Research Profile

Mary Hurley


Mary joined the School of Applied Social Studies in 2002. She previously worked as senior social worker in the areas of crisis pregnancy, fostering and adoption.The role of senior social worker involved supervision and support of other social work staff, staff development as well as carrying a caseload and being accountable to the board of management of the Agency.During this time Mary organinsed a review of the services undertaken by Agency which resulted in a change in the direction of the services. She also worked as a social worker for the Adoption Board (Adoption Authority) where she worked with families who were going through the process of domestic and intercountry adoption.

Mary was on the panel of HSE counsellors working with survivors and families affected by contaminated blood products from in the 1990's.This role is a therapeutic counselling role. (1998- 2015)

Since 2001 Mary has been heavily involved in a anti incineration campaign.In her local community where she is chairperson for one of the local groups (Cobh Action for Clean Air) and PRO for the umbrella group, CHASE (Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment, see which represents all the groups opposing the building of the incinerators in the Cork harbour. In her role as PRO she has spoken on behalf of the group in the local and national media about environmental issues in Cork,met with and lobbied various government and opposition ministers.The group has also contributed to local and national development plans,EPA reviews,oral hearings,waste management conferences .CHASE has also made submissions to the Democracy Commission. Part of her role in the campaign involved developing links with the local national and secondary schools which resulted in the development of Green schools projects in her neighbourhood.As part of the CHASE group she also lobbied for change by participating in the publishing and distributing the CHASE manifesto before the General Election 2007 (see and other members of the group have been involved in Judicial Reviews, High and Supreme Court challenges.The group has also been involved in making complains to European Court about Ireland's failure to implement EU Directives ,this has resulted in Ireland having to face fines for non compliance and forced the Government to take action.Mary was also involved in significant fundraising for the various court challenges.

Mary is a member of the Masters in Social Work team in the School of Applied Social Studies at University College Cork where she teaches the Practice Skills (SS6103) to first year masters students and  Social Work 1 (SS2008) ,an Introduction to Social Work  to 2nd year Social Science students. She also tutors first and second year MSW students. Mary is a joint coordinator of the  Master of Social Work year 1.

From her experience as a practitioner and activist Mary has a keen interest in teaching and researching  social justice in social work and in social work education. As part of her teaching and her commitment to practice   Mary regularly co teaches with social work colleagues from various social work contexts to encourage students to see the links between professional education and social work practice.From her own experience of doing research on the anti -incinerator campaign she recognises the value and challenges of researching for practice.She is keen to promote practice research in social work to help student social workers develop the confidence and  research skills necessary to examine issues that are of concern in practice.The reflective model of inquiry is particularly suited to practitioner research and sits very comfortably with the value base of social work.Mary presented a research paper with colleagues at the UCC Research Summer School (2011) which looked at the transformative paradigm in social work and  community work research. In 2016 Mary's application to give a workshop at  the 6th European Conference for Social Work Education in Lisbon was accepted, the title of the workshop was" Citizens' participation in the construction of social work action and research.How social activism and civil society may assume a critical role in social interventions".  Mary will be on sabbatical leave from July - December 2017

Research Interests

Mary has recently completed a Master of Social Science degree (Winter 2010).  Her current interests include community development and public participation in environmental decision making. Her thesis was a case study of an environmental campaign in which she was, and continues to be, an active participant. The study explores the experience of public particiapation in environmental decision making by a community group. The group's experience of participation is documented, and compared to the public policy rhetoric of participation in planning and licence processes.The findings indicate that the notion of particpation is itself contested and has different meanings.The study makes recommendations about how best to develop practices of inclusion in environmental decision making. A commitment to the principles of social justice, social work values of inclusion,participation and empowerment lead her to become heavily involved and committed to anti-incineration campaign in her local neighbourhood in 2001 (see ).Mary decided to research the community's experience of participation in environmental decision making to document and record the of participants experiences as very little research has been undertaken in the area. As a result of undertaking her research Mary has a keen interest in the development of practitioner and activist research as a way of promoting links between practice and research.She presented a paper at the Research Methodologies Summer School 2011 with colleagues which explored the transformative paradigm in social work and community work research out of which core concepts emerged these include;reflectivity of the reseracher;developing partnerships/relationships and sustaining reserach processes over time.

