I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Selective Memories

Martin Maguire
Towards Commemoration: Ireland in war and revolution 1912-1923, John Horne and Edward Madigan (eds), Royal Irish Academy, 182 pp, €15.00. ISBN 978-1908996176 This book arises from a conference led by the Centre for War Studies, TCD, in association with the Princess Grace Library Monaco, in which historians, civil society activists and commentators met in October 2011 and debated the forthcoming centenary decade of World War 1 and the Irish revolutionary era. The objective was to contribute to the process of re-evaluation, re-imagination and remembrance of the past that this centenary of commemoration of a nation in war and revolution will inspire and also to point to where the pitfalls and potentials of this process of commemoration lie. The hope is to arrive at a richer understanding of the decade and of the whole of the twentieth century through an open and creative engagement with the past of war and revolution. The book is organised in three sections; histories, memories and commemorations; the plural, as explained by Edward Madigan in the introduction, signals the diversity of views contained in each of these interpretations of the past. The Histories section is bracketed by the essays of William Mulligan on the European background of war and violence to the pre-war period 1911-14 and by John Horne’s essay on the continuing wars of 1917-23 that did not end with the armistice. Both set the events of the Irish revolution in a wider “European Wars” context, thus negating any view of Irish exceptionalism. Mulligan convincingly situates the militarisation of first the Ulster Unionists, then Irish nationalism and Irish labour, in a European-wide logic of violence at the level of the greater and lesser powers that leached down into civil society. This European-wide militarisation of politics ended the state monopoly of violence. John Horne enlarges the time frame of the Great War, showing that the violence started in 1912, before August 1914, did not end until 1924, which is to demonstrate that Ireland was particular but not unique in the experience or duration of violence. The time period of his essay covers the transition from a Europe of empires to a Europe of nations in which the forces of nationality, democracy and class came to the fore in shaping events. For these two essays alone this book is worth buying. Stuart Ward addresses the Gallipoli campaign and its commemorations in Australia and Ireland. In a judicious…

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