Filibuster: (noun) an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures.
The word originates in words of piracy, such as the French ‘flibustier’, the Spanish ‘filibustero’ and the Dutch ‘vrijbuiter’, all etymologically equivalent to ‘freebooter’. The 1939 movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington‘, directed by Frank Capra (nominated for two oscars for this movie), stars Jimmy Stewart, in his patented role of a young naif, this time oscar-nominated as a newly elected Junior Senator Jefferson Smith. The climax of the movie is a filibuster staged by Mr Smith in the Senate so that there would be enough time to expose the corruption of his mentor, Senator Joseph Harrison Paine, played by the also oscar-nominated Claude Rains.
I have already commented on the slow progress of the Defamation Bill, 2006 (Department of Justice | Oireachtas (pdf)) and the number of red herrings in the debate, and concluded that it had become increasinlgy unlikely that the Bill would be enacted before the election. Now, from yesterday’s Order of Business in the Seanad (html | pdf to follow | Irish Times report (sub req’d)), a cynical explanation: a filibuster! From the debate:
Senator Brian Hayes (FG): I have a query about No. 7 on the Order Paper, the Defamation Bill 2006. I have been watching progress of the Bill in recent days and weeks from my office and wish to know if there is an organised filibuster to talk the Bill out to ensure it will never reach the Statute Book. I make this comment because there was a very genuine call in the House yesterday from a member of the Leaderâ€™s party, Senator Cox, for a debate on a very important issue on which we would all have something to say. Time could be set aside to discuss current issues such as this rather than talking out a Bill if the intention of the Government is that it will never see the light of day. Will the Leader of the House indicate if it is the intention of the Government to progress the legislation by the end of the session? Even if it progresses in this House by then, it will never see the light of day in the other House. … We should stop the sham and say it as it is. … I would genuinely make the point to the Leader of the House that if it is not the intention of the Government to progress the legislation … we should remove it from the Order Paper altogether. …
Senator Paul Coghlan (FG): Senator Brian Hayes was correct in his comments on the Defamation Bill. Whatever the reasons, it is going nowhere and is not intended to reach the other House this side of the recess. I look forward to hearing the Leader’s explanation.
Surely our political masters are not that Machiavellian? The government parties are united behind this Bill, aren’t they? After all, what do they have to fear from enacting it? Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Leader of the House, Senator Mary O’Rourke (FF) denied the filibuster [update (23 March 2007; 17:24): John O’Dowd, in a comment to the previous message, has the relevant quotes], but, in the absence of a Senator Jefferson Smith, there was no-one to speak in favour to the Bill.