Ireland, by ratifying the Maastricht Treaty in a thumping referendum, puts the plan for a single European currency by century's end back on track. Had the Irish rejected this, immediately after the Danish rejection, the whole movement toward a unified Europe -- a single economy based on the current European Community membership -- would have crumbled.
As it is, the treaty calls for unanimity which the Danish rejection prevents. But this can now be seen as a surmountable hurdle, calling for a minor rewriting of the rules now, a second appeal to Danish voters later on. Had the only two referendums to be held in the ratification process gone against it, the notion would have been unstoppable that parliamentary acceptances elsewhere represented only the detachment of Europe's politicians and bureaucrats from their constituents.
And yet the Irish electorate was not thinking of saving Europe at all. The campaign turned into a debate about Irishness, about nationalism, about how distinctively Irish the Irish want to be, or how much in the European mainstream. The vote, not surprising in terms of recent Irish elections, was resoundingly for joining modern Europe, for not clinging too tightly to the Celtic myths or the symbols of Irish nationalism of this century.