Our History

Belfast Buildings Trust founders acted because two significant historic buildings in the city were at risk of demolition. Arson attacks in late 1995 left only the walls standing, and the owners were vocal about not seeing a future for either building.

Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust came into being in spring 1996. It became Belfast Buildings Trust in 2010. This reflects that we have always worked to achieve cross-sectoral regeneration that meets the future needs of the city’s people. Alongside our capital work on buildings, we use Belfast’s character to deliver major cultural events and civic engagement through music, storytelling, and placemaking.

Our first work concentrated on securing futures for St. Patrick’s School and Christ Church. Determined efforts overcame many detractors. By 2003, the Trust had delivered multi-million-pound schemes, and both buildings remain in full use today.

Carlisle Memorial Church has been a significant project since 2010. Before this, the Trust led studies to reuse many buildings across all parts of Belfast. These include the Chapel of the Resurrection, Floral Hall, and the H&W Drawing Offices. Often, our work has informed projects undertaken by others.

Cultural projects include The Belfast Opera in 2015-16 and Successful Belfast. We developed ideas for Belfast’s designation as a UNESCO City of Music and have run Christmas Card competitions with primary schools, hosted guest lectures, and supported books about Belfast. Embedded in all of the Trust’s work is the value that reusing the city’s past is vital to its future.

Our ethos and values

Our ethos and values are driven by a focus on people and place. ‘Buildings’ might be in our name, but it is what happens IN the buildings and how this contributes to confident places that drives what we do and why we do it. We are increasingly moving away from talking about “heritage” to focus on use, reuse, and regeneration of existing assets – and those assets could be intangible things like stories or music or creative activity as much as tangible things like buildings.

Shapes

Our vision is a vibrant Belfast that

Uses

what is authentic about people and place to build connections and deliver opportunities.

Reuses

its existing physical and cultural assets in ways that are relevant for people, meaning 21st Century uses that deliver financial and social value and enhance our environment.

Regenerates

places by involving people, meeting their needs, and using quality design.

Meet the team

Our Board and Staff

Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE LL

Founder & Patron

Fionnuala is the Founder of Belfast Buildings Trust. Her professional expertise in Public Affairs, PR, and Marketing is especially noted across regeneration, tourism, and the promotion of Northern Ireland produce. She retains strong links with many community and charitable organisations. Fionnuala was the first woman to chair Belfast Civic Trust and served on the Historic Buildings Council. She was a Trustee of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, The Irish Landmark Trust, and The Architectural Heritage Fund.

With her passion for singing, Fionnuala is Vice-Chair of Northern Ireland Opera and a patron of Teachers of Singing in Ireland. She remains a member of the Historic Royal Palaces Advisory panel on Hillsborough Castle. Fionnuala became Lord Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast in July 2014.

Barry O’Donnell

Treasurer

Barry O’Donnell is an international project and risk manager for a global legal firm. He has twenty years of experience in the IT sector at various levels of management in highly demanding corporate environments. Barry has acted as a crucial stakeholder for multifaceted projects, including an initiative to replace a legacy document management system housing billions of documents with a safer, more accessible platform for the legal industry.

Barry first volunteered for the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition. He joined the Trust Board in June 2017 and became Treasurer in 2021. In addition, he has been involved in a range of LGBT+ charities, previously serving on the Board of Cara Friend and as an organiser of Belfast’s pre-eminent LGBT corporate event, ‘Out on the Roof’.

Paul Millar

Trustee

Paul Millar is in Partnership at Hamilton Architects in Belfast. Paul is a former Chair of Belfast Buildings Trust and served on the Hillsborough Castle Advisory Group. A Chartered Architect with over 35 years of experience in regeneration and restoration projects, he has an excellent network of relationships across the heritage and regeneration sectors.

Paul’s practice has been responsible for many significant projects throughout Ireland and farther afield. These include the re-design of the Ulster Museum, the restoration of Crumlin Road Gaol, the conversion of Riddel Hall as a Business School in the Stranmillis Conservation Area, Parliament Buildings, the School House at Methodist College, and the multi-award-winning Museum & Visitors Centre at Enniskillen Castle.

Marcus Patton OBE

Trustee

Marcus Patton is a conservation architect. For nearly forty years, he was director of Hearth, a housing association and building preservation trust. During this time, the organisations carried out some fifty projects restoring buildings at risk. He has chaired the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland and is the author of several books on local architecture published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.

Marcus is a printmaker and illustrator and a member of the Royal Ulster Academy. In his spare time, he is a keen musician and co-founded the Belfast Bach Consort, which performs the cantatas of JS Bach every month.

Rita Harkin

Trustee

Rita has extensive cross-sectoral experience in planning, community wealth-building, and heritage skills engagement. As Northern Ireland Support Officer for the Architectural Heritage Fund, she helps communities secure sustainable uses for historic buildings in areas of need. She led planning campaigns and education and skills programmes for Ulster Architectural Heritage between 2003 and 2013 and also previously worked in local government, private practice, and community-led finance.

Rita currently sits on the board of Hearth Historic Buildings Trust. She has an MA in Town Planning from Edinburgh College of Art and an RSUA Diploma in Historic Building Conservation. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study best practice in universal access to historic buildings in Scandinavia and the United States.

Shane Quinn

Development Director & Company Secretary

Shane Quinn coordinates the Trust’s activity, working here since 2006. He works across a wide range of civic and cultural regeneration initiatives. Shane is a Committee Member of the Heritage Trust Network in Northern Ireland and sits on the Academy of Urbanism Council. He was a member of the Belfast City of Music Steering Group that secured Belfast’s membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Shane secured a Churchill Fellowship in 2017 to explore cultural regeneration in cities in the US and Colombia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and, in 2014, was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Young People. A Trustee of a policing organisation, he also Chairs the Audit & Risk Committee there.

Joanne Corr

Chairperson

Joanne is a Senior Risk Manager for a global drinks manufacturing firm, with expertise in Project Management and Health & Safety Management. She has worked almost exclusively in the private sector for multinational companies in the built environment and manufacturing sectors. Her extensive experience involves managing and planning construction projects, from small-scale refurbishment works to major multi-million-pound facilities in the health, education, and commercial sectors.

Joanne’s initial engagement with the Trust was volunteering with the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition. She joined the Board in 2014 and served as Treasurer for three years before becoming Chairperson in 2019. A baker in her spare time, Joanne supported the launch of Successful Belfast by creating ‘The Belfast Biscuit’ and has supported the initiative as a Steering Group Co-Chair.