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

"Fixing" the N. Ireland Protocol

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 12th, 2022 at 11:15:41 PM EST

 
Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist party, has recently had two articles published here and here on Slugger O'Toole, the leading independent political blog in N. Ireland. In them he makes all the right noises about having the courage the make the right decisions, rather than the popular ones, and working together for the betterment of all living and working in Northern Ireland.

But his articles are also a policy free zone, making no specific proposals for moving the current impasse over the protocol forward, and blaming the DUP and Sinn Fein for the current dysfunctionality of N. Ireland politics. He is in danger of getting a reputation for talking the talk, while making no positive contribution to the lives of ordinary people whatsoever.

So I have taken it upon myself to suggest to him one positive action he could take which might also restore some credibility and relevance to the Ulster Unionist Party he leads. I am not waiting with baited breath to see him action my proposal, but at least it has the merit of calling his bluff.

Read more... (8 comments, 1349 words in story)

Less Truss than Trump

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 3rd, 2022 at 11:34:17 PM EST

It is difficult to imagine a British Prime Minister even more shallow than Boris Johnson, but Liz Truss seems determined to pull off that trick. Wearing costumes straight out of the Margaret Thatcher wardrobe, she is now channelling Trump by hurling insults at her political opponents.

Labelling Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, an "attention seeker best ignored", and Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, as a "low energy version of Jeremy Corbyn" she has probably added a few percentage points to the the potential pro-independence votes in both countries.

Read more... (4 comments, 559 words in story)

Planning for a United Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Mon Aug 1st, 2022 at 01:45:13 PM EST

I had the pleasure of attending the John Hewitt summer school in Armagh last week. It is named after a deceased radical protestant poet in N. Ireland and hosts talks on the arts, culture and politics. One contributor was Andy Pollak, and you can read an account of his talk entitled "The South is not ready for unification" here, where it is getting a fairly ferocious response.

I felt that Andy was at least half right in his analysis, and deserving of a more balanced critique. I thus felt inspired to write the response below:

Read more... (20 comments, 3398 words in story)

Will Sinn Fein Bail Boris Out?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 15th, 2022 at 07:23:17 PM EST

The UK government, including Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Attorney General Suella Braverman have justified the anti-Protocol Bill on the grounds that it is necessary to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to pre-empt loyalist violence. It will do this, apparently, by coaxing the DUP into the assembly which was only elected weeks ago.

However, there is no suggestion it will persuade the DUP to actually allow the formation of an executive, which would entail it losing the First Minister post and another Ministry under the d'Hondt formula because of the seats it lost in the election. According to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, this is dependent on the legislation actually being passed, something which could take well over a year, assuming all intervening parliamentary hurdles can be cleared.

Read more... (14 comments, 1271 words in story)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 10th, 2022 at 10:01:48 AM EST

Boris Johnson is reported to be delaying the publication of the Bill to over-ride parts of the protocol until such time as the DUP agree to the election of a Speaker in the Assembly. The DUP is refusing to proceed until they see the contents of the Bill and ensure that it directly over-rides the Protocol and doesn't merely give the power to Ministers to do so at some stage of their choosing.

Read more... (15 comments, 675 words in story)

The Teflon de Pfeffel Johnson

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 6th, 2022 at 10:00:12 PM EST


Theresa May was gone within 6 months of having won a vote of confidence by a greater margin than Boris Johnson (63% vs. 59% support). But under the Tory Party rules, he cannot now be challenged in a vote of confidence for another 12 months, regardless of how badly the Tories do in the meantime.

A large majority, c. 170 of the 211 who voted for Johnson, are on his payroll and beholden to him for their jobs. It can be remarkably difficult to persuade people of the necessity of a certain course of action when their salaries depend on their not acknowledging that necessity. And, of course, the normal rules of political accountability don't apply to Boris Johnson.

Read more... (4 comments, 634 words in story)

Irish Neutrality and military alliances

by Frank Schnittger Tue May 24th, 2022 at 01:22:29 AM EST

The Irish Times: Neutrality and military alliances

A chara, - It has often been noted that generals tend to fight the battles of today with the weapons and strategies of the last war. Russia may be finding this out to its cost in the Ukraine.


Critics of Ireland's policy of neutrality and relative lack of military capability tend to call for us to join Nato or else to expend many billions of euro on fighters, tanks and ships to develop an independent capability to defend ourselves. /cont.

Read more... (48 comments, 1336 words in story)

Time to wield the big stick

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 18th, 2022 at 10:43:24 AM EST

The Boris Johnson government has once again signalled its intention to break international law and its treaty obligations to the EU by introducing domestic legislation to over-ride parts of the protocol and to annul the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over protocol related matters. This is in addition to its current unilateral and illegal extension of grace periods on protocol implementation and its failure to honour agreements on data sharing and building facilities for goods inspections.

Read more... (7 comments, 590 words in story)

N. Ireland Protocol receives democratic mandate

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 9th, 2022 at 12:03:50 PM EST


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and his party are ignoring the democratic mandate of voters in the North.

