Alan was born in Belfast and was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and Queen’s University, graduating in 1971 with a BA (Hons) in Modern History.
He joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service as an Administrative Principal and spent 11 years in the Ministry of Agriculture, working on a range of issues including the terms of accession to the European Community, livestock improvement, horse racing and personnel. From 1982-85 he was seconded to the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg as attaché to the British member. On his return to Northern Ireland he headed up an efficiency scrutiny in the health service, reporting to the Prime Minister’s Efficiency Advisor, Sir Robin Ibbs.
In 1986 he was seconded to the Northern Ireland Office where he served as Head of Police Division, Head of Compensation, Probation and Juveniles Division, Comptroller of Prisons and Principal Establishment and Finance Officer. Following devolution in 1999 he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the newly formed Department for Employment and Learning, responsible for higher and further education, training and apprenticeship schemes, the Employment Service and employment law, including the tribunals and the Labour Relations Agency.
In 2003 he became Permanent Secretary of the Department of Social Development, responsible for social security, child support, urban regeneration, housing, social policy and the voluntary and community sector. In 2010 he returned to the Department for Employment and Learning as its Permanent Secreary . He retired in May 2013.
He was senior director on the Board of Civil Service Healthcare for 10 years and is currently Chair of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, a member of the Board of Trustees of Marie Curie and a member of the Senate of Queen’s University, Belfast.
He is married with 3 children. His interests include history, travel, golf and tennis and was awarded the CB in 2012.