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Sorry seems to be the hardest word: the best and worst apologies of 2010

And a few we’re still waiting for.

SORRY ALWAYS SEEMS to be the hardest word for figures in the public eye.

Whether they’re being forced to apologise for the little things – sleeping with someone else’s wife or banjaxing an economy – or the bigs ones – failing to deal with decades of child abuse or the slaughter of innocent citizens – it’s that little, five letter word that invariably trips them up.

Here’s our pick of the best and the worst apologies of 2010 – and a few we’re still waiting for.

The Best:

3. Tiger Woods’ apology for his serial philandering had it all: it was delivered a sense of oratorical occasion previously only achieved by Barack Obama; it featured a promise to start living his life with integrity; a lump in his throat; a protracted hug with his mother.

Whether it’s golf, infidelity or humility, it’s clear this is one man who doesn’t do anything by halves.

2. It may have come 40 years too late for the families of the victims, but David Cameron’s apology for Bloody Sunday was almost worth waiting for. In this speech, delivered in the aftermath of the publication of Lord Saville’s report, he makes no bones about where responsibility lay.

What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong…there is no point trying to soften or equivocate what is in this report…

On behalf of the government, and on behalf of our country – I am deeply sorry.

1. It had none of the emotions of Tiger’s apology, or the sincerity of thoroughness of Cameron’s, but the mere fact of Taoiseach Brian Cowen finally managing to get his tongue around the ‘s’ word in December was enough to catapult his apology straight into the number one slot.

And then he said it again! And again! This was the apology that just kept on giving:

I’m sorry, there is no one more sorry…I am extremely sorry that we’re in this situation. How many times did this station ask me to say sorry? No one is more sorry about this situation than I am. I don’t know how many times I have to say it to you. I apologise unconditionally about the situation this country finds itself in.

You can listen back to Cowen’s apology in full on the News at One on RTE Radio One here >

Still, a small and childish part of us prefers this this version:

The Worst:

If there was an apology which proved the old adage that actions are always more powerful than words, it was Pope Benedict’s eight page apology to the victims of child abuse in Ireland in March.

On paper, it lacked for nothing; it was – as one commentator said – simple, elegant and unambiguous.

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.

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He even gave the Bishops a public bollocking:

Grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness … Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives.

But his words- which were not accompanied by any sackings – rang hollow, particularly when he later chose not to accept the resignations of two Irish bishops, Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh, for their failure to deal adequately with the abuse. He also omitted to carry any of the burden of responsibility on himself.

And then he went on to ruin it all by suggesting that until the 1970s, child abuse was – well – kind of normal, and that viewing child pornography had become increasingly acceptable in Irish society.

The Ones that Got Away:

Wayne Rooney has still to apologise publicly for sleeping with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant with their son – but he did reportedly offer to pay for her boob job. He did, however, manage a half-hearted apology to fans of Manchester United for the protracted wranglings over the renewal of his contract.

And we’re likely to be waiting a while for apologies from prominent members of our banking community – especially since David Drumm has been advised to sue Anglo for mental distress.

Even RTE’s most intrepid reporter failed to wrangle a hint of an apology out of him. No word yet on whether he’s also planning to sue Charlie Bird for this:

About the author:

Jennifer O'Connell

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