Northern Ireland National Council

The MS Society Northern Ireland Council represents people affected by MS in the province, and works on their behalf.

The Council is responsible for MS Society Northern Ireland’s strategy, and is accountable to the Society’s UK Board of Trustees.

The Council works alongside the staff team in Northern Ireland, as well as local MS Society branches. Together we can beat MS.

During 2015 the Council will meet on the following dates:

  • Wednesday 28 January
  • Wednesday 8 April
  • Wednesday 3 June
  • Wednesday 26 August
  • Wednesday 28 October

Meet the council members

Siobhan Allister

I am 52 years of age and have been married to Stephen for 26 years; we have 2 children, Daniel (23) and Ben (18).

I have lived with MS for 4 years. After diagnosis, I was grateful for the reliable and up-to-date information provided by the MS Society. The Society’s strength lies in the fact that its volunteers are united by a common aim: to beat MS.

In my role as a volunteer at branch level, I am aware of the importance of remaining active within the community in order to avoid isolation. Living with MS can be difficult, however I feel it is vital to encourage people to seize every opportunity to enjoy life, not just to endure it.

My vision is that the Northern Ireland Council continues to influence decision makers and to campaign and promote more access to MS specialists, access to MS medicines and provide carers with an annual carers' assessment.

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Margaret Bagwell

I was finally diagnosed with MS in 2000. My first episode occurred when I was 30 years old and 5 months pregnant. Over the years I had frequent episodes, mostly in the form of back pains. I spent a small fortune on chiropractors, osteopaths and spiritual healing, with no benefits. Now everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

My doctor gave me publications from the MS Society, and they opened the door to better understanding about MS. Up to this point, I knew absolutely nothing about the condition.

When I went to the MS Society, full of trepidation, I was welcomed immediately with open arms and immediately felt at home with the people I was so fortunate to meet. I'd like in some way to pass on my experience to those newly diagnosed with MS. To coin a phrase, "I've got MS, MS hasn't got me"!

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Peter Cardwell

I believe one of the biggest challenges the MS Society in Northern Ireland faces is reaching out to young people with MS, as well as people of all ages who are isolated because of MS. There are people who may be members of branches but who do not attend for whatever reason, or there may be people with MS, of all ages, who do not engage with the Society. Even a phone call or personal email may help these people. We also need to increase our media presence. My aunt, Sheila Morrow, sadly died of MS in 2005. Another aunt, Hazel Millar, is secretary of the Omagh branch of the Society. Last year, I raised over £5,000 for the MS Society in NI by running the Berlin Marathon and putting on a pub quiz in Belfast. This year, I have helped raise over £1,300 through a Cake Break.

I am a reporter with UTV Live and a graduate of the University of Oxford. Every day I research, write and edit stories and meet a diverse range of people. I hope I can bring my analysis, research and interpersonal skills to the Council to help everyone affected by MS.

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Iain Crosbie

A key message I observed at the annual meeting was a need for communication, lobbying and local support. This is something that resonated with me as I am an effective communicator and have lobbied with the Director of the Society at Stormont for local services. I know lobbying locally about local issues is a major challenge, given austerity measures and proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance.

I was diagnosed with MS in 2004. In my working life I was a senior project manager for a large multinational company and worked in Europe and North America until my medical retirement in 2009. I feel my skills in managing diverse, multicultural and multilingual projects have some relevance to the council activities, as do my knowledge and understanding of governance and compliance issues. Together with other MS Society members, I was instrumental in setting up the Belfast Branch and chaired for 2 terms. I have experienced dealing with newly diagnosed colleagues.

I also have been with the national MS Society Research Network since 2005,and have reviewed numerous grant proposal applications. Since 2009, I have been with the Research Network Steering Committee which is both rewarding and challenging. Becoming a Council member would be a privilege.

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Pat Crossley

I have been Secretary/Support Officer of the Ballymoney branch for almost 30 years and am aware of the day-to-day needs of people affected by MS. 

I do my best to raise awareness of MS - fundraising and speaking. I did a parachute jump which raised over £9,000.

I endeavour to build relationships with politicians, emphasising the need for services for people affected by MS. My involvement on various boards ensures I keep up-to-date with charity law and provides valuable contacts. 

I was a hospital medical records officer, retired to become a full-time mum and now enjoy a fulfilling active retirement!

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Ivan Prue

I am 42 years old, and have an aggressive remitting /relapsing form of MS. I was officially diagnosed in 2009. It was a hard pill to swallow because all I could think of was the negative side and images of the disease.

I am passionate about raising awareness amongst newly diagnosed young persons and their families and everyone who meets me. My passion is exercise, keeping fit and enjoying life. It is infectious! I am fortunate that I can still do the things that I enjoy and will hopefully bring a ‘fresh’ approach to the council! It was a real honour for me to be offered the opportunity to be co-opted into the Northern Ireland Council. I want to reach out and help young folk and their families who are living with MS in some way. Hopefully I can progress new skills that I am learning in the counselling course that I am attending.

