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Ireland in Schools

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SHP: cross-curricular possibilities
To engage the interest and curiosity of often indifferent students, teachers working with Ireland in Schools have frequently adopted a cross-curricular approach, drawing on  1. Art; 2. English; and 3. Music.
At its best, this approach has the added advantages of
  a. making use of scarce time and and resources by enabling different departments to collaborate and
  b. reinforcing learning across the curriculum.

Click here for one teacher's successful attempt to teach his students to look beyond the obvious by drawing on a wide range of resources, including poems and songs.

1. ART
a. 'Gallery art'

'The troubles' have inspired Irish artists to try to 'get under the skin' of conflict in Northern Ireland. Such art is a much neglected resources but can stimulate students' imaginations and give them a deeper understanding of the nature of art and of conflict in Northern Ireland.

The Marley Funeral

Rita Duffy

1989, charcoal on paper

At the funeral of IRA member Lawrence Marley, the RUC saturated the area and refused to allow the remains to leave the Marley home until the Irish tricolour was removed from the coffin.

Ulster Playground

Jack Pakenham

1989, acrylic on canvas




b. Murals

Wall paintings have been a conspicuous part of the landscape in Northern Ireland and there is considerable debate about their significance.

  1. Symbols  2. Loyalist  3. Republican  4. Sorting Exercise

DEC Citizenship Exercise

  1. Tasks & Murals 2. Slideshow of Murals (Ppt)

What is very clear, however, is that they have become increasingly accomplished and, especially with the advent of the Bogside Artists, offer the basis for a series of fruitful lessons in art and history.
Their website (
) includes information on the techniques used in painting the large wall murals.


This mural depicts the death of Jackie Duddy. Fr Edward Daly, later Bishop Daly, and outspoken critic of the Hunger Strikes of 1981, is present waving a white handkerchief. This and the Civil Rights banner are two main focal points, the other being the victim. The soldier stands on the bloodied banner thereby defining his role as seen by the people of the Bogside. Recent evidence of collusion involving the army and the RUC in the deaths of Catholics gives some weight to this view

The construction lines draw the eye downwards through the supine figure of the victim to the banner. Marching for civil rights is how and why this young man lost his life it says. Again it is painted in black and white and is the result of a photo montage compiled from film footage. The blood stained banner upon which the soldier is standing speaks a great deal for the price people pay everywhere for democratic freedom. In terms of media coverage this mural is second only to 'The Petrol Bomber' as a chronicle of a specific event that had dire repercussions both in the North of Ireland and beyond.

Constructing Five Murals: Techniques of the Bogside Artists

1. Pdf Booklet  2. PowerPoint Version



a. Novels

The most widely-used and involving text is Bernard Mac Laverty's Cal, Penguin Student Edition, 0-14081-789-1.

For Cal, some of the choices are devastatingly simple - he can work in the abattoir that nauseates him or he can join the dole queue; he can brood on his past or plan a future with Marcella. Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story in a land where tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark.

For further details of an IiS study unit, please click here.


b. Poetry

Even more telling for students is the 'poetry of the troubles'. Five poems of different levels of accessibility by four contemporary Irish poets in particular have helped students develop an imaginative insight into recent events in Northern Ireland.

'Voices' by Damien Quinn; 'Northern Haiku' by Tony Curtis;

'Postcard from Fermanagh' by Bill O’Keefe; 'Enemy Encounter' by Padraic Fiacc;

'The Disturbance' by Tony Curtis

Chopper clatter bursting
Through the treetops
Above the chalet clearing
At eggs and bacon breakfast

The scout, nosing the forest
The gunship, a hawk shadow

Good day, sir
Do you have any identification?
In a soft lilt,
In a battledress                                                                                            From 'Postcard from Fermanagh' by Bill O’Keefe
These poems form the basis of widely-used IiS study. As the examples of students’ work show, the poems have been successfully tested with GCSE and Key Stage 3 classes, enhancing students’ understanding and enjoyment of poetry while at the same time giving them some insight into the nature of the various conflicts and tensions that go to make up the modern ‘Irish question’.

a British Army Soldier
with a rifle and a radio ...
I am an Irishman
and he is afraid
That I have come to kill him.’                                                                                  From: 'Enemy Encounter' by Padraic Fiacc

This poem is showing the two sides, how both the Irish and the British soldiers feel about each others’ presence. The Irish are showing no fear but you can tell that there is some uncomfort. The soldiers feel the same uncomfort and they feel out of place here.
This poem is sad because it is a shame that they can not do something to get on with each other as they both feel uncomfortable about each others’ presence.                                                                                                  (Y11 response)

Please click here for the poems and study unit.

For more poems of 'the Troubles', please go to the 'War' section of Northern Ireland poets.



Three ballads have helped students further appreciate the nature of the loyalties and divisions in Northern Ireland and the way people in Britain view Northern Ireland.

'The Patriot Game', 1959

The Alias Acoustic Band, Irish Songs ... of Rebellion, CD, 1998, Proper/Retro, R2CD 40-73


Last verse

But now as I lie here, my body all holes
I think of those traitors who bargained in souls
And I wish that my rifle had given the same
To those Quislings who sold out the patriot game.

'Derry’s Walls'

Sam Carson, No Surrender. 14 Loyalist Songs, Ulster Records, CD UCD 3


Opening verse

The time has scarce gone by boys, two hundred years ago,
When Rebels on old Derry’s Walls their faces dare not show;
When James and all his rebel band came up to Bishops Gate;
With heart and hand and sword and shield we caused them to retreat.

'Through the Barricades', 1986

Spandau Ballet, Gold. The Best of Spandau Ballet, CD, 2000, EMI, LC0 0542


Third verse

Born on different sides of life,
But we feel the same and feel all of this strife,
So come to me when I’m asleep
And we’ll cross the line and dance upon the streets.
And now I know what they’re saying as the drums begin to fade,

And we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades.

Tasks set on songs

1. Play and display the lyrics of the selected song and distribute cards with words reflecting different emotions.

(For example, words for ‘Through the Barricades’ were anger, annoyed, betrayal, boredom, calm, excitement, fear, hatred, hope, indifference, joy, love, ordinary, pain, pleasure, relaxed, sorrow, unfeeling.)
2. Students
  a. sort the cards, choosing words which best reflect the feelings and emotions expressed by the music and the lyric;
  b. place those most central to the feelings communicated by the song in the centre of the table; place those less central towards the periphery of the table; and return those not relevant to the envelope;
  c. compare responses to different songs;
  d. discuss which parts of the republican and loyalist songs might the ‘other side’ consider offensive.

For the lyrics, please go to:

For commentaries, please go to:'s_Walls - examination question on the Apprentice Boys of Derry, pp 13-14