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….