Rugby decision embarrasses Irish government

The Irish rugby Football union has decided to send a team to play the South African Springboks and thus end an eight-year boycott by national Rugby authorities in Enland, scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

For though the Rugby authorities have skirted official disapproval of South African sports policy by sending a representative side called the British Lions, the Irish are the first country actually to send a national team to play the Springboks.

England has not sent a team to tour South Africa since 1972, and since then the anti-apartheid movement has spearheaded condemnation of South Africa's racist policies.

There is acute embarrassment and some anger from a wide spectrum of public opinion in Ireland over the decision. The Irish government has indicated its grave concern at the decision and Brian Lenihan, the Irish minister for foreign affairs, has disputed the Irish Rugby Authority's claim that Rugby is nonracial in South Africa.

He said changes in South African government policy were superficial. He echoed a widespread feeling here that agreement to go ahead with the tour will be seen as evidence of indifference and a lack of concern to what he called the evil of apartheid.

Ireland is further embarrassed by the decision in view of the country's recent election to the United Nations Security Council, seen as a sign of the country's increasing stature and of recognition of Irish foreign policy of condemning discrimination wherever it is practiced.

Ireland was elected to the Security Council only after intense lobbying of third- world countries, who will be outraged at the lack of concern for their feelings by the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The Irish governments has asked the Rugby authorities to reconsider their decision to tour South Africa in the summer.

In is thought unlikely that they will change their minds. Before then there are expected to be demonstrations against the tour and pressure will be put on players not to take part. The Irish side is drawn from both sides of the Irish border and some players have privately expressed reservat ions about taking part in matches against the Springboks.

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