Maria is a solicitor and currently chairs the Law Society of Northern Ireland’s Human Rights and Equality Working Group. Prior to joining The PILS Project in 2022, Maria held the post of Immigration Solicitor with Children’s Law Centre, advising and representing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and child victims of trafficking.
Maria has considerable experience in policy and advocacy work across a range of human rights issues. She was Chair of the Law Society’s Immigration Practitioners’ Group from September 2017 until February 2019. In September 2017, Maria completed a Masters in Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast. In 2018, she authored and published a policy document, ‘Best Practice in the Provision of Immigration Legal Advice Services’ on behalf of Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. From June 2018 to January 2020, Maria was a Legal Consultant to Barnardo’s Independent Guardian Service.
In the earlier part of her career, Maria was a defence litigation solicitor and Associate Director at Napier Solicitors. She was awarded a Certificate in Advanced Advocacy in 2014 and is a member of the Advocacy Working Party of the Law Society of Northern Ireland. Maria also tutors on a number of courses at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies.
“At the heart of every public interest court case is an incredible person with a powerful story. The PILS Project and our members make space for those stories to finally be heard – and that is why I wanted to work here.”
Emma has over ten years of experience working in the busy communications offices of international human rights organisations. Before she joined PILS in November 2018, Emma was based in Brussels (with ILGA-Europe, the umbrella organisation for LGBTI activists in Europe and Central Asia), Budapest (with PILnet: the Global Network for Public Interest Law) and Dublin (at FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres).
The common thread running through all of these different organisations is their commitment to using the law as a tool to create positive social change.
As Senior Engagement Lead with PILS, Emma is responsible for leading the Project’s communications work to raise awareness of public interest litigation and its impact. In addition to this, she works with Maria (PILS Director) on fundraising applications, manages PILS events, assists with office management and initiatives designed to break down barriers that prevent people accessing justice.
She studied Economics, Politics and Law at Dublin City University and was awarded an LLM in Human Rights and Criminal Justice from Queen’s University Belfast. Emma was a founding member of the Repeal BXL campaign group and is a regular volunteer with The Homeless Period Belfast. As part of the Boardroom Apprentice Class of 2022, Emma is undertaking a 12-month placement with the board of the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland.
“Litigation is a powerful tool for change. It publicly elevates the circumstances of individuals who are often overlooked in law-making and allows us to skilfully and strategically demand more of our governments. Litigation, unfortunately, is also still out of reach for many people because it requires specialised knowledge and great financial resources. PILS bridges both of those gaps.”
Hilary is the key contact for our members seeking support to bring litigation in the public interest. Whether our members are seeking financial support or direct representation, Hilary is there to support them through the PILS casework application process. She is also available to provide our members with specific training on various legal principles or to discuss whether some of the challenges that they encounter may be ripe for litigation.
Hilary has spent her whole legal career working in public law, with a particular focus in administrative law. She was a Law Clerk at the Federal Court of Canada and litigated for the Canadian Department of Justice. She has also worked in human rights law at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamshala, India, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Hilary holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies from St. Francis Xavier University and a J.D. from the University of New Brunswick, and is Member of the Law Society of Ontario.
Hilary is a proud Maritimer who settled in Belfast in 2021.
“We are facing sharpening societal inequalities as a result of political and economic decisions, all of which will be further exacerbated by the climate emergency. At the same time, our governments are working to restrict and undermine our human rights. The PILS Project forms part of the first lines of defence against this roll back, protecting and advancing people’s rights and fighting for equality. It’s exciting to be part of the team.”
As Pro Bono Coordinator, Kate will be managing our Pro Bono Register, working closely with
our registered practitioners and our members to facilitate referrals of public interest cases for
pro bono support. This support can range from legal representation to advice to specialist
training for our members.
A PhD researcher and former solicitor, Kate qualified in England and Wales in 2004 as a
property litigator before returning to Ireland in 2015. She set up the local pro bono team in
her most recent firm in Belfast, coordinating advice projects for the AIRE Centre and the
Prisoners’ Advice Service, as well as supervising research projects for Age UK and Prajwala
Kate is a founder member of FairPlé, the campaign group set up address gender imbalance
in the Irish traditional and folk music sector. She is a keen traditional singer and whistle
player, and was involved in setting up the Nightingale Singing Session in Belfast. She is a
director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive and is currently undertaking her PhD
examining the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland and the subsequent political
challenges to implementation of the legal reforms.