Rose Mary Stalker to step away from Invest NI board

THE chair of Invest NI is to step away from the board of the economic support agency just weeks after a scathing report exposed dysfunction at the leadership level.

Rose Mary Stalker confirmed she will not seek an extension to her tenure as chair when it comes to an end on January 31 2023.

In the absence of an Executive and ministers sitting at Stormont, it’s not unusual for people appointed to public roles to have their tenure simply extended beyond the original remit.

A number of such announcements have already been made by senior civil servants in recent weeks. And Ms Stalker’s predecessor, Mark Ennis, held the chair of Invest NI for seven-and-a-half years.

But in a statement on Thursday, Ms Stalker confirmed she will step away from the Invest NI board completely after almost 11 years of involvement.

Originally appointed in 2019, former Economy Minister Gordon Lyons extended her three-year term in order to allow Sir Michael Lyons to carry out an in-depth independent review of the arm’s length body.

The publication of that report on January 11 uncovered “profound divisions” at the top of the organization, which the panel said had a damaging impact.

The year-long investigation heard “widespread concern” that Invest NI’s board, and Ms Stalker in particular, had at times become too involved in operational matters.

The review panel also obtained a significant volume of evidence on “negative and damaging relationships” between the board, chief executive and other senior leaders.

Invest NI staff also described “a battle” between the board and the executive leadership team over decision making.

Review of Invest NI calls for “profound change” within “damaged” economic agency

Invest NI: Failure by senior figures to act on ‘serious’ whistleblower case “extraordinary” – Sir Michael Lyons

In a statement, Rose Mary Stalker said the review provides the pathway for the change necessary to reset and refocus Invest NI.

“I welcome the recommendations contained within it and, indeed, the board has already been working on many of them,” she said.

“However, it will take time to fully engage and refocus the whole organisation and it is important that the incoming chair has the scope and tenure to take full ownership of the process, working together with the department and stakeholders.

“In light of this and having served for nearly 11 years as both a board member and latterly as chair, and with my extended term coming to a natural close at end of January, I have decided that it is time to pass on the baton.”

In a brief statement, the Department for the Economy said a competition for a new chair “will be launched in due course”.

The Stormont department said it will now initiate plans to appoint an interim chair.