Dr Mawhinney’s research is strongly rooted in a multi-disciplinary approach to her two principal areas of research interest: the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and constitutionalism and devolution.
She is currently looking at the nature and limitations of conscience in human rights law with a specific focus on situations of conflicting values in service provision, including the protection of conscience in the context of women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. She continues to examine questions surrounding the right to freedom of religion or belief in education in Wales and beyond, particularly in the light of the changing nature of religious education programmes in schools.
Developing areas of interest include: business and human rights, with a focus on exploring the opportunities and risks for the right to freedom of thought and expression created by new and emerging technologies; the relationship of property to individual or collective identity; Brexit and the structure of the UK State, and human rights protection post-Brexit.
- Mawhinney, A & Sherlock A (2018) 'Collective Worship in Wales'. In Mawhinney A & Cumper P, Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools (Peter Lang)
- Mawhinney, A (2018) 'The Law on Collective Worship: The Rationale Then and Now'. In Mawhinney A & Cumper P, Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools (Peter Lang)
- Mawhinney, A & Cumper, P (2018) Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools (Peter Lang)
- Mawhinney, A (2016) 'Claims of Religious Morality: The Limits of Religious Freedom in International Human Rights Law', Law and Ethics of Human Rights, vol 10, no. 2, pp. 341-365
- Mawhinney A (2016) ‘Coercion, oaths and conscience: conceptual confusion in the right to freedom of religion or belief’. In The Confluence of Law and Religion Interdisciplinary: Reflections on the Work of Norman Doe. Cranmer F, Hill M, Kenny C and Sandberg R (eds), (Cambridge University Press) 205-217
- Mawhinney A (2015) ‘The Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief: Norms and Compliance’. In International Human Rights: Perspectives from Ireland. Egan S (ed.), (Bloomsbury) 267-282
- Mawhinney A (2015) ‘Religion in Schools: A Human Rights Contribution to the Debate’. In Issues in Religion and Education. Beaman L.G. & Van Arragon L (eds) (Leiden: Brill) 282-303
- Mawhinney A and Cumper P, (eds) (2015) Collective Worship and Religious Observance in Schools: An Evaluation of Law and Policy in the UK, ISBN 978-1-84220-138-1, available at http://collectiveschoolworship.com/
- Mawhinney A (2015) ‘International human rights law: its potential and limitations in effecting change to the place of religion in the Irish education system’ Journal of Intercultural Studies 291-305
- Mawhinney A. & Niens U., Richardson N., Chiba Y. (2013) 'Acculturation and religion in schools: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds' British Educational Research Journal DOI: 10.1002/berj.3016
- Mawhinney A. (2012) ‘Crucifixes, classrooms and children: a semiotic cocktail’. In The Lautsi Papers: Multidisciplinary Reflections on Religious Symbols in the Public School Classroom. Temperman J. (ed) (Leiden: BRILL/Martinus Nijhoff,) 93-112
- Mawhinney A. & Niens U., Richardson N., Chiba Y. (2012) 'Religious education and Religious Liberty: Opt-outs and Young People’s Sense of Belonging'. In Law, Religious Freedoms and Education in Europe. Hunter-Henin, M. (ed) (London: Ashgate)
- Mawhinney A. (2012) ‘A discriminating education system: religious admission policies in Irish schools and international human rights law’ 20(4) International Journal of Children’s Rights 603-623
- Mawhinney A. & Niens U., Richardson N., Chiba Y. (2012) ‘Opting out or opting in? Conscience clauses and minorities’ 35 (3) British Journal of Religious Education 236-50
- Mawhinney A. & Niens U., Richardson N., Chiba Y. (2012) 'Religion, Human Rights Law, and ‘Opting Out’ of Religious Education'. In Religious Change in Britain. Woodhead, L. & Catto, R. (eds) (London: Routledge)
- Mawhinney A. & Griffiths, I. (2011) ‘Ensuring others behave responsibly: Giddens, governance and international human rights law’ 20 Social and Legal Studies 481-498
- Mawhinney A. & Chiba Y. (2010) ‘Religious education, opt-outs and freedom of religion in schools’. In Welfare of the Child and Beliefs of the Parents. Emilianides, A. (Cyprus: University of Nicosia Press)
- Mawhinney A. (2009) Freedom of Religion and Schools: the Case of Ireland (VDM Verlag, Saarbrucken)
- Mawhinney A. (2007) ‘Freedom of religion in the Irish primary school system: a failure to protect human rights?’ 3 Legal Studies 379
- Mawhinney A. (2007) 'The Rights of Foreigners in the United Kingdom' (2007) 19 European Review of Public Law 355
- Mawhinney A. (2006) ‘The opt-out clause: imperfect protection for the right to freedom of religion in schools’ 2 Education Law Journal 102-115
- Mawhinney A, Submission to the Welsh Government Consultation, 'Our national mission: a transformational curriculum – proposals for a new legislative framework', 29 March 2019
- Mawhinney A and Aaron C., Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child with Respect to the Fifth Periodic Report of the UK, ‘Broadcasting in Wales and Children’s Rights’, May 2016.
