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Our Story Header Community Finance Ireland client An Tobar Community Wellness Centre and Social Farm

An Tobar Community Wellness Centre and Social Farm, County Armagh

Since 2016, we have been able to help clients across Ireland and Northern Ireland and this spotlight map shows how many we have worked with and the loan amounts that are working in your region.

Impact Map

meet our team

We’re a small team working throughout the island of Ireland, North and South. And we’re as passionate and committed as you.
Our expertise is in finance: it’s what we use to enable clients like you to bring about change.
We speak finance. But we hear people.

Dónal Traynor

Group Chief Executive

Dónal took up the role of Chief Executive in November 2020, having previously worked as Associate Director for our Republic of Ireland business. Dónal holds a degree in Economics & Geography from UCD, Grad. Dip. in Business Studies and an MBS in Co-Operative and Social Enterprise from UCC. Oh, and is QFA accredited from the Institute of Banking too. Outside of work: Dónal is a sports fanatic and will always engage in some type of energetic activity with his young family at the weekends.

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“We strive to create a lasting social impact in every community on the island. It’s the driving force behind everything that we do.”

Dónal Traynor

Barry Connolly

Group Chief Financial Officer

Barry is a Chartered Accountant and previously worked with PWC and KPMG, and has spent over 15 years working in the private, public and third sectors. He is on the board of both Victim Support Northern Ireland and the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland. Outside of work: Barry loves to travel, read, work out and sing along at gigs, where no one can hear him.

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Phelim Sharvin

Associate Director NI

Phelim is a Chartered Banker and holds a Master’s degree in European Regional Development, Economics & Business Management. He joined Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) in 2002, bringing with him nearly 20 years’ experience in the Social Finance sector and Portfolio Management. He has helped develop tailored loan products and bespoke loan funds in the local Sports, Childcare, Green Energy and Start-Up Social Enterprise sectors. Outside of work: Phelim is keen on most sport and loves to catch a live gig when he can.

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Emmett O'Hara

Associate Director ROI

Emmett joined our team in early 2021. Born in Cavan now living in Bettystown Co Meath, Emmett has over 16 years experience working across Business Development, Commercial and Credit Analyst management roles. He holds a Degree in Credit Risk from Technical University Dublin, a Diploma in SME Credit and a QFA Diploma from the Institute of Bankers. When not working with clients, he spends his time supporting Liverpool and Leinster Rugby. Family time is a priority at weekends where he and his wife Miriam, cook and make the most of the local beach areas with their two children.

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Lita Notte

Head of Marketing and Communications

Lita trained at the Dublin Institute of Technology and Irish Marketing Institute, Lita has held senior roles in advertising and marketing, working with brands such as Guinness, Super Valu, Aer Lingus, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and RBS Group. Outside of work: Lita champions mental health awareness and loves beach walks with her labradoodle Lily.

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Barry Symes

Client Relationship Manager

Prior to joining our team, Barry had a long career in corporate finance with the Ulster Bank Group. He specialized in problem-solving for his clients and helping them to future-proof their businesses. He brings the same rigour to his work with our clients today. Outside of work: Barry is a foodie and wine buff, and ideally combines these two interests with good conversation.

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Anne Graham

Client Relationship Manager

Anne joined our team in April 2021. Born and living in Donegal, Anne has over 25 years’ experience working across financial services in Business Development, Business Lending, and financial advice and credit control roles. Anne holds an MBA from University of Ulster and a QFA Diploma from the Institute of Bankers. When not working with clients, Anne spends her time running and has recently taken up sea swimming on the beautiful shores of Lough Swilly. Family time is a priority at weekends and if not attending Football or GAA matches Anne enjoys cooking and making the most of beautiful outdoors in Donegal. Anne will be responsible for looking after clients in Donegal and all of Connacht. Anne is also involved in community projects on a voluntary basis locally in Inishowen.

