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

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.

Read more... (2 comments, 1716 words in story)

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.

Read more... (3 comments, 1684 words in story)

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:

Read more... (3 comments, 2459 words in story)

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.

Read more... (3 comments, 2111 words in story)

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:

PREAMBLE
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC, HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GRAND DUCHESS OF LUXEMBOURG, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS,


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

Read more... (28 comments, 2366 words in story)

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:

Read more... (4 comments, 2335 words in story)

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:

Read more... (13 comments, 1473 words in story)

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


Read more... (943 words in story)

Paschal Donohoe re-elected Eurogroup President

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

Read more... (12 comments, 1143 words in story)

Soaring Charges

by Frank Schnittger Sat Nov 26th, 2022 at 09:00:33 AM EST

Electric cars - charging ahead? Destroying the incentive, Sat Nov 26 2022


A chara, - They say one should never waste a good crisis and the ESB [Irish state owned Electricity Supply Board] seems intent on not doing so by adding an up to 67 per cent price increase on top of a previous 47 per cent price increase last May at public electric vehicle charge points.

This is despite a 37 per cent decrease in wholesale electricity prices since last September and a 52 per cent decrease since September 2022 and brings the cost of electricity up to a level comparable to diesel ("Electric vehicle charging to match cost of diesel after 67 per cent further hike", News, November 24th).

With electric car prices still far beyond the reach of most car buyers, this destroys the one incentive we had to go electric, the reduced cost of running one, which could offset the increased repayments required to finance the purchase.

With the purchase of electric vehicles already far below the Government targets required to achieve our greenhouse gas emissions reductions, this latest increase seems designed to sabotage any chance we ever had of meeting those targets.

Buying an electric vehicle now only makes sense if you have a private charge point and large solar panel installation, which excludes the vast majority of the population.

Once again, the Green Party seems to be asleep at the wheel with the Minister for Energy already having allowed swingeing increases in road tolls at a time of booming revenues for toll operators due to increased traffic volumes.

What planet does Eamon Ryan live on? - Is mise,

Read more... (9 comments, 452 words in story)

Unionism's learned helplessness

by Frank Schnittger Fri Nov 25th, 2022 at 11:14:31 AM EST

Letter to the Editor, Irish Times Fri Nov 25 2022.

A chara, - Newton Emerson is to be congratulated on his forensic analysis of taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar's speech to the Fine Gael ardfheis ("What Varadkar didn't say about the North in his ardfheis speech was revealing", Opinion & Analysis, November 24th).


But his analysis, written from a unionist perspective, also highlights some flaws of his own.

Apparently, it is the incoming taoiseach's responsibility to fix the protocol, complete the Narrow Water bridge project, and build a motorway through Northern Ireland to service the northwest.

All of these aspirations and projects are laudable, and should indeed be completed, but nowhere in his analysis does your columnist mention any contribution unionists might make to their realisation.

It is this sense of learned helplessness which characterises much of what passes for political debate in Northern Ireland.

It is always someone else's responsibility to resolve their problems, whether that someone else be based in London, Brussels or Dublin.

Perhaps help from these quarters would be more forthcoming and effective if unionists and others in Northern Ireland were to become more proactive in resolving their own problems?

It often seems that any help given now will only be used to prolong internal conflicts and antagonisms with almost no recognition given to the bone fide efforts of others to be of assistance. - Is mise,

Goodbye Mr. Musk

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 7th, 2022 at 06:31:02 PM EST

I have just deactivated my Twitter account. I wish I could delete it completely. I don't want to be part of the Musk rat shit show.  Perhaps I will join Mastodon or similar platform, but for the moment I don't feel a pressing need to do so. I hope I don't have to leave Facebook as well. It all depends on how they treat their employees. Firing 50% of your employees, including entire human rights and content curation teams, is not a good look. Doing so by email and shutting off employees' access to their accounts and desks overnight should just be plain illegal. I will not be part of such abusive behaviour. Goodbye Elon. I won't be buying a Tesla either!

Comments >> (81 comments)

A great result for Irish Rugby: Ireland 19 South Africa 16

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 7th, 2022 at 10:17:39 AM EST

This was another outstanding performance by the Irish team beating the World Champions and justifying their World No. 1 ranking. It was a tough grinding encounter with a lot of injuries and with the Springboks seeking to make their superior size and bulk up front tell. But Ireland never flinched from the collisions usually double jobbing with one tackler going low and another seeking to stop the momentum or target the ball.