- Mawhinney A and Roberts H., Written evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its inquiry on the UK’s record on children’s rights, October 2016.
- Mawhinney A., Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee with Respect to the Fourth Periodic Report, Ireland, June 2014.
- Mawhinney A et al, Submission to the Silk Commission (Commission on Devolution in Wales) April 2013.
- Submission to Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, Dublin, with reference to the Draft General Scheme of Education (Admission to Schools) Bill, December 2013
- Submission to Irish Constitutional Convention, ‘The Irish Constitution, Freedom of Religion and Oath-taking’, 12 December 2013
- Submission to Seanad Public Consultation Committee, Dublin, ‘Key priorities and challenges facing Ireland in Complying with its obligations under the ICCPR’ 21 March 2014
- Mawhinney at al, Submission to the Welsh Government’s ‘Consultation on a Separate Legal Jurisdiction for Wales’, June 2012
- Mawhinney at al, Written Evidence to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, National Assembly for Wales, Inquiry into the establishment of a separate Welsh jurisdiction, February 2012.
- Oral evidence to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee at National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff, March 2012
- Submission to Irish Human Rights Commission Public Consultation on ‘Religion and Education, June 2011
- Mawhinney A. et al. (2010) Opting out of Religious Education: the Views of Young People from Minority Belief Backgrounds. Research report for AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Research Programme
- Mawhinney A., Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee with Respect to the Third Periodic Report, Ireland, March 2008
- Mawhinney A. (1999) ‘A preliminary survey of human rights education and training in member States of the Council of Europe and States with special guest status’ (Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 1999, (H (99) 6))
- Mawhinney A. (2009) P Taylor, Freedom of Religion: UN and European Human Rights Law and Practice, European Human Rights Law Review and S Knights, Freedom of Religion, Minorities and the Law, 3 European Human Rights Law Review 455
- Mawhinney A. (2009) M Hamilton, God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law 11 Ecclesiastical Law Journal 113.
- Mawhinney A. (2006) J Deegan, D Devine and A Lodge (eds) Primary Voices – Equality, Diversity and Childhood in Irish Primary Schools, Fortnight, January 2006
- Mawhinney A, & Aaron, C (2017) 'Cyllido S4C - Hawliau Plant yn y Fantol: S4C Funding and Children's Rights', Barn, Mawrth, 2017
- Mawhinney A. (2008) 'Indoctrinating Education' Fortnight, September No 461
- Mawhinney A. (2008) 'Other faiths and none: Lessons from the Republic', Fortnight Supplement A Shared Educational Future' No 485
Selected conference papers/meetings
Invited participant, 'European Caucus on Reproductive Rights', Centre for Reproductive Rights, Snekkersten, Denmark, 23-24 May 2019.
Invited participant, 'Cyber Interference in Elections: Applying a Human Rights Framework', Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 7 May 2019
Invited speaker, 'Religion and education in the ECtHR context: Papageorgiou v Greece and beyond', The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. Athens, 29 March 2019,
Invited speaker, ‘An Eliasian analysis of the duty of collective school worship’, Zutshi-Smith Symposium on the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, University of Bristol, 12-13 December, 2016.
Invited speaker, ‘Freedom of religion in Welsh schools’, Welsh Association of Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, 23 June 2016
'The Law on Collective Worship - An Evaluation', Conference on Collective Worship in UK Schools University of Leicester, November 2015.
'Is there a rationale for a duty of collective school worship in the 21st century?', University of Strathclyde, April 2015.
Invited Speaker, 'Protecting freedom of thought in schools: The case of Ireland'. Whose religion - religious education in public education, University of Ottawa, 4-6 November 2014
‘Law and Religion: A Student Perspective’. Law and Religion Scholars Network Conference, Cardiff University, 12-13 May 2014.
Invited participant ‘Colloquium on Religious Freedom and the Law’, Chatham House event, organised by the Office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, 17 October 2014
Invited participant, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice and Equality Consultation on Ireland’s Fourth Report on the ‘Measures adopted to give effect to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin 13 May 2014.
