IRISH WATCH : Reason to Celebrate

The rise of the European Community has been resisted by many in Britain, partly for sentimental reasons, as the inglorious end of the era in which Britain and Europe could be spoken of as distinct realms. But the same development has been welcomed by many in Ireland for just the same reason. No wonder: When the EC heads of state meet, little Ireland and big Britain get one vote each.

Sentiment aside, the more the two nations have been integrated into Europe, the more Northern Ireland, that chronic irritant in their relationship, has become a European political concern rather than an internally British one.

In the election campaign, President Clinton suggested that the United States send a special envoy to the ongoing Anglo-Irish talks on Northern Ireland. The Irish, their prime minister says, have an open mind about the idea. Though not publicly opposed to it, the British are thought to be cool to it. Clinton--who today, St. Patrick's Day, is expected to formally announce the appointment of Jean Kennedy Smith as ambassador to Ireland--may have signaled, if nothing more, that Britain's "special relationship" with the United States does not mean that Washington will take sides where Northern Ireland is concerned.

The increasingly secular, internationalist, "European" Irish seem to sense, however, that it would be a mistake to overplay an American card in a game that is already being won with European cards. Though not the kind of victory sung about in pubs, Ireland's pursuit of economic happiness in Europe has become a victory all the same.

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