Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Sue Christie, director of NI Environment Link

Sue ChristiePROFESSOR Sue Christie from Lisburn is the Director of Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) - an organisation that promotes understanding of environ- mental issues and helps local groups and individuals to champion the interests of the natural and built environment. Sue was recently presented with an OBE for Services to the Environment at Hillsborough Castle. She received the prestigious award in recognition of her dedication in the conservation and protection of the Northern Ireland environment. Originally from the USA, Sue has been the Director of NIEL since 1991.

I get up before six and while my husband Peter sorts out the horses (a pair of overweight piebald carthorses, who are really just pets) I make the lunches and feed the cats and chickens. We head off to work in Belfast in our hybrid electric car, and are usually in work by 7 am. My time is spent dealing with correspondence, writing documents, reading and preparing comments on government consultations and liaising with partner organisations. In addition, I am also usually busy organising the latest NIEL event to bring our members together with key decision makers in Northern Ireland to discuss the most pressing issues. I'm also in charge of the overall running of the NIEL staff of ten, and spend time with each of them to make sure they are on top of their work load, they are happy with what they are doing and whether they need my help in any way, plus we have a general staff meeting at least once a fortnight. I also attend a number of meetings, usually at least one and sometimes up to three each day, mostly in Belfast or at Stormont.

My job involves a lot of research, writing and attending meetings. NIEL liaises with central and local government and the Assembly to try and promote environmental matters; we work to show how environmental matters impact directly on people's lives, through health, energy costs and other practical areas.

Northern Ireland has a lot of potential when it comes to renewable energy, and one of our main areas of work is encouraging the politicians and civil servants to take advantage of the opportunities that developing such resources will provide for local businesses. At present we are dependent on imported energy for 98% of our energy requirements; as the price increases and the security of that supply decreases we need to become more self-sufficient in our energy sources. This applies to sources for heating our homes and offices, providing electricity and powering our transport.

One of the things we're currently involved in is an Archaeological Roadshow which will be open in the Outlet shopping centre in Banbridge in December.

Because I go in early I'm usually able to leave for home before the rush hour. We try to get a quick walk in around Hillsborough Lake before it gets dark, and maybe a short rest before cooking dinner.

Aside from my work for NIEL I am putting the finishing touches on a book on the natural and cuiteural heritage of Soqotra, which is part of an environmental education project for Soqotra Island, a World Heritage Site in Yemen. It has been a fascinating and quite a challenge that has taken nearly four years to complete.

I really enjoy my job, which I find interesting and rewarding. We face a huge challenge as the world changes, but it is satisfying to help create greater public and political awareness of the importance and relevance of environmental issues to everything we do each day.

Ulster Star