A DUP councillor and prominent Orangeman has spoken out strongly against the so-called “graduated response” which his party and other unionist parties launched little over a year ago.
Last July, DUP leader Peter Robinson unveiled the strategy to the media, vowing that the Twaddell issue would not be forgotten after the Tweflth and that there would be unspecified action by elected representatives “at every level – council, Assembly, Westminster and Europe”.
There was speculation at the time that the strategy — which was led by the DUP and UUP but supported by the Orange Order, TUV, PUP, Ukip and West Belfast UPRG – could involve the withdrawal of DUP ministers from the North-South Ministerial Council or even Mr Robinson’s resignation as first minister.
A joint statement said that “unionist leaders are willing to share the strain within the political process” and added that the participants “have bound ourselves together to defend our community and culture”.
But after the withdrawal of the DUP and UUP from Stormont talks about parading, the strategy quietly fell apart and the ‘graduated response’ phrase is now used in derision by many unionists and loyalists.
Now, DUP councillor George Duddy has publicly denounced the actions of the unionist politicians behind the approach and urged the Orange Order leadership to end its reliance on politicians, many of whom are not even Orangemen.
The former mayor of Coleraine, who is also the Orange Order’s Coleraine District Master, made his comments at the Twelfth on Monday but his speech was one of several not sent to the media by the Orange Order and is only coming to light now after being reported in the Coleraine Chronicle.
Mr Duddy told the demonstration: “We should be seeing from our politicians an elevation of our ‘graduated response’ to this ludicrous [Ardoyne] decision from the Parades Commission.
“However, I, like many of you standing here today, listened to unionist politicians from all the unionist parties bumbling their way through interviews when questioned about the graduated response.
“Why did they bumble? The answer is quite simple — there were no plans or strategies formulated for a graduated response. That is now very evident. Why was that? Because unionism is so fragmented they couldn’t agree. And why is that? Again, they spend more time ripping each other apart than dealing with the issue.”
Mr Duddy — who has been the subject of repeated intimidation by republicans, with his home attacked four times over the last two years — called on Grand Lodge to act decisively and added: “Stop waiting for politicians, many of whom don’t belong to the institution, from whatever party, to advise us as to what we should or shouldn’t do...we demand unionist politicians stop using this institution for soundbites for their own political gain...”
Meanwhile, the UDA-linked South Belfast UPRG — widely perceived as being at the moderate end of loyalism — has been withering about the ‘graduated response’ and said that “the fury and anger exhibited by the first minister [last year] was but a clever little soundbite designed to appease and buy time”.
In an article in the UPRG’s magazine The Loyalist, the group warned that the implosion of a strategy which loyalists were assured would produce results will have damaging consequences.
It said: “Cynicism will last and will cost us all dear. We can thank the ill-conceived ‘graduated response’ for that and wish that we had never heard of it.”