcare Services. Patricia was Programme Manager for Family and Children`s Services in the legacy Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust from 2001 until 2006. In 2006 Patricia took up post as a Senior Planning and Performanace Manager in UCHT. In 2008 she took up a permanant position in the DHSSPS Office of Social Services which she occupied following a period of secondment. Since 2008 Patricia has had lead responsibility for the regulation of the social care workforce in Northern Ireland and has been the Government Liaison Officer for the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) responsible for oversight of assurance and accountability arrangements of the Council. Patricia joined NIGALA in April 2013.

MR DAVID WATTERS is an Economics honours graduate from Queens University and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland. He is a founding partner of McClure Watters which was formed in 1989 and under David’s leadership the firm has grown into one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in Northern Ireland. He is highly skilled in corporate finance, with extensive experience in valuing, buying and selling companies across a wide range of sectors. He is currently non-executive director of John Graham Holdings Limited, management and construction group with operating activities throughout the UK and Ireland. David is also the Honorary Treasurer of the Belfast Charitable Society which was formed in 1752 and is the Northern Ireland based Trustee of The Spirit of 2012 Trust. David was appointed to Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency in September 2013.

MRS GILLIAN McGAUGHEY BL LLB lives in Belfast. Mrs McGaughey is a Barrister specialising in Family & Child Law and lectures at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, QUB. She is also the Chair of the Statutory Committee for the Pharmaceutical Society for Northern Ireland and a Legal Services Commissioner. Mrs McGaughey was a Stakeholder member of the NI Social Care Council from 2001 to 2013. She is a member of the Board of Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast and a Director of Belfast Cathedral Enterprises Limited. She holds no other public appointments and has not engaged in any political activity in the last five years.

MR FRED SMYTH qualified with PWC Belfast. Fred is a fellow of the Chartered Accountants in Ireland. He has held senior management roles within Bank of Ireland for over 20 years and has extensive business and retail banking experience, including heading up Corporate, Business and Retail Units across Northern Ireland. Fred has assisted the full range of private and public sector businesses from start-ups to large corporates in managing and growing their business in both domestic and overseas markets. He is a member of the Council of the NI Chamber of Commerce, current Vice Chairman of Simon Community NI the leading Charity for the Homeless. 


DR KAREN WINTER lives in Belfast and is currently a lecturer in Social work and programme director for the Professional Doctorate in Childhood Studies at Queens University Belfast. Dr Winter is also involved on a voluntary basis with Fostering Network Northern Ireland. Dr Winter`s experience will be of great benefit to the Board of NIGALA. She has significant knowledge of Social work practice both as a Team Manager within a HSC Trust and as a Guardian ad Litem. Dr Winter Holds no other public appointments.  Karen was appointed to Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency in May 2014.