Northern Ireland Branch - Annual Report 2011

The Northern Ireland Branch continued with its successful programme of events, conferences, workshops and consultations. An important focus for the year was on recruiting new members to join the Society. At the beginning of the year, approximately 250 new student members were recruited from the local universities - Queen's University, University of Ulster and the Open University. The Branch has now almost 2000 members.

The Branch has a very active programme of events specifically designed for students at different levels of their study - postgraduates and undergraduates who are already on psychology courses, A-level psychology students and prospective students. This year we had our 6th All Ireland Undergraduate Careers Event, held at University College Dublin in March 2011, which was attended by 320 students from all over Ireland; this event is a partnership event with the Psychological Society of Ireland and is sponsored by all of the Psychology Departments in Ireland covering ten Universities.

Our Flavour of Psychology Lectures, also in March 2011, once again brought six keynote speakers to Northern Ireland, giving both undergraduate and A Level students a flavour of psychology and bringing psychology to society in general. 350 delegates attended this event. At the Branch Annual Conference in April 2011, we awarded annual prizes for the best student oral presentation and poster presentation.

Now, there are six active divisions that are part of the Northern Ireland activities, and two more groups are working towards divisional status, the Teachers and Researchers, and the Sport and Exercise group. 

Each Division organises its own programme of events which are now well established. For example, the local Division of Forensic Psychology held its bi-annual conference in November 2010, which was attended by local government and committee members from the national division. The Division of Health Psychology (parent division) held its Annual Conference in Belfast in Sept 2010. The DCPNI held a four-day training event on attachment in February and an autism workshop in April 2011, which was jointly organised with the local Department of Health. The Sports and Exercise Psychology Group organised a symposium on behalf of the Branch at the BPS Annual Conference in Glasgow in May 2011. 

Perhaps one of the most successful innovations this year was the first event arranged by the Cross-Divisional Forum, Psychologists and the Courts, which was held at the Annual Branch Conference in April 2011. This symposium included a presentation from a local County Court Judge about her experience of expert witnesses in her court, as well as a role play workshop in which local psychologists and other members of the legal profession participated. The event attracted a big turnout from members of several different local divisions and was judged to be hugely successful. It will be followed up by more specific expert witness training in 2012. 

In cooperation with Queen's University's Improving Children's Lives initiative, the Branch jointly organised a one-day conference 'Understanding Children’s Lives' with the focus on longitudinal research, intervention and policy relevance. The purpose of this conference was to bring longitudinal datasets on populations of children in Northern Ireland to the attention of policy makers. Presentations at the conference included longitudinal studies on fetal development, children with chronic heart disease, peer-mentoring of first time mothers, early years educational interventions and drug behaviour in adolescents. 

On a sadder note, the Branch mourned the untimely death of Professor Noel Sheehy, who was a previous Chair of the Branch. 

This is my second year as Chair of the Branch. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the Committee members who give a great deal of their personal time to promoting psychology. On behalf of the Committee, I would also like to expess our thanks to Anne Kerr, our regional administrator, who works tirelessly on our behalf and provides the infrastructural force for the work of the Branch and the local divisions.

Carol McGuinness, Chair