Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup Squad selected

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 31st, 2023 at 10:46:26 AM EST

Andy Farrell has announced his 42 man training squad for the world cup, and true to form, has not been afraid to make some hard choices. The dominant theme is one of loyalty to the players who have enabled Ireland win a Grand Slam and maintain their place at the top of the world rankings.

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Southern Irish disinterest in Northern Ireland affairs

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 27th, 2023 at 08:48:56 PM EST

A response to Andy Pollak's complaint about the southern Irish media

My friend Andy Pollak has written long and eloquently about the ignorance of the southern electorate of all things north of the border, and delights in quoting academics who share this view. Academic disdain for the ignorance of the masses is, of course, nothing new, but in fairness, Andy’s latest treatise on Slugger O'Toole on the ignorance of the southern media could only have been written by an insider who knows the industry well.

As someone who has never been published in the southern media other than in a couple of hundred Letters to the Editor or a feature, in the Village Magazine, critical of the Irish Times website reboot some years ago, I have no particular interest in defending it.

And yet I find myself in utter disagreement with Andy.

Ireland is a small country, with a limited media market and very few prominent titles, each with their own agenda. The state broadcaster, like any state broadcaster, tends not to stray too far from government policy.

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Leinster's demise and Munster's hope

by Frank Schnittger Tue May 23rd, 2023 at 10:08:47 AM EST

Leinster have been hailed by many as the world's best club rugby team for some time now, an assessment which failed to take account of their failure to win a European Cup for 5 years, which is half a professional rugby player's average lifetime. True, they were beaten by a last minute try in the final in Marseilles last year, and La Rochelle were again twice within the width of a post of losing this year.  

Munster also required a last gasp drop goal to seal the deal against a largely second-string Leinster side in the Semi Final of the URC, and the loss through injury of Sexton, and during this year's final, of Ryan, Furlong and Henshaw should not be underestimated. These are the leaders of the team, and without them Leinster became increasingly defensive and negative in their mindset, hoofing the ball out of defence with no thought of a more creative (and brave) approach.

After an outstanding start, Leinster started to lose the set piece and collisions, and with that, gradually, the psychological battle as well. It can be incredibly difficult to win a rugby match if your scrum and maul defence is under pressure, if you can't win any opposition line-outs, and if you are losing the collisions and battle of the break-down as well.

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The end is Nigh?

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 5th, 2023 at 09:59:17 PM EST

I would like to open up a discussion on the future of the European Tribune. As will be obvious to regulars here, the level of participation and contribution has been in decline now for many years, since the hey day of blogging on the internet.

It's partly in line with global trends, where short form text and video based social media have been taking over from longer forms of blogging. Perhaps there is also an element of the European ideal losing its appeal, or worse, being taken for granted by younger writers.

But it's also undeniable that our user base has been ageing, dying off, and not being replaced by a younger cohort. I am now the last remaining active front-pager, and even I have started to write more for an Irish readership on Irish forums and newspapers. Even Brexit and the Ukraine war couldn't save us indefinitely.

So perhaps it is time to call it a day on a fascinating chapter in our lives that sadly is no more. Perhaps it is time to close ET down, much as it pains me to admit defeat in my efforts to keep it going. But I wouldn't want to take such a momentous step with consulting with the many who have contributed here over the years.

What does everyone remaining here think?

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NATO membership and Irish unity

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 27th, 2023 at 05:43:26 PM EST

Journalists, politicians, and political writers have a tendency to project their own political preferences onto their visions for the future, and nowhere is this more evident than when Irish writers express their visions for a united Ireland. Fintan O'Toole and Andy Pollak have frequently lamented the state of Irish society and vented their feelings about how things must change, allegedly to accommodate unionists, but in reality, to satisfy their own political preferences.

Former TD, MEP, and government Minister, Gay Mitchell is the latest to join the throng. Writing on the letter's page of the Irish Times he opines:

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A Rugby Clean Sweep to rival the Grand Slam

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 16th, 2023 at 07:02:33 PM EST

URC Round 17 Review:

Ulster 40 Dragons 19
Lions 36 Leinster 39
Stormers 24 Munster 26
Connacht 38 Cardiff 19

The Irish provinces have won clean sweeps in the URC and its previous incarnations before, but never a clean sweep, all with try bonus points, since the advent of the South African franchises. Indeed, victories in South Africa have been as rare as hen's teeth - this was Leinster's first - and let us not forget the Stormers are the reigning URC champions.

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Government will pay a heavy price for housing failures

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 12th, 2023 at 11:05:32 AM EST

Irish Independent

Government will pay a heavy price for housing failures

As a recent poll showed, Fine Gael lost the room when it ended the eviction ban. In fact, it lost the whole house. It bet the mortgage on private landlords re-entering the market if the eviction ban was lifted.

In reality, private landlords can't exit the market quickly enough when the opportunity comes. There is more money to be made in short-term lets through Airbnb or selling into the swollen property market.

The Government has a fundamental responsibility to provide the public with basic social welfare, healthcare and housing services. Instead, it has abandoned its responsibilities in favour of the private market. That market is fundamentally about maximising returns on investment.

The more scarcity, the better, as prices then rise even more. The market is not there to provide for those who cannot afford to pay those prices. The greater the homelessness, the greater the desperation of those seeking accommodation at any price.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has just drafted a private briefing note for clients advising them to sell their assets prior to the advent of Sinn Féin in Government. The current Government has just made that advice all the more urgent for private landlords.

No amount of hand-wringing will change the reality of what Fine Gael has unleashed upon the people who relied on them most. There is no substitute for actually building more houses. The housing market has been in crisis for many years and yet this Government has been incapable of responding to that crisis.

The interests of existing property owners have been prioritised over the homeless. This is in stark contrast to the national mobilisation achieved in response to the pandemic, when the interests of those most at risk were prioritised over those least likely to suffer severe consequences.

There will be a heavy political price to pay for all of this. The public expects the Government to act for the greater good of the greater number, and it has been let down.

The time for excuses for lack of leadership and delivery on the public housing issue is long gone. The Government must now deliver, or else.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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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