Catriona Shelly

PhD Researcher
Course: Structured Ph.D.
Role: PhD Student
Qualifications: BSc in Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University (Upper Second-Class Honours), MSc in Psychological Wellbeing in Clinical Practice, Manchester Metropolitan University (Distinction)

PhD Supervisors: Prof. Orla Muldoon and Dr. Jenny Roth

Proposed PhD Title: Brexit in Northern Ireland: Threat or Opportunity?

Project Description:

Brexit presents a difficult challenge for Northern Ireland. As a post-conflict society, with an undercurrent of division, Brexit is problematic for intergroup harmony. Not least because it threatens many people’s sense of identity, in particular those with a British Protestant unionist or Irish Catholic nationalist identity. And in Northern Ireland, identity is an already contested issue. At the same time, however, Brexit may also create opportunities for these groups. For example, it may be perceived as an opportunity for nationalists in Northern Ireland to push for a united Ireland. Either way, this set-up of threat and opportunity in Northern Ireland is reminiscent of the ‘zero-sum’ approach to politics that preceded the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. As such, Brexit may polarize groups and hinder the progress that has been made in recent years to improve cross-community relations.

The aim of this project then, is to use a social identity approach to examine how Brexit is perceived by the different identity groups in Northern Ireland- as a threat or opportunity. It will also examine if Brexit is driving polarization in the region and the potential psychological processes through which it is doing so.

Project Funding:

Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship (2021-2024)

PhD Studentship Award, Department of Psychology, University of Limerick (2020-2021)


Green, R., Shelly, C., Gibb, J., & Walker, T. (2018). Implementing seclusion in forensic mental health care: A qualitative study of staff decision making. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 32(5), 764-768.

Awards and Honours:

Irish Research Council Post Graduate Government of Ireland Award (2021-2024)

PhD Studentship Award, Department of Psychology, University of Limerick (2020-2021)

Faculty of Education and Health Sciences Postgraduate Funding Bursary (2021)

Summer Schools

International Political Psychology Academy, July 2021

Teaching: Tutor and teaching assistant on undergraduate and postgraduate modules, Department of Psychology, University of Limerick.

PS4043 Practical Psychology I

PS4031 Psychology and Everyday Life

PS4034 Empirical Psychology I

PS6022 Empirical Psychology II


Shelly, C., (2021, April) A Social Identity Approach to Appraising Brexit in Northern Ireland, Social Psychology Days Conference 2021, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Centre for Social Issues Research

International Society of Political Psychology

Twitter: @catrionashelly