Whilst chatting to a young MSer recently at an event, 3 words came up in conversation: improvise, adapt, overcome. These have stuck with me. In fact, they are printed on the back of my MS Society running vest, striving to be as positive and upbeat as possible…life is for living and for making the most of what we can do with it.

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Peter Eakin, Chair

I got involved with the MS Society 15 years ago, as a committee member with the Foyle branch. I'll admit that I didn't know much about MS at the time.

Over the years, I became more involved with our branch, and I've been Chair for the last 6 years. We have a wonderfully active group of volunteers who make a great difference to people affected by MS.

I know there is a big job to do, and I enjoy that challenge. We've got to keep the most important aspect of our work in mind - that we're here to help everyone affected by MS.

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Margaret Fry

I have lived with MS for over 20 years. After diagnosis I was grateful for the reliable and up-to-date information provided by the MS Society. The Society’s strength lies in the fact that its volunteers are united by a common aim: “to beat MS”.

In my role as a volunteer at branch level I am aware of the importance of remaining active within the community in order to avoid isolation, form new friendships and enhance self esteem. Living with MS can be difficult however I feel it is vital to encourage people to seize every opportunity to enjoy life not just to endure it.

I am keen that the Northern Ireland Council continues to campaign and influence decision makers to ensure that the standards of care delivered to people affected by MS do not decline at this time of severe financial restrictions. The experience and skills gained in my professional life (Vice Principal in a large school) coupled with my positive attitude would enable me to provide a sound contribution to the valuable work of the Northern Ireland Council.

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Tom Hunter

Firstly, I would say that it would be an honour if I was chosen to be a council member. I have relapsing remitting MS and I see the Society as a family, that not only supports me, but is there to support everyone affected by MS; ranging from those who have the condition, to family members and carers.

The main thing that I have taken from the MS Society is that I have not been shown sympathy or pity, but empathy, and this is something that I would hopefully build upon and be able to show to others. I was working as a broker in London when I started to feel the effects of my MS and after my return to Northern Ireland in 2006, for a less stressful life, I had a major relapse that led me to being diagnosed in 2008.

I have been fortunate that my business experience has enabled me to develop a skill set that the MS Society is looking for in a council member. I have now trained as a counsellor and volunteer for the MS Society 2 days a week offering counseling to a range of people affected by MS.

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Derek McCambley

I was diagnosed with MS in 2005. I benefited greatly from the Society's help when I was newly diagnosed, and now I want to help ensure that everyone affected by MS has equitable access to relevant, high-quality support.

I've worked for various voluntary sector organisations during my career, including the MS Society.

I believe passionately that the MS Society can really make a difference to the lives of people affected by MS.

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Pamela McMillen, Vice Chair

I became a member of the MS Society in 1968 when my husband was diagnosed. We had been married for 6 months. I know the effects MS has not only on the person with the condition, but on the whole family.

I'm Vice Chair of the Omagh branch. I've got a background in nursing and my experience as a senior manager has given me experience in planning, development and management.

The MS Society was there for me when I needed it. Now I want to give something back.

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Naomi O’Loughlin

I am 32, married, and a mum to 2 boys - Ryan age 9 and Kieran age 8. I studied molecular biosciences and worked in microbial research for a brief period. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS 6 years ago and I became involved with Foyle MS Society a year later. I am currently Vice Chair of Foyle MS Society, and served last year as Chair.

I am extremely passionate about our MS Society and I believe I have a lot to contribute in ideas and experience. Whilst everyone’s MS is unique, we all have similar issues and concerns such as family, relationships and career. We all have the ‘right to a full life’."

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Janet Williamson

I was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago. During my struggle to accept my diagnosis my local branch were extremely supportive, and as a result I became involved in the Newry Branch

I have represented the branch as Chair for the last 5 years, during which we have established an office base providing information and support to those affected by MS. During this time we have tirelessly raised money to establish services including weekly art and yoga classes. These classes are not only aimed at improving the self confidence of people with MS but to try to prevent social isolation. 

I am married with 2 children and a grandchild. My family have been a great source of support to me over the last 10 years and have been very proactive in helping with fundraising for the Society.

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Catherine Doran

My relationship with the MS Society started long before my own diagnosis, as I previously reported on their work through my job as a journalist with the Derry Journal.
Diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in March 2009, I continue to use my skills as a writer to report on the work of the charity and to engage with others in the MS community. I have also given a number of public speeches about the charity's work, as well as sharing my own personal story.

I am incredibly passionate about the work the MS Society does and the wide remit that it covers, especially its research work. As a member of the Foyle Branch, I am a huge advocate of keeping in touch with others living locally with MS. As a young woman I try and engage with others who may need help coming to terms with their diagnosis. As I am still quite young (32) I have an affinity with those who have just been newly diagnosed and fundraise for the charity on a regular basis, hosting Cake Breaks and other events at my home.

On a personal level, I am married to Joe and we have 2 young daughters, Charlotte and Lucy. I also have a blog - - and continually keep in touch with others affected by MS on Twitter - @catdoran.

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