They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
The famous lines from the contemporary poem paying tribute to the soldiers who died in the First World War were heard again and again last weekend, as unbearably sad and poignant as ever.
They are particularly poignant in Ireland, of course, where instead of remembering all the Irish servicemen who were killed, we did our best to forget them. They were written out of our history for decades. Only relatively recently, over the last 20 years or so, have we had the maturity and the decency to remember them properly.
Last Sunday, November 11, was the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, an appalling conflict in which 17 million people died over the four years it lasted from 1914 to 1918. Under the armistice between the Allies and the Germans, the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. November 11 became known as Armistice Day, the day all the countries involved remember the carnage and mourn for all the lives that were lost.
All except Ireland, as we said, because for many years we largely ignored the day, even though close to 50,000 Irishmen had been killed in the war. That reluctance to recognize them began to fade in November 1991 when President Mary Robinson attended the Remembrance Sunday Service in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, and that change in attitude has continued in the years since then.
On Sunday, on this centenary Armistice Day, remembrance ceremonies took place in various places around Ireland. The main event was at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin where President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to the 200,000 Irish soldiers who had fought in the war and talked about the "official amnesia" about them that we as a country had practiced for years.
Higgins said that while some of the returning Irish soldiers had then fought in our own battle for independence (men like the famous Tom Barry), most struggled to find their place in the rapidly changing Ireland of the time. For them, caught on the wrong side of history, the new Ireland was a cold place where they kept their heads down and stayed silent.
It's remarkable when you think about it, given the scale of the Irish involvement in the war. And even though it is has now become acceptable to remember them without being branded a West Brit, it's still very much a forgotten part of our history.
Ask people here which conflict cost the most Irish lives and a surprising number first think of the 30 years of the recent Troubles in the North, or the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, or the earlier rebellions in which the Irish battled against the British Crown. Yet the war in which the most Irishmen died -- by far -- was the First World War.
Over 200,000 Irish soldiers fought on the British side in that war and close to 50,000 of them died, many from the north of Ireland but even more from the south (Ireland was one country at the time, under British rule). The First World War not only took the most Irish lives, but it was also the war in which Irishmen endured the greatest suffering and carried out the greatest acts of courage.
You would think that their courage and all those lost lives would have been recognized and commemorated. Instead, they were airbrushed from Irish history with an efficiency that would have impressed Stalin, particularly after de Valera came to power in 1932.
They were an uncomfortable complication in the approved history of the new Republic, a history that was refined and edited to exclude anything except the glories of the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. This became worse as the years went on, even though the initial response of many Irish people when the soldiers came home in 1918 had been generous. There were huge welcome home meetings and marches, and the commemoration day became one of the biggest events on the annual calendar for some years afterward.
But there was also a good deal of opposition stoked up by Sinn Fein from the very beginning, and this caused tension and confusion. Most ordinary people understood that the men who had fought in the First World War had done so in good faith, on the promise of Home Rule for Ireland and in defense of small nations.
Or simply to feed their families at home. Or just for the adventure.
But by the time they came back they were out of step with what was happening at home and, as we said, on the wrong side of history, overtaken by events after 1916. That was not their fault.
They had served with honor for valid reasons and they deserved respect for that. Despite this, the initial appreciation that was shown to them when they came home after the war evaporated quickly in the years that followed and from then on there was only one approved history, one that did not include them.
The history taught in Irish schools from the late 1920s onwards had no room for complications. It went through centuries of British repression and Irish rebellion before finishing with the heroics of the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence.
The Civil War which followed was not even mentioned. Those who had served in the First World War to further the cause of Home Rule were presented as gullible fools.
That narrow version of our history was hammered into Irish kids for decades until the curriculum was reformed in the 1960s and '70s. And the failure for so long to recognize and honor the Irish who had suffered and died in the First World War was part of that.
Thankfully we have now reached a point where a more accurate and inclusive account of our complicated history is possible.
Following the example of Robinson in 1991, President Mary McAleese played her part in changing attitudes here by standing beside the Queen at a commemoration ceremony at Ypres and Messines in 1998 in honor of the Irishmen who died in the First World War.
Over the two decades since then, understanding and appreciation for all those from Ireland who died in the war has grown, although we still have a way to go to fully recognize the sacrifice of those who served at the time. And to do so without any misgivings or embarrassment.
On a wider scale, the centenary of Armistice Day was marked by dozens of world leaders on Sunday at ceremonies in France, including Trump, Putin, Merkel and so on, as well as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for Ireland. Trump, as only he can, upstaged the others, although the jokers were claiming that he was only there to get a break from Jim Acosta!
On that score, it would be hard to blame him. From this perspective, Acosta's performance at the press conference last week was more than any leader on this side of the Atlantic would tolerate. Holding on to the microphone to ask multiple questions -- amounting to a harangue -- after you have been asked to pass it on is not acceptable, particularly in a room full of reporters waiting for their turn.
Whether Acosta manhandled the intern trying to stop her taking the mike back is almost beside the point. He certainly humiliated her. And he ignored the president's repeated requests to stop and give way to other reporters.
Acosta, CNN and most of the media over there appear to think this behavior is justifiable and they spin what happened as another example of Trump's boorishness. But it's not acceptable, no matter what you think of Trump. Acosta needs to learn some respect for the office and also that a good reporter never makes himself the story.
Whether you approve of Trump or not, genuinely objective reporting on his first two years in office would include some coverage of his achievements as well as the endless coverage of every minute detail of the Russia probe. Yet that is never part of the agenda of the "fake news media” as he calls them because they are so consumed by hatred of him.
At this stage, the war between Trump and the media is just tiresome. Major stories that affect the U.S. both at home and abroad are not being given the prominence they deserve. It's time for an armistice.