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Rights in Conflict – the Dale Farm Case

December 2, 2011

We’ve been teaching our students about human rights, in particular the tension that occurs when my rights conflict with your rights. As we put it to our students, “If I have the right to express my opinion freely, does that mean I can say anything I want?” Some students will say yes, some will say no. The really switched on students will say, “No, because if everyone has rights, you have to make sure you never say anything that will infringe any one else’s rights.” This was played out graphically in the news this week when a woman was filmed racially abusing other passengers on a London tram.

We’ve extended this exploration of how rights come in to conflict, by investigating the case of the Irish Travellers on Dale Farm. This is a classic case of rights in conflict – the Traveller’s rights to live on land they own and where they have lived for many years, versus the Council’s right to demand they leave because they don’t have planning permission to live there. Although the Travellers were evicted from the site recently, they have now appealed to the Supreme Court, and are awaiting its verdict.

The lesson begins with a brief overview of the case (using the PowerPoint slides), and then we show the students this Channel 4 news report. While they watch it, they jot down arguments for and against the eviction of the Travellers.

We then split the class into 3 groups – Basildon Council, the Irish Travellers and a smaller group who form the Supreme Court judges. Students are then given time to prepare questions and statements to argue the case that the Travellers should stay or go. When they are ready, they start a debate, which could be structured in a number of ways. Because this is a lesson about rights in conflict, we encourage students to use the language of rights in their arguments. After a suitable period, the judges then decide whether the Travellers should stay or go.

You could of course develop this over a number of lessons with students taking on more detailed roles, but for this works really well in just one lesson, and for those of us doing the Citizenship Studies GCSE course, that’s probably all the time you can afford!

Resources attached:

What is Dale Farm activity

Arguments sheet

Human Rights Help Sheet

The Challenge – Supreme Court Judiciary instructions

Supreme Court_Reverse sheet

The Challenge – Irish Travellers instructions

The Challenge – Basildon council instructions

Council_Travellers_Reverse sheet copy

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