Off to the Summit

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Hoping for a show of unity, Reagan takes his record on the road

It is the sort of sentimental journey most tourists can only dream of: the successful American's triumphal visit to the land from which obscure forebears set out for the New World generations ago. And so Ronald Reagan's four-day visit to Ireland was carefully planned as a kind of televised wish fulfillment, especially on Sunday in the village of Bally-poreen (pop. 350). There the President was scheduled to pray in the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, look up in the baptismal book the record of Great-Grandfather Michael's baptism on Sept. 3, 1829, and wander over to the Ronald Reagan Lounge at O'Farrell's Pub for a lunch of ham and cabbage.

But unlike Presidents Kennedy and Nixon when they visited the Old Sod, Reagan had to contend with demonstrators who also had an acute sense of what would play on American TV. On Saturday, shortly before Reagan received an honorary doctor of laws degree at University College of the National University of Ireland, 2,000 faculty, students and other protesters attended a rival "deconferring ceremony" at which Marian Robinson, a visiting American professor who happens to be a cousin of Nancy Reagan's, read a citation denouncing the President's nuclear arms policies; three holders of honorary doctorates returned their degrees in protest. The demonstrators were peaceful, and they aimed their Irish ire at the Administration's foreign policy rather than at America. When someone set fire to a U.S. flag, other protesters rushed to put out the blaze and apologized to American reporters. "Our affection for America is as deep as ever," explained John Murphy, a former member of the Irish Senate. "But Reagan's nuclear and Central American policy is an unacceptable way of thinking."

The scenes were a kind of visual metaphor for Reagan's foreign policy these days: placidity and fellowship front and center, tension and turmoil in the background. The trip to Ireland opened a ten-day tour filled with the kind of ceremony—visits to castles, palaces and battlefields—at which the President excels.

After a private lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on Tuesday at Buckingham Palace, he will officiate in Normandy at observances of the 40th anniversary of Dday, including a wreath-laying ceremony at Omaha Beach. At week's end he will attend the annual economic summit meeting in London of seven of the world's major industrial powers (the U.S., Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan).

Throughout, Reagan will be trying to portray himself as the leader of an alliance that is enjoying a rare period of relative prosperity and solidarity. White House aides are quick to admit that one purpose is to impress the voters at home.

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