David Sterling joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) in February 1978 and served in a variety of grades and roles in the Police Authority for Northern Ireland (PANI) and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
David was promoted into the Senior Civil Service (SCS) in 1996 as Director of Community Affairs in PANI until early 2000. From March 2000 until January 2003 he worked in the Central Finance Group of the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) during the first period of devolution.
He was promoted to Grade 3 in January 2003 taking up the post of Senior Finance Director in the Department of Regional Development (DRD). David was transferred to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in March 2008 where he was responsible for strategy and policy on economic and business development, tourism, telecommunications and energy.
David was promoted to Permanent Secretary in DETI in October 2009 where he served until 30 June 2014. He was responsible for the full range of DETI’s functions including policy on economic and business development, tourism, telecommunications, energy, business regulation, geological survey, trading standards and the Insolvency Service.
On 1 July 2014 David was transferred to the post of Permanent Secretary Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) now the Department of Finance. He was promoted to be Head of the NI Civil Service on 14 June 2017 and retired from this role on 31 August 2020. The devolved institutions were in suspension from the time of my appointment in June 2017 until the resumption of the Executive and Assembly in early January 2020. The main issues he had to deal with during my time as Head of the NICS were the challenge of delivering public services in the absence of ministers, preparing for Brexit, preparing for the resumption of devolved government and dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic.
David was educated at RBAI and Ulster University and his interests are golf, cycling, walking and the environment. He is Chair of the Chief Executives’ Forum and a Trustee of the Cancer Fund for Children and Ulster Wildlife. On 10 October 2020 David was awarded a Knighthood in the 2020 Birthday Honours.