British-Irish summit unlikely to live up to expectations

Goodwill between Britain and Ireland has never been better than it is now. That's the good news about an Anglo-Irish summit that has been switched from Ireland to England for security reasons and, at time of writing, was expected to take place today. The bad news is that the summit is likely to produce precious little.

''Nothing will come out of it,'' says a prominent British politician involved in the search for solutions for the Northern Ireland conflict.

But Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald would like nothing better than to sell a major initiative on Northern Ireland to his people. According to a leading Irish journalist, the Irish economy is ''a terrible mess,'' and political pressures at home make it imperative for Dr. FitzGerald to stress gains with London.

This puts the British government in something of a spot. Ireland had been expecting London to come up with some credible initiative. Some of this was based on what Dublin interpreted as very optimistic noises coming out of London. And some of that optimism was inflated for domestic Irish consumption.

While Britain has played down the importance of the summit, there is recognition here that, given FitzGerald's difficulties at home, he must be thrown some sort of lifeline.

Britain has its own reasons for buttressing FitzGerald. He is one of the most helpful of recent Irish prime ministers. And his willingness to increase cooperation between the security forces of the two countries is a high priority to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who narrowly escaped an IRA bomb last month.

Ireland was disappointed at Britain's response to the New Ireland Forum, the recent effort to find a constitutional solution to the dispute over Northern Ireland. British sources say a significant shift on their part is being overlooked - an acknowledgment that Ireland has a legitimate interest in the condition of the nationalist, or Roman Catholic, community in the North.

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