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Stack on the Back

Begging your pardon

(March 1995)

From Socialist Review, No. 184, March 1995, p. 36.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

‘I would like to say how sorry I am for the unsightly behaviour of all those dreadful Irish men and women in the last century who littered the roadsides with their dead bodies just because they had nothing to eat’

Of late the Catholic Church in Ireland has much to apologise for, what with child molesting, cover ups and the like. So I was pleased to hear that Cardinal Cahal Daly was recently beating his breast, but somewhat taken aback when I found out why.

Cahal is the primate of all Ireland, – the head honcho of Catholicism in the country that was a very short time ago the jewel in the church’s crown.

He recently made a historic trip to Canterbury Cathedral to deliver a sermon, the first Irish Catholic bishop to do so since Henry VIII grew tired of Catherine of Aragon.

Now one wouldn’t expect the man to seize the opportunity to do a sort of mirror image impersonation of Ian Paisley, to round on his gathering and tell them all that they were Proddy dogs bound for the pits of hell.

One would have been surprised if he’d gone into a fit in the cathedral and started shouting, ‘This church is ours. You stole it off us, you Anglican swines.’

Even a few words of protest about the historic persecution of the church in Ireland could have seemed somewhat impolite, and Cahal is nothing if not good mannered.

Nevertheless what followed can only be described as throwing an entire maternity ward out with the bathwater. For Cahal went for the humble approach:

‘I wish to ask forgiveness from the people of this land for the wrongs and hurts inflicted by Irish people upon the people of this country on many occasions during [their] shared history.’

Now if you’re going to apologise you should at least do it properly. If the reader will bear with me, I, as a mere humble son of Erin’s isle, would like to put some flesh on the bones of this inadequate ecclesiastical grovel.

Firstly I would like to say how sorry I am for the unsightly behaviour of all those dreadful Irish men and women in the last century who littered the roadsides with their dead bodies just because they had nothing to eat. Thank god you didn’t give in to such crude emotional blackmail and kept exporting that grain, instead of casting it like pearls before the Irish swine.

May I also lay myself prostrate before a gaggle of great English parliamentarians who have had to put up with the most loathsome uppity behaviour from my forebears.

Imagine having to send warships to shell the hell out of that carbuncle on the face of the map known as Dublin city. Fancy having to waste all that time killing those loathsome rebels who led the 1916 Easter Rising, and especially for the poor soul who had to go to all the trouble of tying James Connolly to his chair before you shot him.

How typically indolent. No Englishman would have allowed himself to be shot in such a fashion, no sir, they’d have stood and faced the firing squad like a man, shattered leg or no shattered leg.

Then there was that extraordinary behaviour of the overwhelming majority of my compatriots at the end of the First World War. How dare they decide they want independence from your great nation, and how dare they believe that just because they voted for it that you should grant it?

This ingratitude led to even greater crimes and I can only apologise to those fine soldiers of yours who used to wear that very fetching black and tan uniform for having to go to all the undoubted effort it must have taken to burn Cork to the ground.

I am relieved that some good decent Ulster folk stuck with you throughout, and am glad you didn’t give in to that thankless minority of my fellow people who had the nerve to bother you with their silly demands for civil rights.

What right had they to votes, jobs and houses? How dare they wish to fly that unsightly and offensive flag? No words can express my guilt and sorrow about the fact that you were forced to drive these guttersnipes from the streets of Derry and Belfast.

Words are inadequate when having to apologise for those unarmed demonstrators in Derry who got in the way of your nice Parachute Regiment and forced them to waste valuable and expensive bullets to clean up the streets of that godforsaken city.

I must also apologise for the hurt and upset poor Mrs Thatcher must have felt when Bobby Sands and his cohorts claimed they were political prisoners and refused to eat food. One can only imagine the nights of anguish she went through worrying about them as they wilfully starved themselves to death.

Finally may I apologise to Private Clegg for heroically having to shoot unarmed joyriders, and all the inconvenience that’s caused him.

I hope Cahal Daly thinks I have done his sentiments justice. Over the next few months I am handing this column over to others who wish to say sorry. Next month a citizen of Hiroshima wishes to apologise to the US for having to waste two perfectly good atom bombs on his city and Nagasaki in 1945.

In the near future I hope to get a black South African, a French resistance fighter, and a Polish trade unionist all of whom wish to apologise to others for their errant behaviour.

After all love is ... saying sorry!

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