The Irish independent has published my letter pointing out that the Protocol now has a democratic mandate in N. Ireland. Democracy needs to precede tribal bias against protocol

[Update] The Irish Times has now published the letter as well - and their sub-editor didn't mess with the text, so it reads better. (Fourth letter down).

Read more... (20 comments, 384 words in story)

Expelling Russia

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 7th, 2022 at 11:20:41 AM EST


A Russian TV station this week broadcast video simulating the effect of nuclear weapons being detonated off the coast of Ireland, in a report introduced by Dmitry Kiselyov (pictured)

What more provocation do we need before we break off diplomatic relations with Russia?

Read more... (60 comments, 341 words in story)

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

by Frank Schnittger Tue May 3rd, 2022 at 08:19:33 PM EST

Voters in N. Ireland go to the polls on Thursday 5th. of May to elect a new Legislative Assembly. The election takes place on the same day as local elections in Britain which could prove disastrous for the Tories, as it represents the voters first chance to vent their disapproval of "Partygate", high inflation, and endemic Tory cronyism and corruption.

In N. Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their allies in the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party and loyalist paramilitaries have tried to make the Protocol to the UK/EU Withdrawal Treaty the main issue. They even collapsed the last Executive (aka N. Ireland devolved government) over the issue and have threatened not to allow a new Executive to be formed unless the Protocol is scrapped or radically reformed.

They claim the Protocol creates a sea border between Britain and N. Ireland, and thereby diminishes their "Britishness". The fact that it also gives  N. Ireland preferential access to the Single Market many in Britain would die for gets lost in the waves of emotion they have created around the issue.

Read more... (27 comments, 1303 words in story)

Hungary and the EU

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 6th, 2022 at 11:38:39 PM EST

The Irish Times: Hungary and the EU

A chara, - Hungary and Serbia have just elected Putin allies into government. That is their democratic right, even if the elections weren't conducted by fully democratic means. However, there is no reason why the EU should tolerate a state of affairs whereby EU money is funnelled to the cronies of oligarchic leaders who give aid and comfort to our enemies. Any discussions about Serbia joining the EU should now end.


The EU should also invite Viktor Orban to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU. Failing that, the EU should trigger the enhanced cooperation mechanisms for fully supportive and democratic EU member states. A bit like the Euro Group, which only includes euro zone members, these mechanisms enable further cooperation between willing states over and beyond what countries like Hungary are willing to support.

Any incremental EU spend should only be directed through this "new enhanced cooperation" EU. Gradually, as the "new" EU develops, it can shed the "old" EU, Hungary included, as so much dead skin. The current EU budget could be the last, with all new shared funding being directed through the new EU. The new EU should also have greater enforcement powers for European Court of Justice decisions, and more use of weighted majority voting, to prevent one or two members holding the rest to ransom.

It's time we stopped faffing around with would-be dictators who undermine the democratic freedoms of EU citizens. When it comes to an existential crisis like Ukraine, we need to be clear on who is for and against the development of a greater and more democratic EU. It is clear that Putin (who supported Brexit) and his supporters are now our enemies. It's time the whole structure and membership of the EU reflected that. - Is mise,

Discuss...

Comments >> (12 comments)

Russian war aims in Ukraine

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 4th, 2022 at 06:23:45 PM EST

As the Ukraine war progresses there has been much confusion over what Russia's real war aims are especially as these appear to have changed as the realities of fierce fighting on the ground have caused them to re-group. Yesterday RIA Novosti, a Russian state media outlet, published a lengthy piece by Timofey Sergeytsev entitled What should Russia do with Ukraine outlining their war aims. (h/t - Andy Thornton). What follows below  are some of the highlights in an English translation of the full article.

Read more... (61 comments, 402 words in story)

The determinants of N. Ireland's political future

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 22nd, 2022 at 05:12:15 PM EST

Debate about the constitutional future of N. Ireland tends to revolve around internal factors like demographic trends, relative economic advantage, and the dysfunctional state of current political arrangements. But N. Ireland doesn't exist in a vacuum and may also be subject to the influence of trends in global, European, British and Irish politics and economics more generally. In this discussion I want to focus on these external factors, and their influence on N. Ireland, rather than on the economic, social and political changes that are taking place within N. Ireland itself.

These external factors may be broadly summarised as follows:

1.    Economic and political globalisation
2.    The growing heft and influence of Ireland and the Irish diaspora.
3.    Economic integration and "Ever closer union" within the EU
4.    The rise of English, Scottish and Welsh nationalism
5.    A return to "the sick man of Europe" for the post Brexit UK economy?