Other Interests

Since her involvement in the anti-incinerator campaign,Mary has spoken on television and radio programmes on other environmental matters in the Cork Harbour area (the discovery of toxic waste at Haulbowline 2009).  She is also chairperson of a local environmental group and as part of that role, she has made submissions on behalf of the group to Planning and Licensing oral hearings.

2012 – Mary contributed to the new text book for Leaving Cert Geography Course re current debates in waste management and incineration as part of onging commitment to developing awareness of green issues in primary and post primary schools.

Professional Activities

Conference Contributions

(2016)Assessing with Confidence :Supporting Learning and Assessment in Practice,
Halton,C., Hurley,M.,Murray,R., Rice,. R and Shore,C. (2016) Evaluating and Assessing Learning in Social Work Field Education. [Invited Lectures (Conference)], Assessing with Confidence :Supporting Learning and Assessment in Practice, Belfast , 04-APR-16 - 06-APR-16. [Details]
(2015)Decision Making: Readiness for Placement on Social Work Programmes,
Halton,C., Hurley,M.,Murray,R., Rice,. R and Shore,C. (2015) An Examination of the challenges associated with assessing professional social work students prior to going on professional placement. The application of University's Fitness to Practise policies. [Oral Presentation], Decision Making: Readiness for Placement on Social Work Programmes, Queens University Belfast , 15-OCT-15 - 16-DEC-15. [Details]
(2015)EuroSoTL 2015: Bridging Boundaries through the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning,
Swirak, K. and Bantry-White, E., Hurley, M. and Mackey, S. (2015) Building bridges in social work professional education. [Oral Presentation], EuroSoTL 2015: Bridging Boundaries through the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, Cork, UCC . [Details]
(2011)North South Educators Forum, University of Ulster,
Hurley, M., Lynch, D., Rice, R., Shore, C. and McCaughren, S; (2011) (2011) Facilitation of Professional Formation through Small Group Teaching and Learning on the MSW. [Invited Oral Presentation], North South Educators Forum, University of Ulster, Social Work Educators and Research Forum, Universtiy of Ulster , 20-JAN-11 - 21-JAN-11. [Details]
(2011)Methodologies for a new era in the social services: Developing Capacity, Skills and Knowledge for Research,
Lynch, D., Forde, C., Hurley, M.; (2011) The Transformative Paradigm: New Possibilities for Social Work Research. [Invited Oral Presentation], Methodologies for a new era in the social services: Developing Capacity, Skills and Knowledge for Research, University College Cork , 23-JUN-11 - 23-JUN-11. [Details]
(2011)Manchester Social Movements Conference 2011,
Hurley,M. (2011) Sustainable Environmental Actvism in 21st Centuary .A Case Study of Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment. Manchester Social Movements Conference 2011, Manchester Metropolitian University ,Manchester , United Kindom , 18-APR-11 - 20-APR-11. [Details]


 CommitteeFunctionFrom / To
Social Research Ethics Committee Reviewer2016 /
Board of Cork Simon 2002- 2005 Member of Board/

Other Activities


Conference Contributions 
2011 Manchester Social Movements, Conference Manchester Metropolitan University.Sustainable Environmental Activism in the 21st century [Invited presentation] 18th -20th April 2011
2016  6th European Conference for Social Work Research Lisbon, Catholic University of Portugal Reflective social work practices in contemporary societies:dialogues and new pathways between praxis and research.Workshop Social Work Action and  a Community Anti- Incinerator Campaign; Some Ideas and Reflections for Social Work Education. [invited presentation]  Lisbon 30 March -1st April                      

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School of Applied Social Studies

Staidéar Sóisialta Feidhmeach

William Thompson House, Donovan's Road, Cork, Ireland.,