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Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of: - Irish Government and Politics - Public Administration - Public Policy - Local Government - Public Sector Reform


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

My research engages with a variety of debates within and between political science, public sector governance and public policy.  I am particularly interested in the role played by administrative systems (and the organisations within them) in translating political preferences into public policy outcomes.  

Current research projects are concerned with:

International Public Policy: I am the QUB lead on a £2m Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) collaboration with University College London, Cardiff University, the University of Oxford, the University of Auckland and a number of think-tanks which has created an International Public Policy Observatory to provide policy-makers with access to resources, evidence and analysis of global policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also Programme Director of the MSc in International Public Policy at QUB.

Technology, Government and Society.  I am Co-Director (with Professor Margaret Topping) of the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Training Programme titled Collaboration in Training and Innovation for Growing, Evolving and Networked Societies (CITI-GENS) for 2020-25. I am also Co-Investigator in the Leverhulme Interdisciplinary Network on Cybersecurity and Society (LINCS) Project at QUB (2015-21). My work aligns with the research strand on Cyberspace, Privacy and Data Protection. I currently supervise a LINCS PhD student (Emma McAllister) working on human-data interaction in the education sector, with a second LINCS PhD student (Connel McKeown) being awarded his degree in 2020 for his work on open data and accountability. From 2021, I will be Co-Investigator with the successor LINAS Doctoral Training Programme. I also supervise a PhD student (Humaid Al Kaabi) working on the use of anti-corruption technology in government.

o Public Accountability and Crisis:I am a Co-Investigator on the ESRC funded project ‘Apologies Abuses and Dealing with the Past’ (2016-20). This comparative project explores apologies linked to harms arising from the conflict in Ireland, institutional child abuse and the fall-out from the 2008 financial crisis. My work in this project concerns issues relating to organisational reputation and accountability, specifically in relation to corporate institutions.

Evolution and Reform of State Administrations: For the past several years I have been involved in research on the autonomy, accountability, rationalisation and re-organisation of public sector agencies or ‘quangos’. This involves ongoing collaboration with research teams across Europe as part of a European Science Foundation funded network (COST-CRIPO). With colleagues from this network I have recently begun to examine longitudinal aspects of state bureaucracy using time-series datasets on public organisation. This work builds on my post-doctoral research in 2009-10 at the UCD Geary Institute with Prof Niamh Hardiman and Prof Colin Scott, which resulted in the production of the Irish State Administration Database (www.isad.ie). I was nominated to the Steering Committee of the European Group for Public Administration in 2019, the leading academic network for public administration and public policy research in Europe. I currently supervise a PhD student (Nafja Al Kuwari) working on changes to state governance in Qatar.

How States Retrench in Times of Crisis: This ongoing research is concerned with the ongoing outworking of the 2008 economic crisis for the politics and organisational shape of the state.  It links to collaborative work which emerged from the European Commission FP7 COCOPS initiative 'The financial crisis in the public sector' (Prof. Tiina Randma-Liiv, Tallinn, and Prof. Walter Kickert, Rotterdam) and the Building State Capacity Project at the Geary Institute, UCD (Prof Niamh Hardiman).  As part of this work, I was awarded a Research Fellowship (2014-16) to examine the creation and reform efforts of the Irish Department (Ministry) of Public Expenditure and Reform. This was published in 2017 as a monograph titled Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Countering Crisis (Palgrave). 

Irish Government and Politics: Since publishing my PhD thesis concerning parliamentary accountability in Ireland in 2005, I have authored and edited a number of textbooks on Irish government and politics and continue to teach on these topics.  More recently, in my role as President of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (2016-19) and co-chair (with Conor Little, University of Limerick) of the PSAI Specialist Group on Public Policy (2020-), I have sought to advance the Irish political science community and develop its profile nationally and internationally.   

As well as researching, teaching and supervising in these areas, I have published work and retain ongoing interests in the study of political-administrative relationships, public sector reform, organisational theory and parliaments. 

Some of my research papers on these and other topics are available via the Social Science Research NetworkResearchGate or Google Scholar. A number of blogs are also available on The Conversation and QPOL.


Research Supervision
I am happy to supervise dissertations and theses allied to my teaching and research interests as outlined above, as well as related fields.



My teaching concerns Irish politics and government, and international public administration/management and policy respectively. I convene a Level 3 Module on Politics, Public Administration and Policy-Making (PAI 3068) and two post-graduate Modules on The Politics of the Republic of Ireland (PAI7022) and International Public Policy (PAI7070), respectively . I am Programme Convenor of the inter-disciplinary MSc in International Public Policy at Queen’s.



In November 2016, I was elected President of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI; www.psai.ie) for a 3-year term. 

In May 2018 I was invited to join the Royal Irish Academy's Ethical, Political, Legal and Philosophical Committee for a 3-year term.

In September 2019 I was appointed by the General Assembly of the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA) to the EGPA Steering Committee.



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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