Well I have talked before about the absurdity of our  political non-talks. I have decided that behind the fluff and insubstantial waffle there is a simple evolving play going on . Collective unionism has called it a “Graduated Response”. You might call it an open sore or possibly an open sewer which is running a poisonous stream of puss into what we are loosely calling local government.

Heads were knocked together to produce an “Agreement” of sorts but it is obvious that a huge tranche of unionism does not want any kind of “agreement”. Essentially , agreement does not suit their worldview as the only group chosen to govern in a hopefully , static , non-evolving state , preferably returning it to a blissful fantasy world of pre-late 1960’s Utupoian dreams full of ice-cream licking Orangemen at the Field, swings locked up on Sundays, lanes full of wee Massey -Ferguson tractors and stooks of hay in the fields.A state of being where everyone knew their place; a version of the Chosen People ,or as they used to paint on the gable walls.. “We Are The People”. That arrogant statement seems to sum it up and rears its head in Peter Robinson’s occasional bumptious  public utterances.

Their view seems to be that if they withhold  even their physical presence from  talks with the other parties that somehow they will hold back any progress  in the direction of a “Shared”,  secular view…or any other view.. Their fear is that a shared view will mean that they will lose further political ground.That it  will eventually lead to  even further growth   of Sinn Fein’s political project . That project of uniting Ireland eventually is  naturally enough anathema to the unionist cause but it is nevertheless  a perfectly valid political project for anyone to pursue. That’s democracy in action.On an all -Ireland scale, Sinn Fein appear to be the fastest growing fruit on the political tree so they seek to retard its growth in any way possible. That’s fair enough if it is done in a political manner. Is this real politics though…or is it just a lot of little boys huffing, with their fingers in a suppurating dyke? Is there a real fear to engage in a proper political format? If you watched Sammy Wilson’s unparliamentary performance last week where he called a fellow minister “a thug” , you might conclude that he is not really taking anything very seriously at all. As the DUP’s nominal Court Jester, you might conclude that Sammy’s behaviour is only symptomatic of his party’s actual view of its political opponents  and also of the actual running of a government.

Debates on issues and projects  have been extended  at a sloth-like speed. Complete reversals on the forward march have been brought about by the breaking of promises and the reneging on already agreed projects. The DUP has been in the forefront in breaking promises. The proposed new talks are now  already being loaded down with so much additional ballast  and topics to discuss  that the ship might never be able to leave its dock.Unionism’s previous form in the Haass talks was to simply walk away from any sensible conclusions. They were caught in that unforgiving spotlight as The Men That Walked Away. The new tactic  which seeks to further complicate a process that last year left them on the brink of losing ground to sensible options on marching and flags , is a  rolling version of the debating tactic…the “filibuster”. That is what the “Graduated Response” really is.

The filibuster is a parliamentary procedure where debate is extended, allowing one or more members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is sometimes referred to as talking out a bill and characterised as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body. Apparently the term “filibuster” is derived from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, “privateer, pirate, robber” .Think about that  “robber” for a moment. The Spanish form entered the English language in the 1850s.

As a younger man , I would have heard it mentioned in history class but where it really struck a chord was in Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of Mr Smith…the everyman character he built his initial career on, in Frank Capra’s, “Mr Smith Goes To Washington”. His character’s heroic performance in which  he talks non-stop for about 24 hours, reaffirming the American ideals of freedom, made him a star.

The Graduated Response is unionism’s stab at political filibustering by another name  and route. They’ve already stymied any idea of rational debate by overloading the debating agenda with a lucky bag of unattainable wishes. They’ve already salted the ground and killed any roots of rapprochment that Sinn Fein attempted to sow with their unionist neighbours. No amount of smiley Belfast Lord Mayors or rational  statements by Martin McGuinness  will do it for them. They prefer their political enemies to be figures of hate too.They’ve even managed to turn the Alliance Party into hate figures.Their scorched- earth tactic is an attempt to go even further back in time and re-write their own history. It’s  a Year Zero scenario.  In that respect any former agreements made  twenty years ago must cease to exist. The trick is to frustrate their opponents to the point that they will be first to abandon any hope of ever dealing with them again . That in itself would be a victory for unionism , in that it would return them in a time -shift back some twenty years but without the “War” in the background…

This “Graduated Filibuster” of non-compliance with anyone ,…this robbery of rational debate… appears to be the only trick they are capable of playing….

