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Learning Activity: Lessons from Northern Ireland

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(CNN Student News) -- Your students will learn about the history of the conflict that occurred in Northern Ireland and its resolution, and examine whether its lessons can be applied to other conflicts.

Inform students that, after witnessing the swearing in of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, British Prime Minister Tony Bair noted that the return of power-sharing between the unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland has lessons for other conflicts that are occurring around the world.

Instruct students to investigate Blair's assertion by researching the history of the conflict that occurred in Northern Ireland and its resolution. Then, as a class, brainstorm a list of conflicts that are currently taking place in different parts of the world (e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir conflict and the Darfur conflict). Next, group students and assign each group a different conflict from the list. Instruct each group to conduct research to learn about the history of its assigned conflict and the quest for peace. Pose the following questions to guide students' research:

  • What are the underlying reasons for the conflict?
  • Who are the parties involved?
  • What attempts at peace have been tried?
  • To what extent have these attempts at peace succeeded or failed?
  • Have each group create a timeline that depicts the key events and facts related to its assigned conflict and deliver formal presentations of its findings to the class. After the presentations, have students compare and contrast each of the current conflicts to the conflict that occurred in Northern Ireland. Ask students:

  • In your view, what lessons, if any, can be learned from the conflict in Northern Ireland?
  • Do you think that the current peace in Northern Ireland will be permanent? Why or why not?
  • Do you think that permanent peace is possible in other conflicts around the globe? State your rationale.
  • Correlated Standards

    Social Studies

    Standard III. People, Places and Environments: Students will make informed and critical decisions about the relationship between human beings and their environment.

    Standard V. Individuals, Groups and Institutions: Students will explore how institutions are formed, what controls and influences them, how they control and influence individuals and culture and how institutions can be maintained or changed.

    Standard VI. Power, Authority and Governance: Students will understand the historical development of structures of power, authority and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society as well as other parts of the world.

    Standard IX. Global Connections: Students will examine global connections and interdependence.

    The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( link) are published by the National Council for Social Studies ( link).


    Northern Ireland, peace process, conflicts, lessons


    • Overview: Breaking the cycle
    • Profiles: Key players
    • Timeline: Decades of violence


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