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International Women's day

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 8th, 2018 at 09:53:07 PM EST


President McAleese opening the Muriel Boothman Centre.

The office of President of Ireland is a largely ceremonial one and not directly involved in day to day government decisions. Nevertheless, as the only directly elected national office, it carries with it considerable influence and prestige. The President is an embodiment of how Irish people see themselves and want to be seen abroad. The last three Presidents - Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and the current incumbent, Michael D. Higgins have performed their duties with considerable aplomb and have also been ardent feminists.

When my late wife, Muriel Boothman, was having considerable difficulties with her then employers, Wicklow County Council, because the information centre in the Community Education Centre she managed included leaflets from agencies which did not specifically rule out the possibility of abortion referrals abroad for women in crisis pregnancy, she heard that President Robinson was to visit our then small rural town to open a new Credit Union building. Muriel was at that time also the chair of the local women's group, which with 600 members was nearly as large as the town itself and perhaps the largest local women's community group in Ireland.

The women's network drumbeats started to roll and President Robinson was prevailed upon to also officially "open" the Community Education Centre information centre after she had been at the Credit Union. I still remember marching down the main street of our town with President Robinson and our children and several hundred supporters from the Credit Union to The Community Education Centre where Mary Robinson gave an inspirational address. Wicklow County Council was not best pleased. Some members wrote to the Attorney General asking him to prosecute my wife and information centre volunteers.

Some years later President McAleese presided at the opening of the Muriel Boothman Centre (Pictured above), named in honour of my late wife by the Clondalkin Addiction Support Programme where she had become manager following her constructive dismissal by Wicklow County Council. Her comments then on the scourge of hard drug addiction in Ireland were apt and well informed. I mention these occasions to illustrate how influential recent Presidents have been in the ongoing development of Irish society. Ireland is about to vote on the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion, a development which would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Read more... (16 comments, 1895 words in story)

BMW = Brexit Made Wonderful

by Frank Schnittger Wed Feb 28th, 2018 at 05:09:38 PM EST

Fintan O'Toole has an interesting take on why the Brexiteers think they can ultimately force the EU to give the UK what it wants in the Brexit deal:

Marxism is alive and well in British politics. The irony, though, is that its strongest influence is not in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party. It is on the Tory right. Perhaps the oddest thing about the Brexit zealots - though there is a great deal of competition for this title - is that they cling to a particularly crude form of Marxist economic determinism.

Their whole project is predicated on the belief that a cabal of capitalist bosses can issue orders that the entire European Union would rush to obey. The all-powerful clique in question is made up of the principal shareholders of Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Opel, Porsche and Mercedes.

It would be hard to overstate just how large these German industrialists have loomed in the consciousness of the Brexiteers and their media cheerleaders. They were to be Britain's saviours. It was they who would ensure that the EU would be forced to give Britain all the benefits of the single market and the customs union even after it departed from both. It was they who would provide the lubrication for the zipless, frictionless Brexit of the Leavers' dreams.

Read more... (115 comments, 1985 words in story)

The Triumph of Trumpism

by Frank Schnittger Wed Feb 21st, 2018 at 11:22:35 AM EST

Ever since the election of Donald Trump (which like many others, I didn't see coming) I have kind of lost interest in US politics. It's not as if I condemn all Americans as dumb-ass stupid. I have been to the States a couple of times in the distant past and know it is a very varied country. It has it's very conservative backwards parts, and some very progressive forward looking districts. It has lots of very poorly educated people, but also many of the most brilliant minds and innovators in the world.

Since the end of World War II, the USA has gloried in the title of "Leader of the Free World", although allying with Stalin against Hitler is a distinction without much difference. It's subsequent alliance with every nasty dictator on the planet against "communism" didn't do it much credit either. But my dispute is not so much with what the USA was, as with what it has become under Trump. Basically a country without hope. Without almost any major saving graces.

Sure, if you are lucky or smart, with the right racial/linguistic profile, you can still make your fortune there. But don't get sick. Don't "drive while black". And it helps if you are a white supremacist racist bigot. Believing in Zionism, creationism and denying climate change also helps. In general, besides McDonald's, Microsoft and Google, what positive contribution does the USA make to the world now? Dylan and Springsteen belong to a prior age. Hollywood hasn't produced an original or inspirational movie in years. Since MLK, has any US political leader provided much inspiration to the world?

