The grovelling public apology isn’t what it used to be. Such is the arrogance of so many of our soiled officials and mandarins that even when they are supposed to be saying ‘sorry’, what comes out is ‘sorry I was caught’ or ‘sorry, but don’t you think it’s time we ‘moved on’ from this?

Westminster’s finest, caught with their snouts so deep in the trough that they could scarcely breath, have been queuing up to explain that their claims for the new plasma telly, porn movie subscriptions, topiary touch-ups, dry rot treatment or whatever were all “within the rules” but that these same rules were now part of some diabolical creation (theirs of course) called “The System”, which was utterly wrong and which of course they had been fighting against for many years with crusader-like zeal.

What is as rare as an MP with a single dwelling is any sort of straightforward conscience, the ‘moral compass’ that people have been expecting but failing to glimpse. There has be nary a sighting of an MP prepared to say that what the did was just plain wrong and that the reason that they did it was that they were greedy and as Bill Clinton said when trying to explain why he did what he did: “Because I could”. It is the ultimate 3 word encapsulation of what complete power can do.

Meanwhile back in Dublin, the ‘apologies’ are every bit as wooden. The Catholic Church has officially apologised for the reign of terror described in the Ryan Report, but only after it was dragged from their throats. If the victims are looking for any authentic remorse though, they may have another 20 or 30 years to wait. While going through the apologetic motions with one side of their face, the Church’s other side has been set like flint against the victims. The Ryan inquiry found that around 18,000 children’s files had mysteriously ‘disappeared’ and in a characteristic expression of the depth of their remorse, the Christian Brothers went to court to ensure that the report would not identify one single abuser by name.

The nadir came for me as I watched on television as one Cardinal Brady explained how sorry he was that on this occasion the Church’s ‘standards’ had ‘dropped to an unacceptable level’. By any standards this is a breathtaking conceptualisation of the events under consideration. To envision systematic, institutionalised, endemic abuse, rape, beating, starving and torture of children as some kind of ‘quality assurance’ problem speaks volumes.

The final insult to the victims who came to witness the release of the report in a Dublin Hotel was to find their path barred by media managers from the Commission. After waiting 10 years for the report into THEIR lives, their final humiliation was to be ejected from the building by police.

Truly, a sorry business.

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