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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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August 04, 2005

No Apologies

I was talking with Trevor Lunn, deputy mayor of Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He was in Seattle on trip to promote trade and investment with the province, has been becoming safer and more peaceful, particularly since the recent annoucement by the Irish Republican Army that it is laying down its weapons.

Lunn is of the Alliance Party, a small grouping that takes a position between that of the pro-Ireland nationalists and the pro-UK unionists. What interested me most was a remark me made about apologies.

The Irish Republican Army recently announced that it is giving up the armed struggle and would fight through exclusively peaceful means. Lunn said that one issue by the IRA’s opponents was that even though the IRA said it was giving up violence, it offered no apology for the violent acts it had done.

Lunn said the IRA’s statement was a hopeful one and that he would take it at face value. As for the demand for an apology, he said the IRA’s opponents, the Ulster Volunteer Force, had given up violence and apologized 10 years ago, and “they still kept killing people.”

What matters most is not apologies, but life. If the IRA really does give up violence, that’s what counts. Let people apologize when the urge strikes them.

I am suspicious of demands for apologies, anyway. When Bill Clinton apologized for slavery, what meaning did it have? He hadn’t been involved in it. No one who acted as a slave owner in America is still alive, or has been alive for probably 65 years. When officials of the government of Japan apologize for what other Japanese officials, long dead, did 65 to 75 years ago in Korea and China—what meaning does that have?

People should only apologize for the things they do that are morally wrong or are errors that hurt people. And other people should stop cultivating the fine and profitable feeling of being offended.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at August 4, 2005 05:34 PM



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