Nonviolence Quiz:- The Irish Experience: Test Your Knowledge [Answers below]
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Where is the largest known enclosed stone
age site in the world where people lived a peaceful and
stable agricultural existence more than 5,000 years ago?
What was the basis of the ancient (Gaelic)
Brehon laws, remarkably consistent with modern thinking
and with a nonviolent approach to dispute settlement?
What nonviolent tactic is reputed to have
been used by St Patrick?
Where was the 'Law of the Innocents' drawn
up thirteen centuries ago, in 697, and what did it do?
Who 'chanced their arm' in 1492?
When was the first recorded walkout from
an Irish parliament?
Who was involved in building what was arguably
the first mass democratic movement in Europe?
When was an economic boycott used before
the middle of the 19th century?
Captain Boycott refused to lower rents on
the estate he managed in 1879 following poor harvests and
was 'boycotted' (ostracized) - giving a new word to the
English language. What did he end up supporting?
What Irish social reformer of the 19th century
did Marx and Engels write about approvingly?
Who was the Irish pacifist, and supporter
of many progressive causes, shot dead by a British officer
during the military Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916?
By what nonviolent method did local councils
in nationalist controlled areas assert their independence
of British rule in 1919?
What was the first nonviolent direct action
of the 'civil rights' movement in Northern Ireland in the
Were the following nonviolent:
a) The loyalist (Ulster Workers Council) general strike
of 1974 which overthrew the short-lived 'power-sharing'
government of Northern Ireland at Stormont in Belfast?
b) The republican prison hunger strikes of 1981 in the North?
Compare and contrast Catholic and nationalist
civil disobedience following internment (imprisonment without
trial) in 1971 with Protestant and loyalist opposition to
the Anglo-Irish Agreement (between the British and Irish
governments) in 1985.
Right, Let's See How You Did!
1. The Ceide Fields in the north of
County Mayo, on the west coast. It is the largest known
stone age enclosed site in the world. People lived for a
number of centuries on 1,200 hectares of farmland which
they had enclosed with stone walls to keep their animals
in; co-operation is implicit from the form of agriculture
practised. There is no evidence of fortification or defences,
and homes were scattered (remarkably similar to land occupation
patterns today). Some of the walls have been excavated from
the blanket bog which covered it and which also preserved
the stone remains in their original form.
Arbitration. Justice to the wronged
party was the aim rather than retribution.
St Patrick fasted to get King Trian
of Ulster to treat his slaves better.
The church synod which led to the
Law of the Innocents or Cain Adamnain (Adamnan's Law) was
held at Birr (Co Offaly, in the midlands). Called by Adamnan,
abbot of Iona and a relation of Columba, it offered protection
to women, children and other non-combatants in war. Adamnan
was responding to a promise he made to his mother, Ronnat,
The Earl of Kildare, pursuing his
adversary the Earl of Ormond, stuck his hand through a hole
he cut in a door in the Chapter House of St Patrick's Cathedral,
Dublin; this 'chancing his arm' led to a reconciliation
between the two sides (for a decade at least....) and a
new phrase in the English language. The door can still be
seen in St Patrick's.
1613. The 'Old English' and other
Catholics withdrew in the face of a manufactured Protestant
Daniel O'Connell, initially working
for 'Catholic emancipation' (political rights for Catholics)
which was achieved in 1829, and then for 'Repeal' of the
Act of Union between Britain and Ireland which had taken
place in 1801.
There are probably a number of examples.
In the 1720s there was a successful boycott of coins minted
by William Wood for Ireland which were made without Irish
approval and to an inferior standard than coins for Britain;
aided by the pen of Jonathan Swift, the coins were withdrawn
from circulation. In the early mid-19th century there was
a Repeal campaign to buy Irish and boycott foreign manufactures.
He ended up supporting the Irish cause
for reforms by 1883 when he returned to Ireland and lived
the rest of his life in Co Mayo, the same county where he
had been 'boycotted'. The point here is his 'conversion'.
Michael Davitt. The Land League which
he founded helped to transform the situation in most of
rural Ireland, eventually enabling peasant tenant farmers
to buy their holdings.
Francis Sheehy Skeffington, a man
very much ahead of his time in a number of ways.
They switched their allegiance from
the Westminster parliament to the Dail (parliament) in Dublin.
A sit-in at a council house allocated
to a single Protestant woman at Caledon, Co Tyrone, in June
1968 when there were many families with children on the
This is where we get into plenty of
value judgements! There were certainly what might be thought
of as 'non-violent tactics' employed in both of these but
whether they were 'nonviolent' or not is another question.
The UWC strike of 1974 was probably popular enough in the
Protestant community to have succeeded without the accompanying
intimidation, threats and violence which were a prominent
feature of it. The republican hunger strikes, while using
what might be thought of as the ultimate 'non-violent weapon',
were perhaps in alliance with a violent cause beyond the
demand for better conditions and 'political status'. It
should also be noted that nonviolent theory distinguishes
between fasting and hunger-strikes which can be moral blackmail.
More value judgements here! There
was actually more Catholic civil disobedience following
internment than Protestant disobedience following the Anglo-Irish
Agreement. The latter tended to be symbolic, adopted by
some key figures in the loyalist community. The former gradually
tailed back into oblivion leaving some people considerably
in debt; legislation was introduced to claw back debts from
state payments to debtors. The latter quietly disappeared
over a couple of years though opposition to the Anglo-Irish
Agreement remained (the Anglo-Irish Agreement is due to
be superseded by the 1998 'Good Friday' agreement).