14 Responses to MR SMITH GOES TO HELL IN A HANDCART by Harry McAvinchey

  1. Jimmy riddle October 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Truly excellent artical that lays out the current Unionist inspired mess.
    The DUP have squandered the intervening years since the GF agreement and should be vilified for it.
    They wanted peace when we had war now they want war when have peace.
    the DUP are fit for purpose.

  2. Iolar October 27, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    We all know that we moved back in time over the weekend. It is evident that some in the DUP and the OUP want to travel back further in time. What was Mr Nesbitt’s priority on 27 October 2014? He wishes to march in north Belfast. What were Mr Campbell’s priorities? He is unhappy about the name of Derry and Strabane Council. He also wants a bomb disposal unit based in Derry. All the gentlemen are doing is providing further proof that ‘normal’ politics in the north of Ireland is dysfunctional. The DUP and the OUP walked out of the Haass negotiations and now spend time preparing written papers as a substitute for political negotiations. If the gentlemen concerned travel back far enough in time, it should become apparent that the Act of Union was more of a rape than a marriage of convenience.
    Elected representatives could do worse than make progress based on the daily activities within the Health Service. It is a model based on sound scientific principles, evidence based practice, teamwork and peer review. Irrespective of whether one is a consultant or a porter, there is face to face contact with service users. It is not a perfect service given the number of management consultants and bureaucrats who are highly paid to massage statistics in order to meet dubious targets. Instead of learning from such a model, our elected representatives propose to ‘cut’ jobs and services in the name of equally dubious welfare reforms. The body politic is bleeding to death. Radical surgery is required in order to ensure the whole body recovers and lives to a ripe old age. Left to the politicians, the operation might be a success,however, I suspect the patient may die.

  3. Ruaidri Ua Conchobai October 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    You’ve done it, again!!!
    Jude, have words with this man – he needs to leave a few gaps for us poor readers to fill 🙂
    Well done, Harry

  4. Perkin Warbeck October 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    If Mr. Smith is going to hell in a handcart this indubitably marks a change in the mode of transport which recently airlifted him and all the other Wee Sommies in business class to the Sommit meeting with their Machiavellian masters on the mainland. To wit, those Tory Party smarties under the crafty chieftainship of that Califat of Camaraderie, Comrade Cameron.

    In London, they were treated to graduated tea and responsive cucumber sandwiches (oops,one almost wrote Sambos !). The tea poured into their bone-china cups was, perhaps, more Earl Grey than green. And far from having their knobbly knuckles rapped for wearing their ‘Haass Been and Gone’ tops rather had they their hairy palms tickled for Walking the Walk and for balking at talks.

    That was the chalk; now for the cheese.

    In Lesser London, aka, Dublin, the stench of rancid curds was everywhere as the Peshmerga of the Press Corps were out in force, from the Crowded House of Dail Eireann to the packed studios of RTE, and everywhere they went they brought the Cheddar with them.

    The Dublin line on the Haass Been and Gone Talks, if there is a line, and these morally superior ladies of Liffeyside, who are without sin, have far more important things to be doing, like casting the first, middle and last stones at the sinners of Sinn Fein, is: A plague on both your Crowded Houses !

    There was a delicious example of this Even-handedness of Eve in yesterday’s ‘The Week in Politics’ when a stern chairperson in the gaping shape of one, Aine Lawler barked at two of the (male) panelists: ‘Stop shouting, both of you ! It is not appropriate for two men to be shouting when a sensitive issue to do with a woman is under discussion !’.

    That fairly shut them up, the both of them. Only problem was, but one of these two gentlemen was actually doing the shouting (Tim Dooley, TD of Fianna Fail whose head, far from hanging down, was inclined upwards at a donkey angle, all the better to bray ) while the other one, the gentleman being shouted down, was in effect talking something which sounded suspiciously like sense and sensibility (Caoimhin O Caolain, TD of Sinn Fein).

    But then, Aine Lawler, another of those female wheelbarrowers with muscular forearms in RTE, knows better than to improve on Shakespeare: A plague on both your houses ! is, after all, such a neat, petite phrase. Even if its coiner was (gulp) a…… man.

    This was the most vivid example so far this season of the contemporary supremacy of the Dworkin Class in Dublin. Little wonder therefore that there are three things which poor, put upon and petrified Perkie in a long and lamb-like life has learned:

    1. Never go shopping with a Dwork.
    2. Never expect a ‘thank you’ from a Dwork if you politely hold the door open for one.
    3. Never EVER engage in argument with a Dwork or even/especially in a debate chaired by a Dwork.

