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European Cup Rugby Review

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 9th, 2023 at 09:42:31 PM EST

The sharp end of the season approaches

The last few weeks since Ireland's historic fourth grand slam have showcased both the strengths and weaknesses of Irish Rugby. Leinster seem to march inexorably on to either or both the European Cup and URC titles, although nothing can ever be taken for granted in sport. However, Ulster, Munster and Connacht have all been eliminated from their European Cup competitions and the latter two may struggle to qualify for the European Cup top tier competition next season.

Read more... (7 comments, 2062 words in story)

What's Next, After the Slam?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2023 at 09:57:47 AM EST

As the immediate emotions die down and the dust settles on Ireland's great  Six Nations Grand Slam, it becomes possible - nay essential - too take a more nuanced and balanced  view of what transpired, and more importantly, on what must come next.

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A Grand Slam for Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 14th, 2023 at 03:39:57 PM EST

A Grand Slam in the 5 or 6 Nations rugby Championship has only been won 41 times in the 97 years it has been contested with England (13), Wales (12), France (10) leading the way and with Scotland and Ireland on 3 apiece some way behind. Ireland won it in 1948 (Ravenhill), 2009 (Cardiff) and 2018 (Twickenham) and it is an honour previously achieved only by some vintage Irish teams led by legendary players such Jackie Kyle, Brian O'Driscoll, and Rory Best.  Were Ireland to win it on Saturday it would be our first time ever to win it in Lansdowne Road.

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A Return to Normalcy?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 9th, 2023 at 04:09:52 PM EST

- An Irish perspective cross-posted with Slugger O'Toole

On the assumption that UK Ireland, EU, and US relations are once again beginning to resemble what used to be regarded as normality, how can we expect those relations to evolve in the future? The Brexit fever in England seems to have broken and a more pragmatic and competent PM appears to be in charge.

Of course, some nods to Brexit orthodoxy may still be required to keep the Brexit ultra wing of the Tory party on board, chiefly in the form of clampdowns on illegal immigration, and tax cuts for the wealthy "to promote growth". Great play will be made of some EU era regulations being canned and new opportunities in the Pacific rim being pursued. But beyond all the spin, what really has changed or is likely to change in the near future, and particularly in relation to Ireland?

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NI Protocol: It's all over bar the shouting?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 2nd, 2023 at 08:16:20 PM EST

The political agenda in the UK seems to be moving on. The verdicts are in. Sunak is being praised for his political adroitness. Boris has been wrong-footed and even the perennially churlish Lord Frost has been muttering about aspects of the deal begin helpful.

The Windsor Framework Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the WFA) is being hailed as the harbinger of a reset in relations between the UK and EU more generally. A sort of GFA (Good Friday Agreement) for the UK and EU as a whole.

The phoney UK/EU Brexit war is over, and the focus now moves to how relationships in other areas can be improved, most immediately in relation to the Horizon research funding programme and improved access for the City to EU financial services markets.

US firms are apparently poised to invest billions in the N. Ireland economy and the Prime Minister has praised the deal as offering N. Ireland the best of all words and a unique trading opportunity in the world. Now why didn't the rest of the UK think of that? And indeed, what about Scotland?

Read more... (3 comments, 1938 words in story)

The Windsor Framework

by Frank Schnittger Tue Feb 28th, 2023 at 06:14:02 PM EST

(Crossposted from Slugger O'Toole)

In analysing the outcome of the Protocol negotiations, one has to look at the prime interests of the main actors involved.

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What if the proposed protocol reforms are rejected?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 23rd, 2023 at 05:30:45 PM EST

(Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole)

David Allen Green has long been my British legal blogger of choice. I may not always agree with him politically, but he is often very insightful in his de-construction of the legal issues facing Britain. In a recent blogpost entitled The seven ways the matter of Brexit and the island of Ireland can be ultimately resolved, he turned his attention to the protocol, and I quote:

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Beyond Sectarianism

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 16th, 2023 at 07:17:23 PM EST

In Why Northern Ireland's anti sectarianism is semi permanently stuck in "the crawler lane"... Cillian McGrattan makes a long, subtle and impassioned plea to get away from the sectarian tropes which seem to bedevil discussion of just about every topic or policy area in N. Ireland, and bemoans the fact that progress appears to be so slow. However, his focus on ideologies perhaps ignores the degree to which any change in those ideologies is dependent on changes in the real world of economic advantage and political power.

Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole, where it has attracted the  usual polarised comments!

Read more... (9 comments, 2172 words in story)

50 years of EU membership

by Frank Schnittger Tue Feb 14th, 2023 at 01:17:29 PM EST

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Irish Association of Contemporary European Studies (IACES) lecture given by Professor Brigid Laffan of the European University Institute recently. In the hour available to her she painted some broad strokes of how membership has helped change Ireland over the past 50 years. One striking statistic was that male life expectancy was 69 years when Ireland joined in 1973. If I had been my age then, I would be dead!

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Systems differ and patients die

by Frank Schnittger Tue Feb 7th, 2023 at 06:48:18 PM EST

The failure of healthcare information support systems to provide a fully integrated and portable digitised personal medical history to aid healthcare professionals in making timely and efficient diagnostic, treatment and care decisions has become an open sore in Irish society, leading to much public debate. I felt moved to share my experience of such systems in the Irish Times today:

Cross-posted on Slugger O'Toole

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Ireland and the 6 Nations Rugby Championship

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 2nd, 2023 at 09:46:03 PM EST

Ireland have a patchy record in the 6 Nations rugby championship with only four wins since Italy joined in 2000. This compares to seven for England, and six for France and Wales, and none for Scotland or Italy. The figures for Grand Slams are even worse, with four for France and Wales and two for England and Ireland. So it ill-becomes us to become too sniffy about a tournament which funds virtually the entire game in Ireland.

