Appointment of Vice Chairperson and Directors to the Board of the Middletown Centre for Autism (MCA)

Date published: 02 April 2021

The Minister of Education has announced the appointment of the following public appointments to the Board of the Middletown Centre for Autism (MCA). Two existing Directors have also been re-appointed.

Appointments to Middletown Centre for Autism

The appointments are as follows:

Vice Chairperson

Sheila Darling is a former Principal of St Mary’s High School, Downpatrick.   She brings to the Board experience in leadership and governance, experience of influencing the strategic direction of an organisation and a knowledge of the education sector.


Colin Millar MBE is a former Principal of Killard House Special School.  He is a voluntary Boys Brigade Disability Consultant UK and Duke of Edinburgh Award NI Additional Needs Adviser.  He brings to the Board experience of governance and building strong relationships with others. He has an outstanding knowledge of the demands of SEN and has a clear commitment to improving the lives of children with disabilities. 

Daíthí Murray is currently Vice Principal of St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook and a radio and TV presenter with BBC NI.  He brings to the Board experience in leadership and has strong communication skills.


Mrs Dorothy Angus was Director of Access, Inclusion and Well Being in the Department of Education from 2005 to 2012.  Policy responsibilities included special educational needs, child protection and the promotion of pupil emotional health and wellbeing. Mrs Angus also held posts at director level in DFP and OFMDFM. She is currently a school governor and a volunteer with both Business in the Community’s ‘Time to Read’ scheme and the NSPCC’s Schools Service.  Mrs Angus continues to bring to the Board skills in the field of business planning and organisational development.

Mrs Irene Murphy has held posts as Head of the Disablement Advisory Service (DAS) in the Training and Employment Agency; Head of Special Education Team (SET) and then the Special Education and Inclusion Review Team both within the Department of Education. Mrs Murphy has worked on a voluntary basis as secretary to the Belfast branch of the National Deaf Children’s Society. Mrs Murphy continues to bring to the Board skills in the field of special education and autistic spectrum disorders.

None of the DE appointees hold any other Ministerial public appointments and all have declared that they have not undertaken any political activity during the past five years.

Speaking today, Education Minister, Peter Weir said:

“I am very pleased to appoint a new Vice Chairperson and Directors to the Council. The wealth of knowledge and expertise they bring to the board will no doubt prove invaluable.”

“I would also like to thank the outgoing interim Chairperson, Professor Mary Hanratty, for her dedication and service since her appointment in 2007, who during this time, served the roles of Director, Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, and I am particularly grateful for her continued presence on the Board in an interim capacity while this public appointments competition concluded.”

The Department of Education and Skills in the South of Ireland has appointed a new Chairperson and 4 Directors.  The appointment of the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson rotates between the two jurisdictions.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Middletown Centre is a joint north south initiative with funding provided by the Department of Education (DE) and the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to support the promotion of excellence in the development and harmonisation of education and allied services to children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders.
  2. This competition was widely advertised including in the Public Appointments section of NI Direct. 
  3. DE currently provides the Vice Chairperson and four Directors to the MCA Board.  The newly appointed Vice Chairperson, Directors and re-appointed Directors have a term of appointment from 1 April 2021 ending on 31 March 2024 (unless terminated before that time).  The Vice Chairperson’s remuneration rate is £200 per day with an estimated workload of 2-3 days per month. Directors are remunerated at a rate of £160 per day with an estimated workload of 1-2 days per month.
  4. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI and our Facebook page, Department of Education Northern Ireland.
  5. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at:
  6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.


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