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Nonviolence Quiz:- The Irish Experience:
Test Your Knowledge
[Answers below]

Print this page out for reference

  1. 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?
  2. What was the basis of the ancient (Gaelic) Brehon laws, remarkably consistent with modern thinking and with a nonviolent approach to dispute settlement?
  3. What nonviolent tactic is reputed to have been used by St Patrick?
  4. Where was the 'Law of the Innocents' drawn up thirteen centuries ago, in 697, and what did it do?
  5. Who 'chanced their arm' in 1492?
  6. When was the first recorded walkout from an Irish parliament?
  7. Who was involved in building what was arguably the first mass democratic movement in Europe?
  8. When was an economic boycott used before the middle of the 19th century?
  9. 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?
  10. What Irish social reformer of the 19th century did Marx and Engels write about approvingly?
  11. 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?
  12. By what nonviolent method did local councils in nationalist controlled areas assert their independence of British rule in 1919?
  13. What was the first nonviolent direct action of the 'civil rights' movement in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s?
  14. 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?
  15. 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!

The Answers...

  1. 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.
  2. Arbitration. Justice to the wronged party was the aim rather than retribution.
  3. St Patrick fasted to get King Trian of Ulster to treat his slaves better.
  4. 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, years earlier.
  5. 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.
  6. 1613. The 'Old English' and other Catholics withdrew in the face of a manufactured Protestant majority.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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'.
  10. 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.
  11. Francis Sheehy Skeffington, a man very much ahead of his time in a number of ways.
  12. They switched their allegiance from the Westminster parliament to the Dail (parliament) in Dublin.
  13. 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 waiting list.
  14. 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.
  15. 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).
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