    The topic under discussion on the hard-Dworkin Aine Lawlor show hardly needs any spelling out except to say it has been the smash hit of the current Dublin Season of Grand Proxopera, with its unrelentling theme of doom, gloom and the back bedrooms of Khartoum.

    Mind you, the same season has not been entirely without its lighter moments, albeit unintentional. Like when Dublin Utd (a combination of politicians and their cheerleaders in the meejitia) sanctimoniously accuse Sinn Fein of being a cult on account of the lack of dissent in its ranks.

    This is akin to Pol Pot calling Tom Kettle black.

    Or, in the immortal words of Slim Pickens: shoot ! this is such a hoot,y’all.

    Proxopera-buff Perkie has harboured one major regret during the past week’s season which has been broadcast all the way from the Teddy Bear head of the island of Ireland right down to the Roaring Water toe of same. And it is the unavoidable absence of Maria Callas, due to the minor inconvenience of death (oops! almost wrote, debt).

    Now, there was a real, genuine Trauma Queen.

    What she could have brought to the party (small p).! Who can ever forget her barney with fellow coloratura soprano, Renata Tebaldi down in Rio: ‘Comparing the great Maria Callas – me! – with that Tebaldi one is like comparing Champagne with Cognac. No, with Coca Cola’.

    Oh, how the paparazzi twittered, how they chaffed !

    And then, on the occasion when A. Onassis dumped her on her fat, erm, Onassis for the newly widowed and less hideous Jackie Kennedy: ‘Ah, she has lost a husband, but gained a…grandfather’.

    Collapse all round of stout snouts in trough, aka, the media.

    How the incomparable Maria (no fada) Callas would have wowed I Puritani of the Press on Liffeyside by duetting with the legendary leader of that uniform chorus: Tito Gobshyte.

    Everywhere La Diva went she definitely brought the Cheddar with her, so much so that not only was every door opened for her but remained open even after she had entered it.

    Nothing will convince the punctilious of ear, Perkie, that this Prima Dona of Orthodoxy (Greek) wasn’t tailor made of the starring role in the current Dublin Grand Proxopera Season. Most discerning music critics sing from the same hymn sheet when assessing the ‘homogenous colour and eveness of scale so prized in her singing’.

    They are all in unanimous agreement – and this is the kicker – ‘that her uppermost notes seemed produced by….ventriloquism’.

    No, Maria Callas was never destined to walk through the Garden where the Praties grow (ie the Free Southern Stateen), my boys, without the Grecian bed nor was she destined to wear a chignon.

    Sad, alas, but true, oh, so true.

  5. Antonio October 27, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    According to the secretary of state today there have been constructive talks over the last two weeks or so. She says this despite Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance party and even the Ulster unionists saying the opposite. The UUP have said they had arranged a meeting with the DUP and the the DUP failed to turn up.
    It seems Villiers and the Tories are looking ahead to the election next year when, in the event of a hung Parliament, they could need DUP support to maintain a government. And so there will probably be no agreement between our Stormont parties on all these issues they have been bickering about for years while the British government plays the Orange card rather than act as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement – when they basically agreed to stop aligning themselves with the Unionists for their own selfish ends.

    • paddykool October 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      That’s it Antonio…The Tories will forget …as will a generation here who have no memory of the conflict…how it was their constant political manipulation that kept the pot boiling for selfish short term reasons .It ended when they declared a “neutrality”….under a Labour Government…..but they’ll use the DUP if need be and by so doing , become partisan.The unionists know too that the Irish Government were supposed to be equal guarantors of the Agreement, but hat has become not as easy uto sustain in face of the rise of Sinn Fein and the demise of the SDLP.None of them foresaw that scenario when they made those deals.The Tories will spit out the DUP if it suits though.

  6. BaldyBapTheBarber October 27, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Bravo Harry!!

    This is a great assessment of political unionism. They see every compromise as a loss – so much so that they’ve decided not to compromise at all now. It’s zero sum politics for them. The “Graduated Filibuster” is as fine a descriptor as I’ve heard for the unionist position.

  7. ben madigan October 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    @ Paddy – very nice article, right on target,
    @ Antonio “the British government plays the Orange card rather than act as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement”
    Yet another double role for Westminster – the old 3 card trick!
    The old Stormont, the original devolved parliament, was officially subject to Westminster but a parliamentary convention stated no NI business was to be discussed in Westminster.

    Westminster was historically the English parliament, then it became the UK parliament, but given the preponderance of English votes, something like 6-1 for the devolved nations, it is still the English parliament, governing all in the UK.

