IN Dublin last week the very sensible chap from the Irish Independent suggested we escape from the Euro-press centre and head for the pub. Along the way he pointed out the Union Jack flying alongside the rest of the EU's national flags.

``I guess we must be growing up,'' he declared. Not so long ago the symbol of British oppression would have enjoyed the life expectancy in a Dublin street of an Irish tricolour at Ibrox. But, like most of the rest of Europe, the Irish are moving with the times.

We found an inviting pub doing brisk trade. ``Two pints of Guinness, please,'' I said.

``Ah, now then,'' replied the barman, ``we could have a problem there. We don't sell Guinness . . .'' You might think the concept a guaranteed way to lose money, but not so. (The reason for its lack of Guinness is prosaic - it was one of those brewery-owned places which excludes its main competitors. How long this practice will survive EU competition law is a moot point.)

But change and surprise are ever present. Last month in Glasgow I noticed kids in the street playing football in German strips. Well, one kid, to be precise, with another wearing the shirt of Newcastle United. In the past I've seen Scottish boys in the Orange shirts of Holland or the colours of Brazil - but Germany?

Sport, and football in particular, seems not only to produce the worst of xenophobia, witness the English tabloids during the European championships and the hatreds of the Old Firm, but it also seems able to transcend frontiers erected by history and prejudice. How appropriate that at a time when all the talk in Europe is of unity and integration, the talking point in Dublin these days is the possibility of Wimbledon FC of London, who play in the English premiership, emigrating to the Irish capital.

The Irish, far from being hostile to the old enemy moving in - presumably with the social inadequates who masquerade as English supporters in tow - appear enthusiastic. They are already talking about embracing the ``Dublin Dons'' and having premiership games in a nation seriously deficient in top-class club soccer.

Kevin Myers of the Irish Times wondered last week: ``. . . can it be that our sporting writers would prefer to be reporting on the titanic struggle between Bray Wanderers and Longford Town, or the gripping encounter between Cork Whoever against Lough Swilly Pirates, rather than on a Dublin team playing in the English premiership?''

His point was that Irish kids, like those everywhere, wear the colours of the big English and European teams. If the thought of a Dublin team playing in the English premiership was a violation of national identity, then it was taking national identity to ``an exquisiteness too far''.

Like the crumbling European nation states, sport is being denationalised and simultaneously internationalised before our eyes. The same trend applies in European politics and business where globalisation, like it or not, is unstoppable. This is why the Eurosceptics in both Conservative and Labour parties are so hopelessly wrong and out of touch.

We had an entertaining audience of Sir Edward Heath in Strasbourg the other day. He was in grand form, flaying Tory Eurosceptics as ``just a lot of bigots'' and complaining that the British (he said ``British'') always left Euro decision-making to others and then complained at the result.

I quite warmed to him when he praised The Herald for supporting devolution and denounced Murdoch and Conrad Black for their brand of Toryism. I tell you, change is everywhere.

A splendid controversy has been raging in the Times of London recently where Euroscepticism is rampant and is, Sir Edward assured us, deliberately fuelled by a Europhobic proprietor who believes, wrongly, that Europeanism threatens his empire. In the torrent of abuse being showered on fantasy Euro-superstates and German-led economic conspiracies, one brave fellow spoke up in favour of Churchill's vision of Europe after the Second World War.

Churchill, he argued, would have been smart enough to recognise the difference between the imperial power of which he was Prime Minister, and the European nation state of John Major, and would have adjusted tactics accordingly.

``Eurosceptics, sir, live in the past and make us, as a nation, look ridiculous in the present,'' he thundered. Good on him.

How satisfying it is that it takes a Glasgow child in a German football jersey, or a Dubliner cheering an English club, to teach a Prime Minister or media mogul.