Apologies and the historical narrative

Danny Morrison argues that apologies are sometimes welcome and can have their place in averting to instances of past injustice. But he believes there are certain political facts that cannot be wished away or apologised for.

He takes as an example:

…there will never be a ‘proper apology’ for the British conquest of Ireland – which has bequeathed us our current difficulties. Nor will unionist leaders properly apologise for unionism’s systemic mistreatment of nationalists under Stormont, or for their many apologias for state violence which in turn helped fuel the IRA campaign.

But he also suggests there are some things that politicians are unlikely ever to be caught apologising for:

To repent, to repudiate the legitimacy of one’s past is to risk invalidating the legitimacy of one’s current position. To surrender the historical narrative to the enemy is to weaken one’s position and surrender political opportunity to the enemy.

  • Fraggle

    Great link Mick. It seems to give backdoor access to all Daily Irleand content.

  • smcgiff

    ‘To surrender the historical narrative to the enemy is to weaken one’s position and surrender political opportunity to the enemy.’

    That’s politics, but it’s also wrong to expect an apology for those now present for the ‘sins of their fathers’.

    Who would it serve anyway? Who would they apologise too? Those that were conquered are long dead and cannot be compensated in material terms or even platitudes.

  • peteb

    By way of a comparison to Morrison’s meanderings…

    Blogged here at the weekend:

    Diarmaid Ferriter’s article from the Irish Times at the weekend in which he argues –

    Present-day political sensibilities should not be the basis for demanding apologies from contemporary politicians for the perceived sins of their political ancestors – Apologies for past not the answer

  • maire

    I just feel that Tony Blair and the British government should not stop at the Conclons in terms of saying sorry what about the families who have lost loved ones through state sponsored collusion
    An Fhrinne families should get the same treatment

  • alex s

    I just feel that Tony Blair and the British government should not stop at the Conclons in terms of saying sorry what about the families who have lost loved ones through state sponsored collusion
    An Fhrinne families should get the same treatment

    Posted by: maire
    What about an apology from those who planted the bomb?

  • Davros

    An Fhrinne families should get the same treatment

    Why ?

  • Friendly Fire

    How can Blair apologise for people who were given a trial, found guilty, incarcerated, appealed (quite a few times) and were found to be totally innocent of all charges, when at the same time, there are people incarcerated without trial at Belmarsh under his watch?

    Is he pandering to the Irish vote in the Election?

    This stinks of spinshit.

  • Jimmy Sands

    An interesting sidebar: according to yesterday’s times, the Lord Chief Justice post becomes vacant today. They say Blair wants to appoint the Attorney-General. The judges believe a politician would be inappropriate. The favourite up to now has been the current #2, the improbably-named Lord Justice Judge. Hitherto his main claim to fame is that he was counsel for the Crown at the trial of the Birmingham 6. Not that anyone would dream of dragging this all up again.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Sorry, I meant “this year” rather than “today”

  • Rick

    Tony Blair is nobody’s fool.

    He realizes that he bolsters at least some marginal political capital for himself in the Republican community by apologizing for the past actions of his government in the case of the Guilford Four. He sensed that the timing was right to speak up publicly and he took the opportunity. I think he is sincere, in addition to being politically expedient.

    Morrison’s analysis is correct in that apologizing does risk invalidating one’s current position. However, unlike the case of the Guilford Four where the invalidity of its current position was demonstrated overwhelmingly 16 years ago, Britain will never invalidate its current position of authority in Northern Ireland while it remains obligated to resolve a longstanding situation it had helped to create. My sense it would be only after the people of NI ever get their own self-government and peacefully decide to either gain their independence or join ROI that Britain will utter sentiments to NI similar to those stated to the Guilford Four.

  • maire

    DAVROS

    Why not the An Fhirinne families do they not deserve the same consideration to state sponsored collusion. What about all the people who were wrongly interned by the British do they not deserve an aquitall. The idea of reconciliation is a joke if it is only aimed at certain people. It should opened to all.

  • Davros

    No need to shout maire.

    Those who got their ( ridiculously) belated apologies had a very different case for demanding an apology from those in An Fhirinne. Anybody whose loved one was proved to have been killed via collusion should get an apology. But you are assuming that because those in an fhirinne claim to have been victims of state collusion that they ARE victims. That’s my problem with your call. The courts cleared those involved in Blair’s apology.
    An fhirinne’s claims are no different from all the other unsubstantiated claims – from The IRA involvement in the Northern Bank Robbery to claims that Gerry was in the IRA.

  • maire

    Sorry Davros did not realise shouting.

    With regards to the :
    unsubstantiated claims – from The IRA involvement in the Northern Bank Robbery to claims that Gerry was in the IRA.

    A bit dramatic do u not think? Well what if the Bloody Sunday Tribunal finds that the people involved were inccoent. Do they apologies from the Government including the British Army?

  • Davros

    Maire- those wronged deserve apologies.I signed the Conlon petition and passed it on.

    “unsubstantiated claims – from The IRA involvement in the Northern Bank Robbery to claims that Gerry was in the IRA.”

    A bit dramatic do u not think?

    I don’t think so. They all come under the “everybody knows that” category as yet unproven and/or which are hotly denied.

  • ShayPaul

    The prime minister is wrong in apologising.

    This is a judicial matter, and politics are supposedly separated from the judiciary in the UK.

    Or is this admission that this is not the case in reality ?

    If that is so, he should apologise for repeated political interference by politicians in the judiciary system, which he will not do of course.

  • Davros

    Shay – surely the Justice system is a part of the state and it was on behalf of the state that Blair was apologising rather than any political party ?

  • ShayPaul

    Nope

  • willowfield

    …there will never be a ‘proper apology’ for the British conquest of Ireland – which has bequeathed us our current difficulties.

    What a dick. Why would there be an apology for something that was a quite normal and unremarkable event 800 years ago? He may as well ask for an apology by the Gaels for invading Ireland; or by the French for the Norman invasion of England; or by the Danish for Viking raids; or by the Turks for the Seljuk Turk invasions; or by the Moroccans for the Moorish invasions …

  • Davros

    Or an apology from Dáil for invasions and colonisation of parts of Scotland, England and Wales ….

  • ShayPaul

    I suppose we will now proceed to investigate the Special branch officers that fabricated evidence and suppressed contradictory information.

    Prosecutions to follow ?

  • Davros

    I would hope that investigations have already started Shay.

  • ShayPaul

    Hope is a wonderful thing.

  • Biffo

    Willow

    “…there will never be a ‘proper apology’ for the British conquest of Ireland – which has bequeathed us our current difficulties.

    What a dick. Why would there be an apology for something that was a quite normal and unremarkable event 800 years ago? He may as well ask for an apology by the Gaels for invading Ireland; or by the French for the Norman invasion of England…”

    The British only conquered Ireland 400 years ago and it was obviously a remarkable event as it’s still causing problems here. Learn some history!