‘International human rights law: its potential and limitations in effecting change to religious education in religiously diverse societies’ Religion Diversity and Religion and Beliefs Education Conference, Turku Abo University, Finland 27-29 June, 2013
Invited participant and speaker at transatlantic workshop on“Secular judicial responses to the accommodation of contemporary claims of cultural and religious groups”, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain 23-24 May 2013
‘Small Legal Jurisdictions in the UK: The Northern Ireland Experience’, Legal Wales Conference 12 October 2012, Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales
Invited speaker New Forms of Public Religion, St. John’s College, Cambridge University, 5-7 September 2012. Paper: ‘Opt-outs: a sufficient means to protect religious liberty in schools?’
Invited speaker, John Lewis Annual Memorial Lecture 2012, Cardiff Law School, ‘A semiotic perspective on the concept of ‘passive symbols’, St. Michael's College, Llandaff, Cardiff, 12 May 2012
‘Religious liberty: theory and practice’, Project Report Launch Conference: Religious education: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds 17 September 2010, Queen’s University Belfast
Invited speaker at Irish Human Rights Commission/ Trinity Law School conference ‘Religion and Education: A Human Rights Perspective’, Trinity College Dublin, 27 November 2010
‘Protecting religious liberty in schools’, AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme Follow-Up Conference, Lancaster University, 23 November 2010
‘Opt-outs: a sufficient means to protect religious liberty in schools?’ Law, Religion and Education Conference, University of Oxford, 8-9 October 2010.
‘Religion, schools and freedom of conscience’ Law and Religion Scholars Network Annual Conference, Cardiff University, 11 May 2010
Invited speaker at ‘The protection of freedom of religion in schools’ Welfare of the Child and Belief of Parents Conference, University of Nicosia, Cyprus, 23- 24 April 2010
‘Exemptions and teacher employment: ECHR and EU compared’ Irish Society of Comparative Law Annual Conference, Queen’s University Belfast, 5-6 March 2010
‘Opting out of religious education: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds’, AHRC/ESRC Launch Conference, Religion and Society Programme, Lancaster University, 12-14 May 2009
‘Children and religious education’, UN CRC at 20: A Multi-disciplinary Approach, Queen’s University Belfast, 7 May 2009
‘Oath-taking and international human rights law’, Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, 9 April 2009
‘‘May God direct and sustain me’: religious oath-taking and freedom of religion’, Irish Society of Comparative Law Annual Conference, University of Limerick 27-28 February 2009
‘Pupil admission policies in Ireland: legitimate religious discrimination or a human rights violation?’ Rights and Righteousness: Religious Pluralism and Human Rights, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish School of Ecumenics, Belfast, 1-2 November 2007
‘Religious discrimination in teacher employment: lessons from Ireland’, at Law, Religion, Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, Lancaster University, 14 September 2007
‘Giddens’ The Ensuring State’ and International Human Rights Law’ Political Studies Association Conference, (joint paper) University of Leeds, April 2005
‘Anthony Giddens, Modernity, the State and International Human Rights Law ’Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference (joint paper) University of Liverpool, March 2005
‘The Irish primary education system: a neglect of human rights?’ Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference, University of Liverpool, March 2005
Selected research references
Research cited in the Welsh Assembly Research Briefing (Research Service) to Petitions Committee, ‘Acts of Religious Worship in Schools ’ Cardiff, 27 June 2017 http://senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s64199/Research%20Brief.pdf
Research cited by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, Ireland in its report on the Draft General Scheme of Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2013.
Research on freedom of religion in schools cited in the Dail (Irish Parliament) debates on the Education (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage, 13 October 2010 by Ruairi O’Quinn (Minister for Education) from article ‘Freedom of religion in the Irish primary school system: a failure to protect human rights?’ 3 Legal Studies (2007) 379 http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2010/10/13/00010.asp.
Research on religious liberty in Irish schools cited by the Irish Human Rights Commission in its submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Submission to the UN CERD Committee on the Examination of Ireland’s Combined Third and Fourth Periodic Reports, November 2010, p 17. The UN Committee issued a Concluding Observation on the issue on 11 March 2011.
Research cited by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Convention on National Minorities Parallel Report to the Advisory Committee on the Third Monitoring Report of the United Kingdom, February 2011, p 44 http://www.nihrc.org/documents/treaty-and-international-work/2011/parallel-report-on-framework-convention-on-national-minorities-february-2011.pdf
Research cited by the UN Special Rapporteur on Religion or Belief, Asma Jahagir, in her report ‘Children’s religion or belief: making an informed choice’ in Child Rights Information Network Review No. 23 (2009) Measuring Maturity: Understanding children’s ‘evolving capacities’
Research cited by UN Human Rights Committee during its examination of the Irish Government Delegation under the Irish Third Periodic Report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Geneva, July 2008
Alison Mawhinney is a constitutional and human rights lawyer with a specialisation in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. She completed her undergraduate studies at Trinity College Dublin where she graduated with a BA (Hons) in Political Science. She earned a LLM in International Human Rights Law (Distinction) at the University of Essex and a PhD at Queen's University Belfast. From 2006-2010, she was a lecturer at the School of Law, Queen's University Belfast, where she served as Assistant Director of the Human Rights Centre. She joined the School of Law at Bangor University in 2011.
