A new sport this – blogging against time on a slow internet connection.  But the broadcaster in me always relishes the challenge of communication against the clock.

Interested to see that the Australian Government intends to make an apology to the Aboriginal people next week – ex-Prime Minister John Howard isn’t going to turn up to take part.  I have mixed feelings about the whole idea.  The right apology by the right people at the right time can surely shift deep-seated hurts and resentments like nothing else.  But it can easily be glib if overdone.  After all, in the nature of everybody’s tortured history, there are so many things for which apology might be made – the Irish Famine, slavery, etc.  And the apology will always seem somewhat inadequate.  And some things seem of such magnitude that any apology is likely to be inadequate.

On reflection – theological and otherwise – I wonder if the act of forgiveness – unsought and undeserved – is actually more powerful – the ‘Father, forgive them’ act.  After all, to take just one example, Gordon Wilson’s expression of forgiveness of the Provisional IRA after the Enniskillen bombing which claimed the life of his daughter was immensely powerful in demonstrating that their actions were utterly out of proportion to any injustice which they claimed to be setting right.  Without saying so.

4 mins 30 secs.  Since you ask, the weather here is still ‘wit’


  1. That seems very fair to me. And one might also say that the case for apology is fairly unanswerable when the power imbalance between the parties is as great as it is in this case. As for restitution, I suppose that we are in the area where no restitution or compensation can really meet the requirements – but that cannot absolve the powerful from the moral necessity of responding in some appropriate way – particularly in terms of future treatment

  2. David, I think the Australian grounds for an apology are much more clear cut than would be the case in some other situations. Firstly, the victims are overwhelmingly the aboriginal community, it’s not the ‘atrocities on both sides’ situation that pertains here in Ireland, and secondly, the wrongdoing against the community persisted into the current age and was not something deep in history perpetrated only by dead generations.

    Ian (who is at times tempted to write to the Government of France and ask for compensation for the Norman invasion of his country)

  3. Eamon: On the spot comment. However, most of our American aboriginal folk no longer would care to “return” to their ancestral occupations. I was raised around the Southern Utes. A hundred years ago, after they had whipped us at the Meeker massacre, they negotiated away, from a position of strength, their ownership of one half of Colorado in exchange for an area about the size of 1/3 of Scotland. Lately, oil and casino revenues have really helped them. No apologies necessary. An aside: The Meeker fight was a mistake. The Utes saw a cavalry column headed their way, thought it was an attack and hit the soldiers and then wiped out the Meeker garrison. Turns out the troopers were just a replacement batallion. When the Utes found out they were very apologetic about the error. Everyone promised to be more careful, buried their dead, and went home. A further aside: Many of the dead US troopers were “buffalo soldiers,” African Americans who joined the army after the Civil War. Ironic, what?

  4. The reason why so many politicians are jumping on the apology bandwagon is that it is much easier, and less costly, than making proper legal restitution for past wrongs, e.g., return of ancestal lands, compensation to families for the murder of their loved ones.

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