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Peter Smyth

Client Relationship Manager

Peter graduated in Economics from QUB and trained as an Accountant with Price Waterhouse. He then spent 28 years with Danske Bank holding senior roles in various businesses and retail banking divisions. Peter is also a church trustee and treasurer. Outside of work: Peter is a serious football fan, supporting Leeds United and Glenavon. Where his loyalties would lie if they ever meet remains unclear.

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Nora Keogh

Client Relationship Manager

Born in Limerick and living outside Newcastle West, Nora has over 30 years’ experience in the Financial Services Sector across a wide range of management roles in credit management, business development and customer care. Nora is a fully accredited QFA & Chartered Banker with the Institute of Bankers Ireland. When not working with clients family time is a priority enjoying cycles on the local Greenway and the beautiful beaches in nearby Ballybunion Co Kerry. Nora joined our team in July 2021 and is responsible for looking after clients across Munster.

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Sandra Cowan

Finance Officer

Sandra is our longest serving team member, having joined us in 1999. She deals with the day to day office administration across a broad range of activities. Outside of work: Sandra is keen on baking, gardening and swimming, though not necessarily at the same time.

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Stephanie Nicholl

Compliance Officer

Steph joined the team in July 2021 and hails from the famous Walled City. She holds BSc (Hons) degree in Psychology from Queen's University Belfast and MSc (Hons) degree in Applied Psychology from Ulster University. She has worked in Insurance Broking for eight and half years and achieved the Diploma in Insurance through the Chartered Insurance Institute. Steph is passionate about mental health and appreciates the positive impact that CFI has within communities which aligns with her values. Outside of work: Steph is a huge tennis and football fan, loves to read and enjoys an eclectic taste in music – basically she’ll listen to anything.

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Trudi Dunbar

Social Media and Marketing Executive

Trudi manages our social content activity, sponsorship, events and partnership activity within Northern Ireland. She holds a degree in Business Studies and an MSc in Marketing. Trudi is happiest when shining a spotlight on the achievements and successes of our clients. Outside of work: you’ll find Trudi pottering around old buildings or on another road trip with her family in their touring caravan.

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Nicky McElhatton

Social Media and Marketing Executive

Nicky graduated in English from Queen’s University Belfast and later gained an MA from QUB in Arts Management. Before joining us, he spent nine years working for arts organisations and within the tourism sector. Outside of work: Nicky is a devoted culture vulture, travel junkie and all-round Eurovision fanatic.

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Emma Thompson

Finance Executive

Emma joined our Belfast office team in 2016. She supports the daily operations of the business. Previously she held a number of significant administrative roles, including with the Northern Ireland Assembly. She particularly enjoys seeing the positive impact of our work on local communities. Outside of work: Emma is passionate about animal welfare and enjoys photography. But don’t touch her chocolate, OK.

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Terri Martin

Office Manager/Micro Finance Lead

Terri is the backbone of all client support activity in our ROI office. Before joining the team, she spent ten years with Ulster Bank Group, where she honed her outstanding account management delivery and reconciliation skills. Outside of work: you’ll find Terri polishing her 1994 All-Ireland football medal for Co. Meath and coaching the Louth Girls Western Gaels GAA team.

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Pauline Carolan

Office Administrator

Pauline joined our team in March 2021 and is based in our Ardee office. She has nearly 20 years' experience working in various sectors across the financial services industry. Pauline holds a QFA diploma from the Life Insurance Association of Ireland, and a Professional Diploma in Compliance (LCOI) from the Institute of Bankers. Outside of work: Pauline enjoys the great outdoors, and could walk and talk for hours. She also loves to travel and enjoys getting lost in the music at a live gig whenever she can.

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Nick Heath

Front Office Administrator

Nick has had varied work experience having worked in hotel and retail management, Third Sector administration and in the Corporate Sector before joining our team in July 2021. Nick is happiest when spending time with his young family, exploring new music and adding to his ever growing t-shirt collection.