Before joining academia, Dr Mawhinney worked for a variety of bodies in the field of human rights, including the European Court of Human Rights and the Directorate of Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. She has also worked for the Council of Europe in several of its Balkan field offices. In 1999 following the arrival of Kosovo refugees into Albania as a result of Serb offensives in Kosovo, she was responsible for the development and delivery of training to NGOs in Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia to facilitate the gathering of evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, with an emphasis on crimes relating to sexual aggression and rape. She was later responsible for the development of human rights and rule of law activities at the Council of Europe’s office in Pristina, including supporting the development of the Kosovo Ombudsperson Institution, the Kosovo Law Centre and the Law Faculty at the University of Pristina. Returning to Albania, she served as the Human Rights Programme Adviser responsible for the Albanian Legal Compatibility Project, civil society capacity-building, death penalty reform measures and human rights training for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
Dr Mawhinney has worked for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on several projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including as adjudicator on the rights of returning refugees to vote in municipal elections following the Dayton Peace Agreement (Visegrad, Republika Srpska and Zenica, Bosnia). She has also worked for the UN in North Korea where she was in charge of establishing regional offices (Hamhung and Sinuju) to assist in the assessment and monitoring of aid to hospitals, orphanages and schools during the famine of 1997.
At home she has worked in the area of asylum and refugee law for the Irish Refugee Council in Dublin and the Red Cross Refugee Orientation Programme in Belfast, in both instances focussing on cases of unaccompanied women and minors, and applications for family reunification. Prior to entering human rights work, Dr Mawhinney worked for Reuters, based in Fleet Street, London and the organisation’s Middle East and Africa office in Cyprus. She was responsible for managing global information and news projects, and identifying new market initiatives in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, USA and Asia.
Dr Mawhinney’s main research interests are in the areas of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and constitutionalism and devolution. She has acted as Principal Investigator on a number of AHRC funded projects including an AHRC inter-disciplinary research network, which examined the statutory duty to hold acts of collective worship in UK schools: Collective Worship & Religious Observance in Schools: An Evaluation of Law and Policy in the UK http://collectiveschoolworship.com/index.html. Other research projects include an AHRC funded investigation into the effectiveness of opt-out provisions in protecting freedom of religion and belief standards in schools: Opting out of religious education: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds; and a SLS (Society of Legal Scholars) funded examination of the potential of the experience of Northern Ireland as a successful functioning jurisdiction to inform the future of legal organisation in Wales: 'Small legal jurisdictions in the UK: the legal and practical considerations.'
Dr Mawhinney has presented her work before several UN human rights bodies. In 2008 and 2014 she submitted shadow reports to the UN Human Rights Committee regarding the protection of religious/belief liberty in the Irish school system, resulting in a ground-breaking recommendation to Ireland to reform its education system. In 2016, together with Carys Aaron, she presented a shadow report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, arguing that in significantly reducing the budget of the Welsh-language public service broadcaster (S4C), the UK Government has failed to respect the right to freedom of expression of Welsh children and their right to enjoy in their native language access to information important to their cultural identity, language and values.
Dr Mawhinney has served as an adviser to the Council of Europe’s group on Human Rights Monitoring in the Field and, in 2017, acted as an adviser to the European Commissioner on Human Rights’ Expert Group on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/women-s-sexual-and-reproductive-rights-in-europe.
Since 2015, Dr Mawhinney has been a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Public Policy Advisory Group (PPAG), which provides advice to AHRC’s Senior Management Team on maximising the contribution made by arts and humanities research to policy-making. She has served as an external examiner at the University of Manchester (Public Law, Human Rights Law, and Law and Politics programmes) and is currently postgraduate external examiner at the Cardiff School of Law and Politics. She regularly acts as a peer reviewer for books and journals including Legal Studies, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Education Law Journal, Journal of Law and Religion, Journal of Human Rights, Ashgates Publishers, Routledge, Manchester University Press, Palgrave, and as a grant reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Dr Mawhinney teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and is Director of the LLM Programme in International Criminal Law and International Human Rights Law.
