It is sometimes good to say “Sorry”

I do not go in for gesture politics. Prime Ministers apologising for events of over a hundred years ago, often with a patent lack of sincerity, with the media in full attendance to make a political point leaves me cold. I am fed up with people expecting England to apologise for battles fought centuries ago when standards and attitudes for so different everywhere. If challenged on such an apology, I usually say I will wait for the French to apologise for the Battle of Hastings first.

The Australian Prime Minister’s apology for the more recent treatment of native people in his country was different. It can help heal wounds that are of more recent origin. It was clearly wanted by people whose own childhoods were changed fundamentally when they were taken from their mothers at an early age. It does not lead to financial compensation and will be criticised by some for that, but it is recognition that modern Australia has a different approach, and wishes to unify its people.

I welcome that, and trust it will be reflect a spirit of apology and forgiveness on both sides of the divide.


  1. Neil Craig
    February 13, 2008

    Apologising for what you yourself have not done is merely grandstanding. Mr Blair may apologise for 18thC slavery but he will not apologise for (alleged -ed)ethnic cleansing, genocide & the child sex slavery (that has been reported -ed) in Kosovo.

    I would like to apologise to for the British government's role in the Dragodan massacre of 210 mainly Serb civilians.

    Doesn't quite work does it?

  2. Rose
    February 13, 2008

    I quite agree with you about the suitability of apologies before it is too late, when the damage is still fresh, and the victims are still alive.

    Norway did something very similar to her Sami children – from the best of motives. The tragedy there seems even more poignant with hindsight: when the Sami were compelled by the introduction of the iron curtain to choose between the free world of Norway and the Communist world of Russia, between their various pastures as free roaming nomads with their reindeer, they opted for the free world. It was the social workers of that well-meaning post-war free Norway who took away their children, which the Stalinists might not have got round to doing. They might even have left them alone in their families to roam where they would so long as they did not stray over the Norwegian border. We shall never know, but we should ponder the power of the state in this free world of ours to interfere in family life.

  3. David Hannah
    February 13, 2008

    Now that the Australian Government has admitted culpability, can we expect the legal floodgates to open?

  4. Rose
    February 16, 2008

    I should like to second Neil.

  5. HJ
    February 20, 2008

    Why should the French apologise for the Battle of Hastings? They weren't there!

    William was the Duke of Normandy (not the King of France) and his troops were Norman – they weren't French. The Normans, of course, were Scandinavian by origin (the word Normandy is derived from "Northmen"). Even the form of French they had adopted and which they bought with them is known as "Anglo-Norman".

    The Norman conquest was essentially a Viking invasion.

    Reply: Very punctilious of you, but you know what I meant!

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