A PHENOMENON overlooked by most of those who comment upon the international scene is the extraordinary shrinkage of Ireland. Forty years ago, as the biggest and most persistent headache of the biggest empire the world had seen, Ireland outranked most of Asia, all Africa and South America, and the dominions beyond the seas, at least in the Sunday papers. The Irish Question, having long baffled British ingenuity, was defying British force as well, and with even more interesting results. It was constantly in the news. When nothing else stirred, every unelected statesman could keep his clientele awake by discussing how the Question should be solved or why it never would be.
Today, though the I.R.A. is once more on the warpath, Ireland is certainly the least of Britain's many worries. If one tries to follow Irish events in the American press, one finds that the news from there is about on a par with weather reports from Kerguelen--scarce, and indicating fog. The Irish Question has vanished, mined out like the Mesabi range. Where once the mountain reared its impregnable head, two small states and the Partition problem are vaguely discernible amid the surrounding emptiness.
This relative invisibility may not last much longer. Though its leaders have had much success in making the country appear the small, remote and damp but sinless nirvana of their elderly dreams, Ireland is presently in serious trouble, with many indications of worse trouble to come. I do not refer to the breakup of the coalition government in late January, or to the general election scheduled for March 5, from which De Valera will no doubt emerge with a small majority and a headache of more than Victorian severity. Nor do I refer to the new eruption of I.R.A. activity, though the popular response it has evoked in southern Ireland is unquestionably full of portent--for southern Ireland. For the moment, anyway, other matters are much more alarming.
In 1955, the Republic of Ireland, the 26-county