OH MY GOD, THEY KILKENNY: When I was in Italy last year, I was surprised to see that the flag of the European Union was usually flown at the same height as the Italian flag. I attributed this to Italy's long localist tradition: If your first loyalty is to a city or region, I reasoned, it wouldn't matter much if the greater authority beyond that was in Rome or Brussels.
Not a bad hypothesis, I suppose. But in Dublin, where nationalism has always been close to the core of the city's identity, the story wasn't all that different. The Euro flags outnumbered the Irish flags, and the two were invariably flown at equal height. In the countryside, on the other hand, it wasn't unusual to see the Irish banner up top.
I never was able to suss out a consensus on how the country that had to fight so long to get its freedom from England felt about being welded back to London again, this time via the continent. Indeed, English-Irish relations were a confusing and sometimes prickly topic all over. We had dinner at a pub in Killarney the night the English soccer team played Croatia, and the patrons there were clearly cheering for the Croats. Then we stopped in another bar not far away, and local sentiment strongly favored the Brits. I asked our innkeeper about the inconsistency. He replied that he didn't feel like talking politics.