Deputy Secretaries

Tommy O'Reilly

Tommy O’Reilly has been Deputy Secretary for Education and Children’s Services at the Department of Education since May 2017.

In this role Tommy has responsibility for a range of education policy areas including youth and early years services, childcare, children’s and young people’s services, curriculum, qualifications and standards, inclusion and wellbeing and collaborative education and practice.

Prior to moving to the Department of Education Tommy held the post of Deputy Secretary for Working Age Services in the Department for Communities.

From August 2010 until May 2016 Tommy was Chief Executive of the Social Security Agency, where he was responsible for a major transformation programmes in reforming the welfare system in Northern Ireland and how the Agency delivered its business to customers. 

Prior to his Chief Executive post, he was Director of Transformation in Land and Property Services (Oct 09) and Programme Director for HR Connect (Sept 07).  Tommy also held the posts of Director of Business Development and Director of Personnel for three years in the Social Security Agency and left in 2005 on secondment to the Strategic Investment Board as Programme Director for Workplace 2010. 


Tommy is a qualified teacher with a Bachelor of Education (QUB) and an MBA from the Ulster Business School and is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Fiona Hepper 

Fiona Hepper

Fiona has worked at senior level in the Northern Ireland Civil Service since 2004.  She was appointed (December 2013) as Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education and is responsible for Investment and Infrastructure, Area Planning, Education Workforce Development, Finance, Planning and Performance Management and development of the Education Administration system.

Previously she held Director posts in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, with responsibility for a number of economic development policy and operational areas.  These included policy and legislative responsibilities in relation to the electricity, gas and renewable energy issues in Northern Ireland, innovation, enterprise and telecommunications policy plus overall policy and programme evaluation for DETI and the NDPBs.  

From June 2010 – Nov 2013 Fiona was co-chair of the All Island Joint Steering Group overseeing energy markets on the Island of Ireland.  She has also served on a wide range of UK economic and energy related steering groups.

John Smith 

John was appointed as Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education in September 2014.  He is the Senior Responsible Owner of the Strule Shared Education Campus Programme, a pioneering approach to delivering education in the region that will see six schools and 4,000 students educated on one campus.

John has a degree in Mathematics and is a qualified accountant.  He spent many years in finance roles in local authorities in the north east of England and London.  Following a spell in management consultancy he joined the NICS in 2004 in the then Department of Finance and Personnel. 

In 2006 John was appointed Finance Director in the Department of Agriculture and he held this post until 2011 when he moved to the equivalent post in the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL).

John left DEL in 2014 to take up his current post in DE.

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