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Jack Lennon

Marketing Intern

Jack is currently studying a BsH Marketing Degree at Ulster University and has joined us on industry placement in July 2021. He particularly enjoys working at CFI knowing the impact made on communities for the greater good. During Jack’s free time, he loves to play rugby and considers himself a coffee connoisseur.

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Damian McAteer

Chair

Damian has enjoyed a 40-year career with senior management and advisory roles in the private, public and third sectors. He has held directorships in the Waterside Trust, Inner City Trust, plus a number of other organisations. He has been deeply involved in a number of flagship economic and social regeneration projects.

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Board Members

"Every plan for social or community change starts with a dream of how something could be better. It’s idealism – and we welcome that. We share it. But the reality of transformation is what counts. And that is what we are here for: to see our clients get beyond the dream and deliver real, enduring social impact.”

Damian McAteer

Michael McGarrigle

Vice Chair

Being the Vice-Chair of Community Finance Ireland, Michael has held various diverse roles throughout his career, including Secretary of Council for the West Financial Advisor with New Ireland Assurance, Director of Cashelard Community Development Association and he is the former National Chair of Irish Cot Death Association. Michael’s current position, in commercial activity, is Director of the property development company DMG Ltd.

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Anthony Barbour

Having a BSc in Economics and Statistics from Queen's University, Belfast, Anthony’s extensive 30-year business IT career includes senior roles at multinationals in the UK, Europe and the USA, up to and including Board level. He established his own business IT consultancy working with SMEs, corporate clients and government in UK and Ireland. He currently offers advice and support to individuals and organisations wishing to establish and expand co-operatives and social enterprises.

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Catherine Blackbourne

Catherine Blackbourne has over 20 years’ experience as a Qualified Accountant and she currently holds consultancy positions within a Social Enterprise, Property companies and a Facilities Management company. Previous roles have been in sectors including the transport industry, mechanical and electrical contracting, property investment and development, and corporate banking. Catherine has a Master of Arts in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and is a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants Ireland. She is currently on the Board of Ark Housing and is a Parent Governor at Ballyclare High School.

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Siobhain Bunni

John Evoy

John is General Manager at Grow Remote. Prior to this he was a Senior Fund Manager at Rethink Ireland. He's also the founder of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association. John has won a number of awards for his work with Men’s Sheds, and for his previous work in community development and social entrepreneurship, including an Irish People of the Year Award in 2015.

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Erskine Holmes, OBE

Erskine is the co-founder of Community Finance Ireland, whilst being the former CEO of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations from 1975 to 2000. In addition to this, Erskine has held Board positions with Ulster Garden Villages (UGV), Lagan Navigation Trust, Somme Association & NI Co-op Forum.

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Susan Lynch

Susan has worked in the Irish Credit Union Sector for over 25 years. Currently working fulltime as a Chief Executive, she is involved in many committees in the sector on a voluntary basis. She is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and a Fellow of Accounting Technicians Ireland. She has experience in strategic finance, collaboration, stakeholder management and has strong leadership skills. Susan is also a Director with the Guild of the Little Flower in the Liberties, Dublin.

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Jim Malone

Jim is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, holding an undergraduate and MA degree in Agriculture. He also holds further qualifications in Rural Development Practice (UCG), Environmental Impact Assessment (UCD), Training and continuing Education (Maynooth). A former Chief Executive of a national farm management training organization. He worked as National Agri Business Consultant with a national accountancy firm. He spent five years working in Saudi Arabia with Masstock as their training and development manager. He has delivered EU supported training In Russia (TAC-IS), Albania and Romania (Phare). I Jim is a founding member of Ardee Community Development Company and served on Louth LEADER and Louth County Enterprise Board (Evaluation Committee). He is a Fulbright scholar and a member of the Fulbright alumnus.

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Ian McAvoy

Ian worked in manufacturing for 20 years as a Financial Director and Chief Executive. During his tenure the business expanded into Britain and Europe, seeing a £12.2M increase in turnover. He has also held senior/board positions with PlayBoard NI, Sport NI, Board Disability Sport NI and Community Change.

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Douglas McIldoon

Douglas spent most of his career in the Civil Service based in Belfast, with a three-year secondment to the European Commission. He served as Director General for Electricity and Gas, overseeing the introduction of natural gas and renewables into Northern Ireland and the creation of the all-Ireland energy market. Since retirement he has been active in a number of organisations in the voluntary sector with a bias towards co-operative projects.

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Audrey Murray, MBE

Audrey worked in social enterprise and social finance for over 25 years, including spells as contract manager for the Social Entrepreneurship Programme and Northern Social Enterprise Hub. In 2014, Audrey was awarded an MBE in recognition of her work in the Social Economy sector. She currently serves on the boards of Blythswood Care Ireland, NICVA, Business LED and Ethical Development Trust North.

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Martin Stroud

A founder part of Hazelwood Integrated School, Martin sat on the Board of Governors for 14 years and remains deeply involved in the integrated education sector. He is Chair of the Belfast Charitable Trust for Integrated Education (BELTIE), which helped establish Cranmore & Millennium Integrated primary schools. Martin is also an executive member of the NI Co-op Party.

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Andrew Ward

Andrew is joint CEO Inishowen Development Partnership. Former director BIM (Irish Sea Fishery Board) Loughs agency and chair Foyle Fishermen's Co-op. He is also member of Donegal County Development Board.

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Amanda Zahringer

Amanda is an international partner solicitor with 20 years PQE in top practice and industry roles leading innovative global transactions and growth for high profile clients. Career highlights include an intra-group reorganisation for a multi-billion fund in emerging markets, listing the first Finnish company on AIM with a market cap of £100 million+ and designing and leading the post-merger strategy for one of the largest banks in the world. Acting as her clients’ trusted strategic advisor across 15+ countries, fuelled her passion for business strategy, innovation, transformation and organisational development to deliver sustainable business results for all. Amanda has led numerous charitable partnerships including ChildVision, Young Social Innovators and various academic institutions, she was also involved in the establishment of the Engage and Educate Fund, which is now a €1.2 million fund.

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Ulster Community Finance (UCF) Board Members

Seamus O'Prey

Chair

Seamus O’Prey is CEO of the Ortus Group, Ni social enterprise of the year 2016. A law and business graduate from the University of ulster, Seamus has over 20 years’ experience working with, mentoring and managing social enterprises. He also sits as a Trustee of Spingvale learning and employment; Audit chair of Upper Springfield Development Trust and the West Belfast Partnership Board and a former Chairman of the NOW group and a board member of Enterprise NI. He is a board member of UCIT; UCIT Ireland ltd and UCI PLC and currently represents UCIT on the NISBLF advisory panel. He is a former recipient of the IOD third sector director of the year; an Eisenhower Fellow and winner of a NI top 50 under 50 business award.

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Kevin Hegarty

Kevin Hegarty is a Solicitor based in Belfast specializing in Medical Negligence, Healthcare Litigation, and general litigation. He is qualified in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales, and actively practices across both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Kevin spent a number of years working in one of Ireland’s largest commercial firms, before returning home in 2018 to work O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors. Outside work Kevin is a keen sportsman and plays with Queens Grads Football Club, as well as enjoying running, cycling and golf.

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Damian McAteer

Damian has enjoyed a 40-year career with senior management and advisory roles in the private, public and third sectors. He has held directorships in the Waterside Trust, Inner City Trust, plus a number of other organisations. He has been deeply involved in a number of flagship economic and social regeneration projects.

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Ian McAvoy

Ian worked in manufacturing for 20 years as a Financial Director and Chief Executive. During his tenure the business expanded into Britain and Europe, seeing a £12.2M increase in turnover. He has also held senior/board positions with PlayBoard NI, Sport NI, Board Disability Sport NI and Community Change.

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