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Queen Elizabeth II and President Mary Mc Aleese at the Garden of Remembrance after their wreath laying ceremony as they walk past the scultpure by Oisin Kelly, the Children of Lir.Photograph: Cyril Byrne One of our more tiresome national cliches holds that the Irish can never forget while the English can never remember.All would be wiser, he argues, to follow Christ’s advice to “let the dead bury the dead”.No amount of endless first World War commemoration has prevented war after war following “the war to end all wars”.The annual deluge of poppies and misused poetry has long been more about national identity than understanding or learning, or marking dead we never knew in Flanders fields.But “which is worse,” asks David Rieff in his provocative new book, “remembering or forgetting?

Such “ransacking of history” is the real point of remembering: the present is always the “ghost” at the commemorative banquet.

Historical analysis is too often the “junior partner” in public approaches to the past, even though its questioning is far more valuable than the manipulations of memory.



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