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Ulster University PhD student fights for social justice

3 July 2019

Ulster University PhD student fights for social justice
Ciara Fitzpatrick

Ciara Fitzpatrick graduates today in Belfast from Ulster University with a Doctorate in Law from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Having completed her Undergraduate Law Degree at Ulster and after a couple of successful years working as a political lobbyist it was a chance encounter with Professor of Law and Social Justice, Grainne McKeever at an Alumni event that encouraged Ballyronan native Ciara to follow her passion and apply for her PhD.

“I decided I wanted to get back into law as I am passionate about social justice. I was keen to find a way to give something back and help people to access their rights.”

Her interest in social justice was first ignited during her undergraduate degree when she had the opportunity to visit and work at a Juvenile Justice Centre. Teaching inmates how they could sue the law to make a change in their lives, this first hand experience taught Ciara how the law could help make a difference for the better.

This exposure combined with the knowledge that there are over seven million claimants of social security in the UK every year and the fact that this area of law has limited research led Ciara to her PhD topic ‘Poor citizens: Social security law and the unemployed 1979 – 2012’.

Passion and enthusiasm for her subject was essential as Ciara confesses,

“The PhD monopolised my life for my first year of marriage!  My husband was left on his own a lot with the TV but was very understanding.”

Her hard work and commitment paid off leading to opportunities to organise a Social Policy Association conference and co-author a significant piece of research cited as evidence in a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty. Her first piece of paid research, this was a personal highlight for Ciara.

Having recently secured a job as a Policy Officer with the Law Centre NI which offers specialist legal advice in the areas of social security, employee rights, social care, immigration and asylum Ciara will be able to put her research into practice as she continues to pursue her passion to help others.  A new mum, with ambitions to continue to contribute academically and a journal article due to be published next year, 2020 is set to be a busy and fulfilling year for Ciara.


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