New President elected for BVA Northern Ireland Branch and North of Ireland Veterinary Association

The Northern Ireland Branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association have jointly elected Dr. Sharon Verner as their new President.

Following a year as Junior Vice President of both associations, Sharon is stepping up into the President’s role for the coming year.

Sharon, who graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1997, has worked with Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) for the last seven years, managing the BVD eradication programme. Her main background is in leading on delivery and technical aspects of animal health schemes, including 15 years in government veterinary service.  Sharon is enthusiastic about improving animal welfare and farm efficiencies through the control of endemic diseases of livestock.

During the joint association Annual General Meeting, which took place last night (Thursday 22 February 2024) at the Dunadry Hotel and Gardens in Antrim, Sharon officially succeeded equine vet Dr. Esther Skelly-Smith in the role of President for both BVA Northern Ireland Branch and NIVA. Esther will now move into the role of Senior Vice President for the next year.

Sharon, whose Presidential theme will be ‘Thriving Together’, said: “It is an honour to accept this joint position, and a privilege to represent and serve the local veterinary profession. I approach the year ahead filled with optimism and determination to build on the fantastic work that the officer teams of both the British Veterinary Association and North of Ireland Veterinary Association have already accomplished. There have been plenty of challenges for Northern Ireland’s veterinary profession to overcome in recent years and many of these will continue during my year as President, such as finding a permanent solution to the long-standing, unresolved matter of ensuring continued access to veterinary medicines. I also look forward to supporting the veterinary profession in tackling other local issues such as controlling endemic diseases including bovine TB, lobbying for new animal health and welfare legislation including the need for regulation of farriers, and championing the role of the veterinary profession in the future farming policy and in sustainable agri-food production.  I am excited to be stepping into this role and, with the support of my fellow officers, aiming for positive engagement with the newly restored Assembly and Executive in the coming months.”

Sharon also praised Esther for her outstanding time as President, as well as Past President and Honorary Secretary Mark Little and outgoing Senior Vice President Fiona McFarland, who have all worked exceptionally hard to secure the progress made so far on the veterinary medicines’ access issue, which if unresolved could see Northern Ireland lose access to up to 51% of veterinary medicines after the grace period ends at the end of 2025. Recently the associations have welcomed the restoration of the NI Assembly and Executive as well as the new Veterinary Medicines Working Group, which will explore options to safeguard this supply.

BVA President Anna Judson welcomed Sharon into her presidential role. She said: “The Northern Ireland Branch of BVA has worked incredibly hard in recent times on a number of issues, notably the continued access to veterinary medicines, and I know that Sharon will be no exception to this, having already proved herself to be a highly positive asset as Junior Vice President. I know she will have many accomplishments in her time as president and am already looking forward to seeing the progress by this time next year.” 

The officer teams for both associations will be joined by newly elected Junior Vice President Dr. Kirsten Dunbar. Following studies at Glasgow Vet School, Kirsten’s early years in practice were varied with spells in both equine and small animal practice. Later joining the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Service, Kirsten has worked closely with a range of NI stakeholders and veterinary surgeons in both practice and statutory roles. Kirsten has also undertaken a number of roles in the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, including operational delivery, development of policy and legislation and as a member of the senior management team. Kirsten is passionate about giving back to all sections of the profession and is looking forward to doing so as Junior Vice President of the NI Branch.

As part of the network of devolved and specialist divisions, BVA Branches contribute local knowledge and expertise to BVA’s wider lobbying and representational activities.

For more information about BVA Northern Ireland Branch, please visit


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