Mick has already noted the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain’s apology, “on behalf of both Northern Ireland and Wales to say that we’ve had our part to play in the slave trade.” But as the Newsletter notes, the NIO are already clarifying his comments noting that the event was organised by the Wales Office and that “In his speech he acknowledged that Northern Ireland ports were closed to slavery and the role this played in opposing it,” he said. “That was the specific point he raised in relation to Northern Ireland.”.. which doesn’t exactly match the available quotes. More than that, the Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the issue of the slave trade in November.. but he stopped short of an apology. Updated below the fold More Adds A somewhat less than critical BBC Wales report [RealPlayer video] ‘While another BBC report adds some historical perspectiveWhat Prime Minister Tony Blair said
It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time. Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was – how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.
What Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain has said
Mr Hain, who addressed an event on slavery, told BBC Wales: “I’m here on behalf of both Northern Ireland and Wales to say we have had a part to play in the slave trade.
“We acknowledge that. We take responsibility for it and we now are going to try and at least say that historical legacy must be recognised and we are sorry for it.” [added emphasis]
“In his speech he acknowledged that Northern Ireland ports were closed to slavery and the role this played in opposing it,” he said. “That was the specific point he raised in relation to Northern Ireland.” [added emphasis]
Peter Hain has form when it comes to apologising.. having previously apologised for the Labour Party at the highest levels.. for imposing an all-woman shortlist on the constituency of Blaenau Gwent in the 2005 general election
That was, probably, authorised.. whether this latest apology is just another example of Peter Hain winging it in the ongoing campaign for the post of deputy leader of the Labour Party isn’t clear.. and still no confirmation on whether he’s planning to apologise for someone else’s actions, again, next weekend..
Of course, there are other examples, where he was directly responsible, for which he refuses to apologise..
Update According to Sean O’Driscoll’s report in the Belfast Telegraph – no actual text of the speech yet.
Northern Ireland traders made huge profits from slavery before Ireland eventually closed its ports to “one of the most shameful enterprises in the history of humankind”, Secretary of State Peter Hain has told an audience in New York. [added emphasis]
[Northern Ireland traders made profits before Ireland closed its port?.. hmmm – Ed]
Mr Hain said that he was proud to learn that Ireland closed its ports to the slave trade and noted that when Britain banned the trade, it gave compensation for the lost earnings of slavers without compensating the slaves.
He said that because Britain and Ireland profited from the slave trade, they needed to speak out against modern day bonded labour and human trafficking. [added emphasis]
Perhaps he’d like to apologise for Ireland while he’s at it, then..
Mr Hain was speaking at a reception at New York’s British consulate to honour the late African-American singer and human rights activist, Paul Robeson, who had a long association with Mr Hain’s native Wales [added emphasis]
Mr Hain’s native Wales?!?! Shome mishtake shurely?
It would seem, however, that Peter Hain may have had something preying on his mind..
The Secretary of State – a former anti-apartheid activist – drew laughter from the audience when he mistakenly said that Nelson Mandela had been jailed for 10,000 days in Northern Ireland.
He corrected his mistake, before adding: “I got that wrong, didn’t I? I should, of course, have said South Africa.”
But, while not neglecting the original theme on apologies and who is entitled to make them, the final word goes to Paul Robeson Jnr, whose father, Paul Robeson was the actual focus of the event in New York.
Mr Robeson’s son, Paul Robeson Jnr, told the reception that he did not want compensation from countries once involved in the slave trade.
“You can not pay us for that,” he said.
Instead of apologies, it would be far better if countries signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights, he said.
More Whether today’s news influenced the decision is unknown.. but it appears there will be no apology.. or, at least, no offical ceremony next weekend
The Government said today it has no plans to ceremoniously mark the upcoming historic rugby game at Croke Park between Ireland and England.