Read more... (11 comments, 723 words in story)

A Tale of two Budgets

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 3rd, 2022 at 09:54:58 AM EST

The contrast between how the recent budgets in the UK and Ireland have been received by the markets and the general public couldn't be greater and tells us much about where the respective economies are currently at. (Let us ignore the distinction that the UK budget was officially dubbed a "Fiscal Event" rather than a formal budget. That euphemism has uncomfortable resonance with the Russian "Special Operation" rather than invasion of Ukraine).

In Britain £45 Billion in unfunded tax cuts and 120 Billion in energy price cap expenditures was greeted with dismay by the markets, who lost trust in the UK's debt expansion trajectory. The Pound slumped, shares crashed, and, most crucially, pension funds were at risk of becoming insolvent as their holdings in government debt - normally the safest of investments - went underwater.  The Bank of England was forced to intervene with an emergency programme of buying up £65 Billion in government debt from private investors now unwilling to hold it.

Read more... (18 comments, 1914 words in story)

Brexit has killed the peace process

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 2nd, 2022 at 01:07:55 PM EST

The Irish News (second letter down)

Brexit has killed the peace process

The DUP are boycotting Stormont because of their opposition to the Protocol which was actually agreed to by the UK government, parliament and people as part of Boris Johnson's fantastic oven-ready deal.

Only Westminster has the power to renegotiate the Protocol with the EU, so should the DUP not be boycotting Westminster instead? Why hold the people of Northern Ireland hostage over a Protocol to a treaty they had no hand, act or part in devising or agreeing?

The cynic might suggest the DUP's real motivation is trying to avoid having to serve with a Sinn Féin First Minister.

Their failure to do so also gives cover to the UK government's claim that their Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is necessary to protect the peace process, when in reality it is little more than a ransom payment to reward those who have kidnapped the peace process.

The truth is the hostage is now dead. Brexit has killed the peace process and loyalists are mobilising to protect the union with Britain against an emerging majority for re-unification, as shown in the recent LucidTalk poll.

The internal devolved solution to providing democratic legitimacy to Northern Ireland has failed and we are back to the bad old days of armed resistance.

Loyalist organisations have been associated with recent riots, bus burnings and a bomb threat against [Irish Foreign Minister] Simon Coveney. Recent Tory governments have a lot to answer for.

Comments >> (11 comments)

The IRA war was a failure (Extended Edition)

by Frank Schnittger Mon Aug 22nd, 2022 at 08:50:27 PM EST

[I have added a few paragraphs towards the end discussing what political gains "the War" did achieve, even if they didn't achieve their central war aim, and what the implications are for Loyalist violence now. This post is due to be published on Slugger O'Toole tomorrow, 26/08.]

Various posts on Slugger O'Toole by founding editor, Mick Fealty and many others, most recently by Brian Walker in "Leave futile arguments about equivalence aside. We all need to come clean about why the Troubles lasted so unforgivably long" have asked us to re-examine culpability for the Troubles and the need to let the healing process proceed through a truth recovery process.

Despite their best efforts, the ensuing conversations have always descended into a welter of "whataboutery" and the sins of the other side. The attribution of relative fault and guilt between the various actors in that drama is always going to be a fraught exercise. Any historical narrative will always have to weave a complex web of action and reaction which is always open to challenge.

Read more... (11 comments, 2804 words in story)

Five ways to scrap the protocol

by Frank Schnittger Sat Aug 20th, 2022 at 07:50:51 AM EST

The UK has refused to engage with extensive proposals from the EU to introduce an "Express Lane" for goods intended only for consumption in N. Ireland, and to radically reduce the amount of paperwork associated with phytosanitary controls. The Joint EU UK committee to oversee the workings of the protocol hasn't even met since last February.

Instead, the UK has gone for a "maximalist" position passing legislation in the Commons to give Ministers the power to disapply large parts of an international Treaty, remove the oversight of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and strip the N. Ireland Assembly of the power to vote on the continuance of the operation of the protocol on a regular basis.

Read more... (4 comments, 1286 words in story)

"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)
Next 20 >>

News and Views

 Februari 2023

by Oui - Feb 2, 46 comments

Your take on today's news media

 January 2023

by Bernard - Dec 31, 243 comments

Your take on today's news media


Occasional Series
Click for full list