Our team

Norman Houston

Norman Houston OBE

Director / Counsellor

Norman Houston has over 38 years of experience working as a senior official in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He has spearheaded the Executive’s international strategy in the United States and Canada since 2007, and was the first Northern Ireland diplomat to escort the First Minister and deputy First Minister into the Oval Office to meet with then-President George W. Bush. Norman has since facilitated similar meetings with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. During his time in Washington, Norman has strengthened the Bureau’s profile on Capitol Hill and within the larger diplomatic community.

In June 2018, Norman was awarded an OBE (Office of the British Empire) by Her Majesty The Queen.

Norman was born and raised in Larne (County Antrim). He has an adult daughter and son. He received a first-class honours degree in Modern History from The Open University.

Richard Cushnie

Richard Cushnie

Deputy Director / First Secretary

Richard Cushnie has extensive political, policy, and leadership experience across the United Kingdom and Ireland, including: managing major reform projects in Northern Ireland’s Education and Justice Departments; overseeing political and policing transformation in the Northern Ireland Office; leading on the United Kingdom’s engagement with Ireland as the First Secretary in the British Embassy in Dublin; and advising ministers on equality policy in the Irish Department of Justice. Before joining the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Richard worked as a journalist in England.

From Killyleagh in Northern Ireland’s beautiful Strangford Lough area, Richard has a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin and an MA in Public Administration from the National University of Ireland. He is married with two children.

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Lorraine Turner

Head of the New York Office

From Merseyside, England, Lorraine Turner heads the Bureau’s New York office. Lorraine played a vital role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, working for the British Consulate in New York as the Northern Ireland Press & Public Affairs Officer. Prior to that, she worked for Granada TV.

During her career, Lorraine has created vital strategic relationships with government, business, and community leaders, inspiring their ongoing interest in Northern Ireland and its transformation. Lorraine is a graduate of John Moores University in Liverpool, where she earned a BA in Media & Cultural Studies. She also spent time at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies. Lorraine was awarded an MBE from HM The Queen in 2004 for her contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Tracy Blanton

Tracy Blanton

Finance Manager / Executive Assistant

Tracy Blanton joined the Bureau in 2002. Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Tracy manages the Bureau’s financial and accounting operations. She also oversees the Director’s schedule and facilitates all ministerial visits to the United States and Canada.

Before emigrating to the United States, Tracy was a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and was employed as a Human Resource Director at a number of leading United Kingdom businesses.

Kirsten Fruit

Kirsten Fruit

Public Affairs & Outreach Officer

Kirsten Fruit joined the Northern Ireland Bureau in December 2015. In her role as Public Affairs & Outreach Officer, Kirsten serves as the Bureau’s primary point of contact for young professional networks operating in the United States and Canada. She is also responsible for promoting, via various social media channels, in-person meetings, and Bureau-sponsored events, Northern Ireland’s many cultural, academic, and political achievements.

Kirsten attended graduate school at The London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) where she received an MSc with Distinction in Politics and Communication. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Montana, earning BAs in Journalism and Political Science. She is a proud native of Missoula, Montana.