This is an easy, effective way to teach history students about the history of conflict in Ireland, the opinions and positions of the different groups, and how hard it is to negotiate peace. All it takes is a bit of enthusiasm, and research. This teaching tool could probably be applied to any topic being studied.
First up, create a false scenario. My history class came up with a Christmas in England where there had been 3 terrorist attacks, during the first year of the Anglo-Irish War. A model train had blown up in Harrods window, killing four children and a British Army Official. A train had derailed in Ulster, and while it was thought to be carrying Black and Tans, it was carrying Irish soldiers home from the war in France. Finally, a Christmas Pudding had exploded in St James Palace, killing 2 British MPs, and the wife of one (from Liverpool) and also the Prime Minister's secretary.
Next, everyone was randomly put into groups. There were representitives of the British Government/King, The Sinn Féin Party/Dail/US Irish, the Ulster Unionists etc and the Irish Republican Party/Gaelic League. I was placed as the IRA/Gaelic League delegate 'Micaela' Collins, and my partner was 'Harriet' Boland. As there were only nine members of the class, we had to have a lot of responsibilities.
The next step is press statements. All the groups are at a peace conference concerning the terrorist attacks. All the groups must begin with a press statement saying their position on the matter, attack others, pass blame etc.
The next day, the teacher (who has diligently taken notes on the press statements) should come up with some *new* intelligence from a spy. More shocking revelations. These should be controvesial, and apply to some of the theories explored in the press statements. Make sure that they create fights among the factions.
So what now? Lobbying, press statements, threats, ultimatums, release of *new* documents that point evidence at yourself or at the others. Take actions. As the IRA, we got blamed for everything. I loudly wondered about framing. I issued an ultimatum to Sinn Féin that they had to admit they controlled us or we'd say that we
a) did the attacks and
b) at their command.
We realeased press statements that were historically accurate. We neither confirmed nor denied the accusations, but came up with convoluted political nothings. And we managed to ally ourselves with the Sinn Féin/Dail/US Irish. Also, we *accidentally* had some documents intercepted... one was the "Confirmation of Attack" saying that the IRA had done the Christmas Pudding (it was too classy, we couldn't help it!), and the other was the "Order of Attack" from *Headquarters* in Dublin, saying that at our discretion, we could use terrorism to achieve the Republic. We made it perfectly clear, though, that we were at war, and so therefore, these acts were just part of the war, not terrorism.
Day 3 is here, and the day's task is to prepare for an open debate, using historic justification about the actions you've taken, and the things you've done. Try to negotiate a peace settlement. Generally bully, cheat and lie to get your way. Strangely enough, we, in conjunction with the Ulstermen and the British Government, had made a press statement asking to Sinn Féin what their position was it this conference. They'd said nothing about anything. They attacked us, saying it was historically incorrect that we would ally with the Ulstermen and the British. We replied that we were not allied, but together in our opinions that you can't be a fence sitter. The Sinn Féin Party were not happy.
Final day, 4. Everybody gets a chance to read their opening statement, then 3 questions are asked. Make sure that your answers are historically accurate. Then, open debate, and submission of treaties.
Against all odds, we'd been overnight... disinherited by Sinn Féin because of our proposed treaty (and press statement)... and accepted by the Ulster Unionists! In a secret meeting held after school (warning - this exercise does not stop at the end of class... I even had joking threats on the phone!), we'd come up with a Irish Republic that satisfied all sides (as the Ulstermen were allowed free trade and association with England, to speak English if desired, to practise any religion they chose, to run affairs in the six Ulster counties etc). To our surprise, the Sinn Féin/Dail/US Irish voted against it... and the British for! We won, 6-3. Maybe not be entirely accurate, but it worked.
The aftermath. Marks come back... IRA wins, and gets a 97% mark for internal assessment. The history teachers that judged it did not find our treaty to be particually historically inaccurate.
And most importantly, we learnt. It may have been a false set of events, but the historical justification and representation was real. None of us will forget very quickly how indignant we felt when somebody attacked us, and how easily small things got blown out of proportion.
IRELAND WILL BE A REPUBLIC. THERE WILL BE NO COMPROMISE.
Micaela Collins (IRA representitive)
NB: This is just a false scenario, and does not in any way represent the real views on the Irish situation by the Year 11 History Class!