Read more... (71 comments, 655 words in story)

The Case for Irexit

by Frank Schnittger Mon Feb 5th, 2018 at 09:26:59 PM EST


Nigel Farage was in Dublin over the week-end making the case for Ireland to exit the EU along with the UK at a conference organised by the Ukip-led Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the EU Parliament. Some of the participants wore "Make America Great Again" hats and also expressed support for Donald Trump.

Read more... (10 comments, 1448 words in story)

The May, The Mop, or The Mogg?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 2nd, 2018 at 11:50:40 PM EST


Theresa May, Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Boris.

As Theresa May flaps about aimlessly in the wind there is much talk within Conservative circles of deposing her. An unnamed cabinet Minister has apparently threatened to resign in a bid to force her out. Boris is continually trying to both distance and define himself by making speeches about his vision for Brexit and the wonderful opportunities it will bring. Jacob William Rees-Mogg has recently been elected Chair of an influential group of pro-Brexit Tory back-benchers and leads a poll of Tory party members of whom they would like to see succeed Theresa May - ahead of both Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

Read more... (54 comments, 548 words in story)

The EU as a transformative economic force

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 29th, 2018 at 07:01:27 PM EST

John Fitzgerald is the son of former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and a distinguished economist in his own right. Now semi-retired, he writes the occasional commentary of the performance of the Irish economy. He has an interesting take on the transformative effect of EU membership on national economic performance generally.

The economic crisis that began in 2008 affected EU members in many different ways. One of the most important was a loss of confidence among many citizens in the ability of the EU to improve their living standards.

However, even a cursory examination of the data shows that membership of the EU has helped transform the living standards of a huge number of its people.

Beginning with the 1973 accessions of Ireland, the UK and Denmark, successive waves of EU enlargement have shown similar patterns of impact for members. Initially, significant adjustment costs may have arisen. However. in the long run, access to the EU market has allowed new members to grow rapidly and to gradually catch up with the living standards of existing members.

Read more... (36 comments, 1765 words in story)

6 Nations Rugby Championship 2018

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 28th, 2018 at 01:02:26 PM EST

The 6 Nations rugby Championship starts next week-end is looking more open than ever this year, with England, the champions for the past two years and World no. 2 ranked side suffering a spate of injuries to key players. Do they have the strength in depth to cope? It could be some showdown against Ireland on St. Paddy's day!

France have been a disaster area in recent years but are never easy to beat in Paris and may get a "new coach bounce" under Brunel. They have some very exciting young players and are also very physical - they ruined Ireland's chances at the last World Cup by injuring so many of our top players.

Conor O'Shea's Italy may benefit from some glimpses of form from Treviso and Zebre and the evergreen Parisse, but do they really have the resources to be competitive? One upset win at best, would be my guess.

Wales have had their injury problems too but are never easy to beat. LLanelli Scarlets are the reigning Pro14 champions and have become the first Welsh side to qualify for the quarter finals of the European Cup in years. They seem to fancy their chances (as always!)

Gregor Townsend has Scotland playing some really attractive rugby and they beat Australia and gave the All Blacks a run for their money recently. But is their pack, depleted by injuries, strong enough to give them the front foot possession they need? Disregard them at your peril.

Ireland never seem to be comfortable in the role of favourites and it only takes one below par performance to ruin your chances. We look to have the strength in depth to cope with the loss of O'Brien, Heaslip, Jackson, Payne, and Ruddock, the exile of Donncha Ryan and Zebo, and the ageing Bowe and Trimble; but beating both France and England away is a big ask.

My prediction? Ireland to win the Championship, but perhaps not the grand slam. It's really hard to get it right all the time... but if anyone can do it, perhaps Joe Schmidt can.

Comments >> (16 comments)

Divide and Conquer?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 21st, 2018 at 09:02:11 PM EST


Britain's favourite tactic in gaining and running an empire was to divide and conquer: There was always some local comprador bourgeoisie willing to give their loyalty in return for immediate financial gain. So long as you had a superior military presence and at least some local elites on your side, subduing or marginalising those opposed to you could become a relatively straight forward process. Even a huge and populous country such as India could be governed as long as you had most of the Maharajas on your side. The fact that India, as a whole, was impoverished by the process did not detain the Imperial office unduly.

Britain  seems to think that employing similar tactics with the EU could pay similar dividends. Theresa May's recent visit to Poland with a full ministerial entourage at a time when the EU and Poland are at loggerheads over the latter's alleged violations of judicial independence sent a none-too-subtle message to Brussels: We can make a lot of trouble for you if you don't give us a good deal. Eastern European countries have an interest in remaining as close as possible to the UK's belligerent attitudes to Russia and nuclear deterrent capabilities. Boris Johnson and David Davis' "charm offensive" in Germany sought to highlight some German Industries' dependence on the UK market.

It will certainly be much more difficult for the EU to maintain the unanimity it displayed in Phase I of the Brexit negotiations when the differing national interests come into play in the trade negotiations. Germany, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Ireland, Eastern European and Mediterranean countries will all have different priorities. Macron has just become the first major European leader to visit 10 Downing St. in a long time. You know you are in trouble when even Trump displays no enthusiasm for a state visit with all the royal bells and whistles.

Read more... (39 comments, 1144 words in story)

RIP Dolores O'Riordan, Cranberries

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 16th, 2018 at 01:27:38 AM EST

Dolores O'Riordan (46), Lead Singer of The Cranberries has died.

Read more... (6 comments, 247 words in story)

Predictions for 2018

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 01:12:21 AM EST

At this time of the year we often test our prognostication skills by making some predictions for 2018.  Please add your own in the comments. Here's some to start the conversation:

  1. Brexit - becomes less and less important in EU27 countries. A poll finds that 29% of Europeans think it has happened already. No Brexit deal is agreed in 2018, with the first deal negotiated rejected by the UK Parliament or withdrawn before Parliament can reject it. UK economic growth continues to decline. May says she will deliver a red, white and blue Brexit. With British passports becoming  blue again, she has already delivered one third of her election promises.

  2. A Hollywood star will be outed for not abusing women.

  3. New CDU/SDP Grand Coalition in Germany builds alliance with Macron on an EU reform agenda. A Eurozone Finance Minister is appointed with a budget equivalent to Juncker's expense account.

  4. Trump starts a war somewhere about something in time for Mid-term elections.

  5. Trump and the Republicans lose control of Senate in Mid-Term elections undermining Trump's agenda but Democrats do their best to implement much of it anyway.

  6. Putin becomes President for life with 103% of the vote.

Read more... (41 comments, 543 words in story)

In international trade, there are no best friends

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 04:29:43 PM EST

John Bruton is a former Irish Prime Minister and EU ambassador to the USA. Like Leo Varadker, he was leader of Fine Gael, the most conservative and arguably the least nationalistic party in Ireland. Indeed he was the leader of the least nationalistic and most conservative wing of that party. So much so, that that he was dubbed "John Unionist" by his rival, Fianna Fail leader and then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, for his willingness to crack down on IRA violence and to accommodate Unionist demands on almost everything.

I give you this background to emphasise that there has been no more conservative and Anglophile figure prominent in Irish politics, and one sympathetic to both UK Conservative and DUP Unionist concerns. And yet he has some dire warnings for the UK about the difficulties they are likely to encounter in phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations:

Read more... (32 comments, 1359 words in story)

Fairytale of New York

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 22nd, 2017 at 12:05:46 PM EST

Happy Christmas to all at the European Tribune!

Lyrics

It was Christmas eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me: won't see another one
And then they sang a song
The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away and dreamed about you
Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
Where all our dreams come true.

Read more... (5 comments, 401 words in story)

Those dreary Steeples, again.

by Frank Schnittger Thu Dec 21st, 2017 at 10:44:17 PM EST

As Brexit rapidly recedes from the front pages of European newspapers I imagine that problems specific to N. Ireland will induce an even greater yawn in everyone outside Ireland and nerdy political and diplomatic circles.  Never mind that problems specific to the Irish border have already effectively meant that the UK has had to concede continued regulatory alignment with the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union post Brexit in phase 1 of the Brexit talks. This in turn rules out the Canada plus, plus, plus option and means the UK will effectively remain within the European Economic Area, whether it realises or not.

Read more... (17 comments, 1528 words in story)

Admitting a mistake

by Frank Schnittger Tue Dec 19th, 2017 at 02:24:56 PM EST

Admitting a mistake, in life as in politics, is, for many people, one of the hardest things to do. An Independent opinion poll now shows "Remainers" with a 10% lead over Brexiteers and this rises to 11% if don't knows are excluded or pushed for an answer. However most of the change of heart is amongst those who didn't actually vote in the referendum.

BMG Research head of polling, Dr Michael Turner, said: "The last time Leave polled ahead of Remain was in February 2017, and since then there has been a slow shift in top-line public opinion in favour of remaining in the EU.

"However, readers should note that digging deeper into the data reveals that this shift has come predominantly from those who did not actually vote in the 2016 referendum, with around nine in ten Leave and Remain voters still unchanged in their view.

"Our polling suggests that about a year ago, those who did not vote in the referendum were broadly split, but today's poll shows that they are now overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, by a margin of more than four to one."

So the bottom line is that Brexit remorse is predominantly among those who didn't actually vote in the referendum. Few who actually voted for Brexit have changed their minds.

Read more... (41 comments, 1218 words in story)

The changing balance of power

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 13th, 2017 at 02:10:18 PM EST

Brexit talks to be suspended if Britain goes back on its word

Brexit discussions will be suspended if British commitments in phase one talks are reneged on, EU ministers have warned.

Ministers yesterday worked, as one senior EU official put it, to "David Davis-proof" the so-called divorce commitments agreed by the UK last Friday.

In a sharp diplomatic putdown to the UK, they backed proposals which will prevent what Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and others called "backsliding" by the UK.

This was a response to weekend suggestions from Mr Davis, Britain's Brexit secretary, later repudiated, that the deal was not legally binding but aspirational.

There's a determination that what has been agreed in phase one would be properly protected and seen through and there would be no backsliding

Guidelines for the next round of talks on transition arrangements for the UK will contain explicit warnings that phase two talks will be suspended if commitments in phase one are reneged on or not "faithfully" enacted in legislation.

Never has there been a clearer indication of how the balance of power has changed in these negotiations. Ireland has plenty of historical experience of being the weaker, supplicant, party in a negotiation, and the many humiliations one has to endure in that role.

The UK may have experienced similar emotions in dealing with the USA post WWII, put if so, is still in deep denial. Having to deal with individual EU27 nations on equal terms, as part of the EU, may have been part of the motivation for Brexit. Brexiteers fondly imagined that the UK could deal with the EU27, taken as a whole, from a position of strength as it retook its place among the major independent powers in the world.

Read more... (34 comments, 1494 words in story)

Lessons learned from Phase 1 Brexit negotiations

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 11th, 2017 at 03:24:55 PM EST

I have just received a copy of a leaked internal EU negotiating team memo entitled:

"Lessons learned from Phase 1 Brexit negotiations":

  1. Never compromise. Stick to your opening negotiating position and the UK will come around in the end.

  2. It doesn't matter how ambitious or even ridiculous our opening demands, the UK is desperate for a deal.

  3. Keep May in power. She needs a deal to stay in power and the UK pro-Brexit papers will praise ANY outcome as a magnificent achievement by her.

  4. Waffle on about general principles in the talks, and then slip a lot of important detail into the actual text at the last moment. Davis is so disinterested in detail he probably won't read it anyway.

  5. Praise the UK negotiators in public as being incredibly tough opponents across the table.  The Tory press will lap it up and chalk up the results as a great victory for Britannia.

  6. Even if we get 100% of what we want, yammer on about the difficult compromises we had to make to get a deal.

  7. Set artificial deadlines whenever it suits us. The Brits will travel through the night to meet them.

  8. Keep the Irish on side. They have 100 years experience of negotiating with the Brits. Garret Fitzgerald got the Anglo-Irish deal through even after Thatcher had said "out, out, out" to every option on the table.

  9. If talks break down, blame it on the Irish.  They have form in that regard and that explanation fits neatly into existing media narratives in the UK.

  10. If the Brits threaten a no deal Brexit, call their bluff. Oh wait, we already have...

PS If we have to concede something in the negotiations to get a deal we don't really like conceding, we can always say that provision was never legally enforceable anyway and can be safely ignored. Davis has said that's ok.

Comments >> (29 comments)

Media narratives on Brexit (Phase 1) deal

by Frank Schnittger Sat Dec 9th, 2017 at 07:04:18 PM EST

I'm beginning to wonder whether we have over-estimated the power of the Brexiteers and associated media.  Here is a selection of front page headlines in UK media:

THE TIMES: "May bounces back" - May's position actually strengthened??!!?

FT: 'May's triumph blunted by Tusk warning on tough choices ahead'  ... Triumph???

Daily Mail: "Rejoice! We're on our way" - little indication that a hard Brexit has been all but ruled out

DAILY MIRROR FRONT PAGE: 'Mrs Softee' - mildly critical

DAILY TELEGRAPH: "The price of freedom" - some indication of the compromises made

The Independent highlights just how much work there still is to be done on the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU

Guardian:"Deal is done but EU warns of more delays"

EXPRESS: "Huge Brexit boost at last" 'nuff said

i:"Britain sets course for soft Brexit"

Saturday's Sun:  leads on an attack on EastEnders star Jessie Wallace - "Glass attack on TV Kat" - with a minor headline "Champagne Brexfast" welcoming an historic agreement

STAR: "Jungle `bully' Dennis gets record complaints" - no mention of Brexit

Read more... (13 comments, 654 words in story)

"Sufficient progress"

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 8th, 2017 at 12:09:45 PM EST

Brexit deal: Main points

The European Commission is to recommend to EU leaders that Brexit talks with the UK move on to the second phase after it deemed "sufficient progress" had been made, including a deal aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland.

Below are the main points of the new agreement.

  • The agreement promises to ensure there will be no hard border - including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls - and to uphold the Belfast Agreement in all its parts.

  • It makes clear the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will be leaving the customs union.

  • It leaves unclear how an open border will be achieved but says in the absence of a later agreement, the UK will ensure "full alignment" with the rules of the customs union and single market that uphold the Belfast Agreement.

  • However, the concession secured by the DUP is that no new regulatory barriers will be allowed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the permission of Stormont in the interest of upholding the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement.

The agreement also covers the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the UK contribution to the EU Budget and outstanding liabilities. The full text is available here. For the purposes of this story, I will limit comment to the section relating to Ireland and N. Ireland.

Read more... (57 comments, 1128 words in story)

Brexit means not very much at all?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 01:04:14 PM EST

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, has been delaying even a phone conversation with Theresa May, and as yet there are no plans for the two to meet, despite the fact that May is due in Brussels at some stage this week to present her final offer on Phase one issues to the EU.

It's getting to the point where no one sees much point in even meeting May any more. After all, the EU agreed a deal with her team, and then she promptly overturned it at the first sign of resistance. Juncker could be forgiven for asking her to confirm that she has achieved agreement from her cabinet and all other key players before even scheduling a meeting again.

Read more... (21 comments, 1111 words in story)

Anglo-Irish Agreement on Border strangled at birth

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 4th, 2017 at 05:57:13 PM EST

The crunch has indeed become a crisis. Agreement between the UK and Irish governments on the Irish border question was reached this morning in time for Theresa May's lunch meeting with Commission President Juncker, only to unravel when May spoke to DUP leader Arlene Foster by phone during the meeting.

Read more... (49 comments, 1019 words in story)
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News and Views

 13 - 19 August 2018

by Bjinse - Aug 13, 98 comments

Your take on this week's news

 06 - 12 August 2018

by Bjinse - Aug 7, 96 comments

Your take on this week's news

 August Open Thread

by Bjinse - Jul 30, 35 comments

How did the year already get to August thread

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