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Ballymena barrister selected for global leadership programme

A Ballymena barrister has been selected for the British Council’s prestigious global policy programme – Future Leaders Connect.

Emma McIlveen, who specialises in Employment Law, will be among 63 delegates from 13 countries taking part in a six-week online policy and leadership programme and will gain exclusive access to policy experts and training, discuss policy ideas with UK Parliamentarians and Government and be mentored by UK think tanks and other senior leaders.

In partnership with the prestigious Møller Institute at Cambridge University, Future Leaders Connect aims to help delegates develop their skills, expand their networks and ultimately, make policy change.

Emma (30), who originally went to Ballymena Academy, was selected from over 9,000 applicants worldwide and as part of the process, had to pitch her global policy vision – choosing to focus on family friendly policies in the workplace.

Speaking ahead of the programme, she said:

“I applied for Future Leaders Connect, having studied law and politics at Queen’s and always having a passion for using my legal knowledge to truly make a difference. Given the fact that this is Northern Ireland’s centenary year, I felt this was an excellent opportunity to develop my policy vision and make my ideas a reality.

“Through this programme, I will be exploring how Northern Ireland can introduce more family friendly policies to support female empowerment/advancement. In particular, I will be advocating for more investment in state funded childcare, more flexibility around the taking of maternity leave (including more flexibility for fathers) and more support for breastfeeding in public spaces.”

For this Centenary year, the programme has been expanded in Northern Ireland to ten places instead of the usual two, through the support of the Northern Ireland Office, with Emma joined on the programme by nine other delegates from Northern Ireland. Across the six weeks they will connect with emerging leaders from Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam and the rest of the UK.

Congratulating Emma and the nine other Northern Ireland participants, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, said:

“I’m proud that the Northern Ireland Office is supporting the expansion of the programme this Centenary year, meaning more young people from Northern Ireland will be taking part.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to hear from leaders around the world and learn how governments can work together to tackle the great global issues of the day.”

Also speaking about the programme, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said:

“We’re delighted to be able to announce the ten exceptional individuals from Northern Ireland taking part in this year’s global programme. Future Leaders Connect is an opportunity for emerging leaders in Northern Ireland to collaborate with their counterparts from all over the world, and to benefit from the sharing of ideas and knowledge in tackling global issues and challenges.

“The application process was extremely competitive, and we are certain that our ten young leaders whose backgrounds range from law and politics to housing and the environment, will make positive changes in Northern Ireland. We wish them every success in the programme.”

This year’s Future Leaders Connect programme will officially kick off from 11 October and run for six weeks online until 19 November. For more information on Future Leaders Connect or British Council Northern Ireland, visit:

Emma McIlveen is from outside Ballymena, Northern Ireland. She is a barrister who specialises in employment law. Prior to coming to the Bar, she spent a year at Harvard university as a Kennedy scholar.

She is now qualified to practice in (NI), GB and the Republic of Ireland. She is a mother of 3 young children and is passionate about encouraging (NI) a to adopt family friendly policies which support women to advance their careers alongside raising their family.


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