Wales for Europe has appointed its first Director – Helen Birtwhistle, who has wide experience across Welsh public and private sectors, was Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, the membership body representing Health Boards and Trusts, before becoming Group Director of External Affairs for the NHS Confederation across the UK. She will take up the role with Wales for Europe immediately.
She said: “I’m thrilled to be taking up this post at such a pivotal time. While I respect the result of the referendum, we are entering a period of unprecedented uncertainty, and Wales has a huge amount at stake. It is important that there are organisations that can try to mobilise opinion to defend the interests of our economy and society.
“We have to create a coalition of support for the continuation of the closest possible relationship with the EU in the interests of our economy, our people and our environment, not forgetting our need for peace and stability in a very dangerous world.
“Wales has deep links with the rest of Europe right across economic, social, political and cultural spheres. Even if we leave the EU, we must not squander the benefits of those links.
“But I hope we will not just be preaching to the converted. It is essential that we foster constructive dialogue with those who took a different view last June. We need to understand why so many of our communities felt disillusioned with Europe,” she added.
Geraint Talfan Davies, a member of the Wales for Europe Executive Committee said: “We are really pleased that we have been able to appoint someone who knows the Welsh scene so well, and can reach out across all sections of opinion. We still need a wide and well-informed debate throughout Wales over the next few years so that people understand the real consequences of any new deal with the EU as it emerges.”
Helen Birtwhistle began her career as a graduate trainee with the Welsh NHS before retraining to become a journalist with the South Wales Argus. She moved into public relations where she became Managing Director of Good Relations in Cardiff. During that time, in 2010, she was seconded for a year to the National Assembly as their Head of External Communications. She is a Member of the International Advisory Board for Cardiff Business School and a lay member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales.