Some believe the Irish government committed to MLE as part of a campaign to place Ireland at the forefront of the e-commerce revolution. If that was the dominant objective, it invites scrutiny as a €35m marketing expense.
I didn't feel that MLE was trying to collaborate with Irish researchers--even though part of the MLE start-up package was flogged as being a spark for post-graduate collaboration. Instead, MLE came across as being in the hunt for major commercial sponsors. That was always going to be a difficult sales pitch because few Irish companies will give away €50,000 to €200,000 for pure research.
Years after its launch to great fanfare, the surrounding neighbourhood still has acres of boarded-up buildings and the tradition of pavement merchants on Thomas Street continues unabated. They hardly knew MLE anyway--not their kind of people.
As the memory of MLE fades, those left standing in its shadows will have the story to tell. It's a story where the Irish Department of Education failed to take the bait. It's a story where the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment politiely deferred. It's a story that the Department of the Taoiseach wrote almost single-handedly. And because it was written, edited and funded at the top, it remained in play until the petty cash fund was depleted. Let's hope the story that rises from the ashes of MLE is one that can be sustained by well-funded dynamic research.