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The former Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance NI, Sue Gray and cabinet colleagues from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Unit have visited Newry based charity and Social Enterprise, Bolster Community, to learn about the challenges and inequalities faced by individuals and families living across Newry and Mourne. 

Sue Gray meets Noreen McConville (Support Worker) and candle-makers Lisa McNulty and Tara Ruane at Bolster Community Social Enterprise
Sue Gray meets Noreen McConville (Support Worker) and candle-makers Lisa McNulty and Tara Ruane at Bolster Community Social Enterprise

Sue, a previous resident of South Down, returned to the Cabinet Office from the NI Executive in May 2021 to take up the role of Second Permanent Secretary with responsibility for the Union and Constitution Directorate.

Announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, in November 2020 the Levelling Up Fund promises to invest £4.8 billion across the UK to invest in infrastructure, town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects and cultural and heritage assets. 

Eamonn Connolly, Chairperson of Bolster Community, Jacinta Linden, CEO Bolster Community, Sue Gray, Second Permanent Secretary and Tom Walker, Director of Levelling Up Unit, Cabinet Office.
Eamonn Connolly, Chairperson of Bolster Community, Jacinta Linden, CEO Bolster Community, Sue Gray, Second Permanent Secretary and Tom Walker, Director of Levelling Up Unit, Cabinet Office.

 Eamonn Connolly, Chairperson of Bolster Community, said “It was a huge privilege for Bolster Community to welcome Sue and her UK Cabinet Office team to our new premises at Whitegates in the Meadow.  It was an honour to participate in the presentation highlighting the economic, social and geographical challenges faced by our communities”.

Jacinta Linden, CEO of Bolster Community, said – “Sue was an amazing ambassador for all things Social and Enterprise in her time at Stormont, a true ambassador for change, it is really heartening to see Sue bring such a strong deputation from the Cabinet Office direct to hear of the challenges faced by people in NI and in particular those from Newry and the surrounding areas”. 

Sue Gray, Second Permanent Secretary and the Cabinet Office Levelling Up team met with parents, staff and volunteers of Bolster Community, Newry.
Sue Gray, Second Permanent Secretary and the Cabinet Office Levelling Up team met with parents, staff and volunteers of Bolster Community, Newry.

During their visit the Levelling Up delegates heard from local parents about the challenges they are facing post-covid.  Eamonn Connolly, Newry BID Manager, presented on economic regeneration in Newry, Jacinta Linden CEO of Bolster Community and Allison Slater Co-ordinator of the Newry and Mourne Family Support Hub presented on health inequalities, lack of services and the long waiting lists for health diagnosis that are faced by local parents and children. 

Sue Gray, Second Permanent Secretary, said “It was so great to back in Northern Ireland and made even better by spending time with the amazing team at Bolster Community.  We heard a powerful presentation enabling the Levelling Up team and I to learn about their work.  The Social Enterprise sector should be very proud of Bolster Community, an amazing team.  So much love and commitment (and fun) going into every candle.  We loved it.”

For further information contact allison@bolstercommunity or ring 02830835764.

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