    To get back to the original post – in face of an implacable NO most people walk away as they realize they will not get what they wanted, the job, the bloke, the girl, promotion etc.and make other choices. Since that’s not an option in this situation, how long will the DUP/orange order “stonewalling” be permitted to continue to hold up progress for the people in NI? How can it be circumvented?

    PS The “stone-walling” or as it’s called today “graduated response” is just another aspect of the orange order’s lust for power and domination. Just look at how many Unionist MLAs across the spectrum of Unionist opinion, are members of the OO or affiliated organizations

  8. ANOTHER JUDE October 27, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Six north east counties are STILL saying No! Well, the Unionist representatives are. The IRA campaign was waged because we were told the north was irreformable, only in an united Ireland could Nationalists/Catholics gain true freedom and equality. Then we thought, hang on a minute, the Unionists are reasonable people, they might be obsessed with Rome but they are sensible. Unfortunately, the last few years show they are NOT reasonable, they want it all. People like Sammy and Gregory were told as children that they were `the people`, superior, not a bit like the taigs, How to remove that mindset, THAT is the question.

  9. neill October 28, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    Its clear to see that Harry spends little time with Unionists or perhaps more tellingly has no knowledge of Unionists.

    Its deeply ironic that no mention was made by the author of this blog of welfare cuts which both the Nationalist parties are against this is what is forcing the Stormont Govt. to breaking point still it is always easy to attack your political opponents rather than looking at your own faults….

    Just look at how many Unionist MLAs across the spectrum of Unionist opinion, are members of the OO or affiliated organizations

    How many SF MLAS were in the IRA? Dont you just love whataboutery…; )

    • paddykool October 28, 2014 at 10:21 am #

      Neill, This has nothing to do with welfare cuts…or gamesmanship…You’ll notice that unionists are not being laughed at simply because they are “unionists” per se .That’s a perfectly reasonable political position, just as a nationalist’s aspiration to unite the country is a perfectly legitimate aspiration too….No … They are being critiqued because they have stymied political movement of any kind . These talks are just part two of the same talks we had this time last year. They walked away from them . you can’t really do politics if you walk away from them, can you? Here we are a year later….
      The unionists have stacked the deck this time around to further slow a political conclusion or answer …down to a standstill. That is what we are laughing at . Politicians who refuse to do politics…whatever next?n…Now it would be all the same to me if it was nationalists behaving like this …I’d simply find that very funny. Laugh out loud funny…or shouting at the radio funny…. Politicians really are strange little creatures ….Then again, I might have a very strange or maybe a very highly -developed sense of humour…who knows?

      • neill October 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

        Why should any Unionist help Nationalist parties promote their agenda? I see very little from any Nationalist party when it comes to give and take?

        Remember Haas was turned down by the Alliance party as well would you have expected SF and the SDLP to have simply accepted the Haas talks if they hadn’t got what they wanted?

        Typical double standards still its only unionists that are capable of that though…: )

        • paddykool October 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

          Well Neill , from what I read, heard and remember, at that moment in time The Official Unionists were nearly there with the talks ..something like 80-90 % was talked about. Sinn Fein wasn’t entirely happy but thought it was a document that was a good basis to work on .As far as Alliance were concerned, The Alliance leader and justice minister David Ford , singled out the unionist parties’ failure to support a legally binding code of conduct on loyalist marches as one of the main reasons for failure of the talks.
          Ford said: “On parades new structures have been proposed. But the real issue with parades was never about structures – the problem was behaviour. The desperate attempts by the unionist parties to resist an effective code of conduct for marchers and protesters showed that very clearly”. . “If the attitude to flags is anything to go by,{and remember , Alliance only wanted what is the norm already in the UK for flag flying}…. we don’t hold out much hope, because the biggest disappointment of this process has been the refusal to face up to the issue of flags.” That was it in a nutshell. They wanted to fly more flags than anywhere else in the UK.I would call that a wee bit crazy.
          Talks chairman Haass and his co-chair Meagan O’Sullivan were unable to persuade the parties to accept the seventh draft of a 38-page agreement on flags, marches and the past.
          You can’t say the man didn’t give us all his best shot but the fact is there wasn’t the will or the political skill to solve the problems and that ball landed squarely in the unionist’s court.. they took it home with them and don’t want anyone else to play with it…… so here we are a year later.Any new ideas, Neill.?

  10. Neill October 28, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    I only wish I did Paddy it seems we all know what the problems are its the solutions that seem to be the hard part