Some younger fans, who don't remember the horrible 1990's and early 2000's, regard it as little more than a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, allegedly the only game in town for Ireland as the world's current no. 1 ranked country. We didn't win the 6 Nations for the first time until 2009, even if we did pick up three Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007. In the entire history of the tournament, since 1883, we have a positive win/lose ratio only against Italy. We are still playing catch-up with everyone else.

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A Cordon Sanitaire

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 31st, 2023 at 11:21:33 AM EST

Recent discussions about the Protocol in Northern Ireland have focused on the problems it poses for the DUP. But from an EU perspective it seeks to solve a far larger problem for the EU as a whole. Much of the analysis of Brexit has been in terms of it being an English nationalist project. What has been missed is the extent to which it is also a political libertarian project.

Much of the driving force behind Brexiteer ideology has been the belief that the "Brussels bureaucracy" and its focus on regulation has been stifling British innovation, dynamism and the potential for growth. The main `benefit of Brexit' was always supposed to be the freedom it gave Britain to chart its own way in the world, with its own trade deals, and with much freer and closer relations with the rest of the world.

`Singapore-on-Thames' would become the gateway and bridge between some of the most dynamic economies in the world - in the Far East, the pacific rim, the Commonwealth, and in the USA. (Let us ignore, for the moment, the fact that Singapore is actually one of the most heavily regulated and strictly enforced places on earth). Global Britain would triumph where a sclerotic bureaucrat ridden old Europe would fail to compete.

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The seven deadly sins of the DUP

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jan 26th, 2023 at 08:48:51 PM EST

Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole where it has topped 10,000 readers and 400 comments with many commenters saying it is one of the best opinion pieces they have ever read...


When I saw the headline to Brian Walker's piece, Rather than keep slagging off the DUP over the Protocol, let's recognise their better points, I expected to see a forensic analysis of the DUP's 7 tests for determining whether the Protocol had been adequately reformed to meet their requirements for re-entering the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland (NI).

I was looking forward to seeing what elements might be extracted from them that could be congruent with the EU and its legal and political obligations towards its member states. I was hoping for an exploration of any potential common ground that might lead to a settlement.

Instead, what we got was an expression of shared fury with the DUP, and a reduction of the Protocol to identity politics embellished by a gratuitous sideswipe impugning the EU Commission. I was moved to respond as follows:

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The importance of being England

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 22nd, 2023 at 03:10:31 PM EST

Brexit and the resulting impasse around the protocol have tended to put the focus on the DUP and the failure of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement (BGFA) institutions to operate properly. For unionists the issue is a perceived diminution in the constitutional link with Britain. For nationalists it is another sign of the failure of Northern Ireland to function properly and the need to remedy that by preparing for a united Ireland.

Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole.

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The Protocol and the Founding Principles of the EU

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 13th, 2023 at 11:24:35 AM EST

Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole, the leading political blog in Northern Ireland. Warning: This story contains links to original sources and may challenge existing perceptions

Treaties can be as dry as dust and as boring as old rope, which is why lawyers have to be paid to read them. But sometimes it is worthwhile to scan their more important provisions. This is how the 1957 Founding Treaty of Rome (Official text not available in English), later consolidated and incorporated into The Treaty on the Functioning of The European Union describes its purpose on its very first page:


DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,

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EU Membership has been the making of Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 3rd, 2023 at 03:08:26 AM EST

New years day marked the 50th. Anniversary of Ireland's accession to the EU (then EEC), the single most transformative event in our 100 years of independence. Indeed, our post-independence history could be neatly divided into two periods, pre- and post-EU, although many would trace the origins of Ireland as a modern advanced economy to the Lemass reforms associated with Dr TK Whitaker's seminal 1958 study, "Economic Development."

There aren't any soldiers marching or trumpets blaring to mark the event, but the Irish Times has been publishing a series of articles on EU related themes. One such article was written by Anthony Coughlan, my old Social Policy lecturer in Trinity College Dublin and leader of Irish Sovereignty Movement and National Platform. He opposed Ireland's accession to the EU and just about every EU related Treaty since and pre-figured many of the arguments used by Brexiteers against membership.

His latest article, entitled Fifty years later, I still think EU membership was a mistake, is a good summary of his views and I have responded as follows with a letter published by the Irish Times as the lead letter in response:

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An inter-governmental executive for Northern Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Dec 29th, 2022 at 12:28:43 PM EST

Alex Kane and Newton Emerson are two of the foremost unionist commentators on Northern Ireland and are widely read throughout Ireland through their regular columns in the Irish Times and other newspapers. So it matters when Alex Kane concludes, in yesterday's column, that many in the unionist community have come to the conclusion that the (suspended) Strand 1 Good Friday Agreement institutions - the Assembly and Executive - are not worth saving.

I have responded with a letter published in the Irish Times (second letter down, just above a letter from Gerry Adams) as follows:

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Comparing the Irish and UK economies

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 23rd, 2022 at 11:27:03 AM EST

The chart above probably does more to sum up the economic histories of Ireland and the UK in recent decades than any other. Taken from countryeconomy.com it compares Irish and UK GDP per capita growth since 1970. Of course, there is an argument that Irish GDP is somewhat inflated by the activities of global corporations located here, but what I want to focus on is the trend.

Read more... (13 comments, 1127 words in story)

Champions Cup first round round-up.

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 12th, 2022 at 06:15:32 PM EST

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Paschal Donohoe re-elected Eurogroup President

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 7th, 2022 at 03:10:26 PM EST

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