New York -- The worst-kept secret in Ireland is that if the British Army withdrew from its northern counties tomorrow -- something Gerry Adams suggests is as easy as falling off a log -- the Irish government would have a fit.
One often wonders why Britain doesn't make the ultimate threat, which is that it is summarily transferring sovereignty over Northern Ireland to the one nation -- the Irish Republic -- which doesn't want it, can't afford to police it and wouldn't in its right mind want the political and social trauma of trying to govern it.
Anyway, Mr. Adams has confirmed himself as the rather contemptible character that he is by using his visit to the United States to make perfectly ambivalent statements about why human beings in Ireland should stop murdering each other.
Nothing is more organic to modern Irish history than the incident in Munster where Michael Collins, the father of its independence, was shot in the head by the progenitors of these people Mr. Adams claims to represent.
And nothing, really nothing, is an excuse for why the Gerry Adamses of Ireland run around making international and infernal pests of themselves.
I called my friend Sam Smyth, perhaps the most distinguished journalist in Dublin, and asked him what he thought.
"There were a lot of questions that were never asked of Mr. Adams by the U.S. media," Sam said. "And these had to do with the fact that at some stage Gerry Adams was involved in the killing of other people. He has an argument but it has been enforced in ways that were beyond belief, by the killing of women and children."
So many sentimental Irishmen are impressed by the visit of this guy. It would better represent the world we all love and call Irish to send a woman, perhaps a Belfast housewife machine-gunned at her breakfast table.
The problems of Northern Ireland are not something that's going to go away. The idea that Gerry Adams can solve them is a little absurd.
"He has electoral support of less than 3 percent," says Sam.
Besides, the government in Dublin runs one of Europe's most fragile economies. Imagine, if you want to, the army and security forces of republican Ireland -- already stretched by United Nation obligations -- suddenly having to keep the Northern Irish from slaughtering each other. It would be as if a major chunk were knocked out of the gross domestic product.
What Gerry Adams really wants is for the European community to subsidize a united Ireland, a reward, as it were, for its eternal bickering.
And this is why, for all the ignorance of Americans, Britain is still going through the unmitigated agony of ruling Northern Ireland, a place that has long lost its economic value and would better be set out to sea. You can't find a British voter in 10 -- and many of them are Irish -- who'd give a farthing for Northern Ireland.
Still, if you've ever been there you will know that there are few lovelier spots in all Europe and few places on earth less deserving of people who make a profession of murdering each other and generally run around giving the Irish a bad name.
Robert Reno is a columnist for Newsday.