The Londonderry woman at the centre of a media storm after posts made about her and her skin condition by staff at a city centre clothing shop went viral, has said that the only thing she wants to come out of the whole debacle is for “those responsible to be punished accordingly”.
“Maybe people think I am being harsh, but those girls who made the comments have not apologised to me.
“They have made no effort to say they are sorry for humiliating me in that way and people have to realise you can’t treat other people like that.
“There are lots of people out there crying out for jobs who would treat their customers with more sensitivity,” Ciara, 28, said today.
She said she had been left “dumbstruck” when she was made aware of a Facebook conversation between three staff members at Quiz Clothing - which they joked about her skin condition, discussing how it made them want to be sick.
“I had gone into the shop about two weeks ago to buy an outfit for a wedding. It’s the shop I always go to when I have an occasion to go to and I have never had a problem before
“I had just got out of hospital a few days before following a major flare up of my psoriasis and was feeling relatively good about myself.
“My condition means that at times my skin flakes, scales or leaves a light dusting. Because I had been in hospital for a fortnight and had treatment, I was just starting to flare again.
“Yes, there was a light dusting of skin. I don’t ever see that as someone else’s job to clean up, so I explained it to the girl at the till and offered to clean it up. She told me not to worry about it, and I thought nothing more about it.”
Due to the nature of her condition, which comes along with a severe form of arthritis which can leave Ciara unable to do anything for herself, she doesn’t often go out.
“I was nervous about going to the wedding as it was. I am nervous about everything - the most I normally do is go to the shops or on the school run because I’m always paranoid someone will see my skin and talk about me.
“But I decided to go and we were having a good day.” It was however, during dinner at the wedding, while she was wearing the very jumpsuit she had bought in Quiz, that a mutual friend showed her the comments which had been made on Facebook.
“To say I was stunned was an understatement. I’d had a few drinks, as you do at a wedding, but I sobered up immediately. I was humiliated - and totally devastated.
“To see someone say something about you - to point out the thing you are most paranoid about and then laugh about it with their friends... it was devastating.”
Ciara admits she reacted emotionally when she shared the post on her own Facebook. “I wanted people to see what had been said. Yes, I wanted to name and shame the girls responsible. I didn’t think about what might happen.”
What happened of course was that the story quickly went viral, being shared all through Facebook.
On Monday, Ciara was contacted by both local and senior management from Quiz.
“I know this is not to do with the shop itself. They have been great. They have assured me that they are investigating the matter. They offered me vouchers to use in store - and a donation to a skin charity - but I turned them down.
“I don’t want anything out of this other than to see those girls punished for what they did.”
She said rumours that she had “fled the city” or had consulted a solicitor were false.
“I was away for the weekend at the wedding. I hadn’t run away from anything and no, I have not seen a solicitor. I’m not looking to gain anything out of this.”
She has said the one upside to the affair is that is has allowed her to shed some light on the reality of life with psoriasis and arthritis - which she only began to suffer with when she was pregnant with her first child five years ago.
“There are days when I can’t do anything for myself. When I need help to put my socks on. There are days when even showering is too painful - the water hurts too much.
“Both my children have had to learn to help me from a very young age. There are creams and ointments I can use - but they have to be applied every four hours - it’s like a thick grease. I could never go anywhere if I had them on all the time.
“I get a weekly injection to help manage my condition - but at times the flares can be severe.”
Earlier this summer Ciara had to return early from a family holiday as her condition flared up so badly she was unable to walk. She went on to spend two weeks as a inpatient in Altnagelvin.
Last year she spent two months in hospital - before doctors admitted there was little they could do to ease her pain.
“My body reacts against the treatments,” Ciara said. “Even the grease to loosen the scales - it burns my skin.”
At times Ciara has lost huge patches of hair. She has faced abuse in the street.
“People don’t always think. They think it’s a dirty skin condition. They don’t realise what they say can hurt.
“I was out once and my skin was very red. A man came up to me and told me to leave my partner, that I was clearly in a relationship with someone who burned me. Another time a woman stopped me in the supermarket to ask me ‘what the hell’ had happened to me.
“People don’t realise how it hurts. But people need to be more aware that what they say can cause a lot of damage. Those girls have really dented my confidence - and I didn’t have much to start with.”