Read more... (10 comments, 3805 words in story)

A "Cleary Defensive" Deployment

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 1st, 2022 at 01:00:59 AM EST

War in Europe - Russia's assault on Ukraine (Seventh letter down)

A chara, - We are indebted to our MEPs Mick Wallace, Clare Daly, Luke "Ming" Flanagan, and Sinn Féin's Chris MacManus for voting against a European Parliament motion condemning the Russian build-up of troops on the Ukrainian border, a vote which was passed by 548 to 69. Mick Wallace and Clare Daly justified their vote on the basis that the Russian troop deployment was "clearly defensive". Perhaps Mick Wallace and Clare Daly could treat us to another one of their famous taxpayer-funded "fact-finding" missions to Kiev to see how Russia's self-defence deployment there is going. No doubt Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will greet them with open arms and show them at first-hand what a Russian defensive deployment looks like. - Is mise,

Read more... (120 comments, 511 words in story)

Mary Walshe

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 17th, 2022 at 10:33:24 AM EST

To Mary Walshe:
Goodbye my good friend,
You, who came from a very different place
And went your own way
Even further away
You were a friend to my wife
Who became mine for a while
When she passed away
To a better place
I was grieving her loss
Unable to see very far
And when you went to Chicago
I couldn't follow you there
We spoke for a while
In desultory calls
As the links slowly dissolved
Between your world and mine
You seemed troubled there
Unsure of your place
Your principles destroyed
By the need to survive
You wanted your space
So I let go of you then
And I haven't followed you since
Though you remain in my thoughts
I hope you have found
The peace that eluded you here
As a comet in the night sky
Passes us both
As our connections are lost
in a cloud of cosmic dust
as our feelings of trust
have moved on to the heavens
and so I say goodbye
to my long lost friend.

Comments >> (2 comments)

The Benefits of Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Sun Feb 6th, 2022 at 03:09:53 PM EST

The `benefits' of Brexit

On the same day that Boris Johnson was dismissing multiple calls on him to resign after Sue Gray's "Partygate" synopsis, the UK's cabinet office quietly slipped out a 105 page document called "The Benefits of Brexit". It was almost as if it didn't want anyone to read how exactly Britain was "capitalising" on its exit from the EU. So which dividends was it trumpeting?

Read more... (12 comments, 1043 words in story)

Clever devices

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 4th, 2022 at 01:46:14 PM EST

Published in the Irish News as its lead letter:

‘Clever devices' may not be the sole preserve of Donaldson's DUP

Writing in the Irish Times, Newton Emerson notes that Jeffrey Donaldson has brought in [former DUP leader] Peter Robinson as an adviser, as he is allegedly good at coming up with "clever devices". (When will the DUP level with the public? Opinion & Analysis, 27th. January). The new strategy apparently involves the DUP collapsing the institutions after the May assembly election if they don't get their way on the Protocol. However, clever devices may not be the sole preserve of the DUP. /cont.

Read more... (4 comments, 463 words in story)

My Bloody Sunday

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 30th, 2022 at 03:31:09 PM EST

I'm republishing this diary, first published in 2010, on the 50th. anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the worst atrocities which kick started the war in N.Ireland.

(Now also available on Booman and in Orange where a member of the family of one of those killed has commented).

Bloody Sunday was for me one of those life defining events, to be remembered a bit like the day JFK was assassinated, Nelson Mandela was freed, and I first heard Neil Young's "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush" holed up in some Lexington, Virginia attic after some kind students had offered me a lift and a place to stay for the night as I was hitch-hiking my way down the east coast of America in 1973.

I was a student in Trinity College Dublin at the time of Bloody Sunday in 1972, not very happy with myself, my course, or the world into which I had been born. The world seemed to be a place where the powerful did more or less as they pleased, and the little people always got squashed. Paratroopers firing dum-dum bullets at unarmed civil rights marchers seemed to capture that feeling perfectly. I was enraged, and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Read more... (6 comments, 2119 words in story)

My Bloody Sunday 1972

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 30th, 2022 at 03:28:26 PM EST

I'm republishing this diary, first published in 2010, on the 50th. anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the worst atrocities which kick started the war in N.Ireland. (Now also available on Booman and in Orange where a member of the family of one of those killed has commented).

Bloody Sunday was for me one of those life defining events, to be remembered a bit like the day JFK was assassinated, Nelson Mandela was freed, and I first heard Neil Young's "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush" holed up in some Lexington, Virginia attic after some kind students had offered me a lift and a place to stay for the night as I was hitch-hiking my way down the east coast of America in 1973.

I was a student in Trinity College Dublin at the time of Bloody Sunday in 1972, not very happy with myself, my course, or the world into which I had been born. The world seemed to be a place where the powerful did more or less as they pleased, and the little people always got squashed. Paratroopers firing dum-dum bullets at unarmed civil rights marchers seemed to capture that feeling perfectly. I was enraged, and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Read more... (25 comments, 2129 words in story)
Next 20 >>

News and Views

 August 2022

by Bernard - Aug 1, 123 comments

Your take on this month's news

 July 2022

by Bernard - Jul 1, 226 comments

Your take on this month's news


Occasional Series
Click for full list