Current Undergraduate and Postgraduate Modules
SXL 3110 International Law and Contemporary Issues (Module Leader)
SXL 3113 Dissertation (Undergraduate supervision)
SXL 4042 International Human Rights Law (Module Leader)
SXL 4009/4409 Legal Research Methods (Module Leader)
SXL 4134 Law, Religion and Belief
SXL 4300 Dissertation (Postgraduate supervision)
Previous Undergraduate and Postgraduate Modules
SXL 4043 European Human Rights Law
SXL 4020 The Law and Devolution in Wales and Europe (Module Leader)
SXL 4219 Public Law in Wales
SXL 4218 Administrative Law and Devolution
SXL 1110 Public Law (Module Leader)
SXL 1115 Legal Skills
SXL 2134/3134 Law and Religion (Module Leader)
SXL 2144/3144 International Human Rights Law (Module Leader)
Other Teaching and Training Activities
Queen's University Belfast
Constitutional Law in Context (UG)
Rights and Accountability (UG)
Contemporary Issues in British and Irish Human Rights Law (UG)
Equality and the Law (PG)
Children's Rights (PG)
Religion and Law (PG)
The ECHR and Current Issues (PG)
Introduction to Human Rights Law (PG)
University of Pristina, Kosovo
The European Convention on Human Rights
International Human Rights Law
International Refugee Law
Human Rights Education Associates (HREA)
Responsible for the development and delivery of an on-line interactive module on 'The Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons.' HREA is an international NGO that supports human rights learning and training for activists and professionals through on-line technologies.
Council of Europe, Kosovo, Albania
Responsible for development and delivery of human rights training workshops for judges and legal professionals as part of the Council of Europe's Democratic Stability Programme.
Council of Europe, Albania, Republic of North Macedonia
Responsible for the development and delivery of training to NGOs in Albania and the Republic of Northern Macedonia to facilitate the gathering of evidence to the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia, with an emphasis on crimes relating to sexual aggression and rape: 'Use of International Human Rights Fora in the Reporting of Human Rights Violations and War Crimes'.
Dr Mawhinney has wide expertise of supervision and co-supervision of PhD and MPhil theses as well as substantive experience of undergraduate and Masters dissertation supervision. Areas of previous supervision include freedom of thought in education systems in conflict zones; human rights impact assessments and environmental policies; judicial independence in post conflict societies; and victim support and children's rights.
Dr Mawhinney has served in a wide range of academic administrative roles in QUB and Bangor University, including Assistant Director of the Human Rights Centre at Queens, Careers Liaison Academic, Committee for the Review of PG Human Rights Programmes, Staff Student Consultative Committee, Chair of the PhD Committee, Member of the Teaching and Learning Committee, Director of Research Outputs and Chair of the Special Circumstances Board.
Principal Investigator, AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Research Programme Award: 'Opting out of religious education: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds', £80,250. A multi-disciplinary research team comprised of lawyers, educationalists and social scientists examined the efficacy of international human rights standards in the protection of religious liberty in schools from the perspective of minority belief students, parents and community representatives.
Principal Investigator, AHRC Research Network Grant (Connected Communities Programme) ‘Collective Worship in Schools: An Evaluation of Law and Policy in the UK’, £35,000. Over a two year period, a multi-disciplinary team of ten academics drawn from Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England examined the existing duty placed on state schools to hold daily acts of collective worship.
Principal Investigator, ESCR Impact Acceleration Award, £13,500. The award enabled a series of events to take place aimed at increasing the impact of the findings and recommendations arising from earlier research work on the rationale and role of the duty of collective worship in schools in the UK.
SLS (Society of Legal Scholars) Research Activities Fund Award: 'Small legal jurisdictions in the UK: the legal and practical considerations', £2,200. The project aimed to identify the lessons to be learned with regard to the future of legal organisation in Wales from an examination of Northern Ireland as a successful legal jurisdiction within the UK. Empirical research was conducted through interviews with key legal and academic figures in Northern Ireland.
Membership of Professional Organisations/Networks
Law and Religion Scholars Network
International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies
Society of Legal Scholars
Socio-Legal Studies Association
Equality and Human Rights Commission Network on Religion and Belief
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
"Sunday", Radio 4, Ed Stourton, 12 June 2016, UN Recommendations on Collective Worship in schools / Reform of RE curricula
BBC Wales, "The Jason Mohammed Show", March, 2016: Collective worship in Welsh schools
"Sunday", Radio 4, William Crawley, 6 December 2016, The place of collective worship in UK schools
"Sunday Sequence", BBC Northern Ireland, November 2011, Opt-outs and Religious Education.