Sorry is the hardest word

Saturday Story of the Week

In a week that saw the new chief executive of NAMA, Brendan McDonagh, say that Ireland’s monumental financial mess was “born of a mindless scramble to funnel lending into one sector at considerable pace and of a reckless abandonment of basic principles of credit risk and prudent lending” an event as rare as a plane over Europe followed …. an apology by a leading Irish politician accompanied by a willingness to take responsibility.

Brian Lenihan said on Thursday that

“First of all I was a member of the party throughout that era and I’m certainly sorry for what happened . . . but in so far as I was a member of the governing party; as a Deputy supporting it or a Minister of State supporting it, I have to take responsibility … I apologise to the extent to which the Government played a part in this. But I don’t accept that the Government was the only party responsible.”

It’s a risky thing apologising, even if qualified by that last line. Your apology can be taken up and used in evidence against you by others. And I’m not sure what he means by taking responsibility in this case. He’s hardly about to resign. I suspect it may mean Fianna Fail being out of office in the not too distant future [and if they are not we may as well become a one party state becuase the opposition will never get in if they don’t win the next election].

But with Lenihan you get some sense of dignity and sincerity. And it is refreshing to hear. And a reminder of how incredibly rare such words are in Irish public life.

Brian Cowen, sadly and predictably, was less courageous, more self-protective and boringly political in his comments.

Irony is, it will be Lenihan who wins more political kudos and public support.

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