The Department for the Economy (DfE) was established in May 2016. Its responsibilities include:
- wider economic policy, including specific areas like Energy, Tourism and Telecoms
- the operation of a range of employment and skills programmes
- oversight and funding of the further and higher education sectors
- various aspects of employment law
- the management and operation of various EU funding programmes
You can view the full range of our responsibilities on out Topics pages:
The Departmental Board is chaired by the Permanent Secretary and manages the Department within the strategic policy and resources framework set by the Minister. It supports the Permanent Secretary by providing collective leadership and taking ownership of the Department’s performance.
The Department’s Deputy Secretaries are members of the Board and are responsible for the following groups:
- EU Exit - Preparation and Transition
- Economic Strategy
- Management Services and Regulation
- Skills and Education
The Directors of Finance Division and Central Services Division, as well as the Department’s Strategic HR Business Partner, are also members of the Board.
In addition, three Independent Board Members, Colm McKenna, Fiona Keenan and Michael McKavanagh, who are not civil servants, also sit on the Departmental Board. For pen pictures of Mr McKenna and Ms Keenan see Non-Executive Board Member appointed to the Department for the Economy and for Mr McKavanaugh see Appointment of Non-Executive Member to Departmental Board.
Departmental Board Committees
The Board meets on a regular basis and has established a number of committees:
- Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC) - the ARAC is responsible for providing advice to the Board and Accounting Officer on corporate governance issues and is chaired by Mr McKenna and attended by Mr McKavanagh. It meets at least four times a year and the Chair reports to the Departmental Board following each meeting.
- Casework Committee - its role is to deliver better value for the taxpayer by challenging expenditure proposals on the grounds of deliverability, affordability and value for money.
- Resourcing and People Committee - provides a strategic view of how the NICS Human Resource policies and procedures can best be applied to ensure that they contribute effectively to the delivery of the Department’s business needs.
- Delivery Committee - this supports the Departmental Board in developing, and managing performance against the Department’s Strategic Work Plans, including corporate and annual business plans, and any delivery plans relating to the Programme for Government.
Further information on the committees is available in Departmental Board Operating Framework.
- Department for the Economy Board minutes 2022
- Department for the Economy Board minutes 2021
- DfE Board Operating Framework
Vision, mission and strategic objectives
The vision, mission and strategic objectives of the department are set out below.
Our vision is for Northern Ireland prospering through a decade of innovation which will deliver an economy that is ten times better than it is today, with benefits for all our people.
To develop and implement agile policies and programmes which promote a competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy through investment in:
- economic infrastructure
- research and innovation
- business development
Our strategic objectives are:
1. launching a Decade of Innovation
2. Economic Recovery Action Plan
3. the Skills Agenda
4. responding effectively to the outworking of EU Exit
5. the Energy Strategy
6. enabling digital connectivity
7. parental bereavement leave and pay
8. Covid-19 grant schemes
9. City deals
Business Plans (and COVID-19 response)
The department’s business plan outlines the key work planned for the department in 2021/22 in relation to outcomes set out in the draft Programme for Government.
The COVID-19 response plan outlined the work being carried out by the department to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for our businesses and workforce alongside our pre-existing commitments which we will strive to deliver to help support the Northern Ireland economy.
The department’s accounts are prepared annually and provide information about the range of activities in which the department has been engaged over the previous year and its performance against its key commitments and targets. A link to the most recent report is below. Previous reports are available in our publication scheme.
DfE sponsors a number of organisations which have a key role in terms of implementing and delivering the Executive’s and the Minister’s policies.
- Invest Northern Ireland
- Tourism Northern Ireland
- Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
- Consumer Council for Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland Screen
- Colleges of Further Education
- Labour Relations Agency
- Construction Industry Training Board
- The Industrial Court
- Office of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunals
- Ulster University
- Queen’s University
- Open University in Northern Ireland
- Stranmillis University College
- St Mary’s University College
The department also acts as co-sponsor to two organisations set up under the Belfast Agreement:
In addition, the NI Executive has been the primary funder of the Northern Ireland Science Park (now Catalyst Inc) and DfE works with Catalyst Inc to develop the knowledge economy. DfE (along with the Department of Finance and the Department for Infrastructure) also works with the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR) in the development and regulation of the electricity and gas industry.
- Catalyst Inc website (formerly Northern Ireland Science Park)
- Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation website
Current vacancies and background, including information about recent public appointments, are available at:
The following policies outline how we conduct our business:
- DfE Privacy Notice
- DfE Complaints Procedure
- Fraud Policy
- Raising Concerns - Whistleblowing guidance
- Freedom of Information
- Social Media Policy