It’s just over 20 years since, as taoiseach, Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the Irish people to those who had spent their childhood in a residential institutions run by one of 18 religious congregations. His successor, Brian Cowen,reiterated that apology a decade later.
In 2013, Enda Kenny apologised unreservedly to the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries. Each of those contritions was justified and probably overdue. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continued that tradition yesterday when he offered a State apology over the cervical smear scandal.
On behalf of the State, I apologise to the women and their loved ones who suffered from a litany of failures... Today’s apology is too late for some who were affected.
Dr Gabriel Scally, who led an inquiry into the debacle, said the apology was momentous and unprecedented.
“The three things that really matter to people when things really go wrong badly in the medical system are for someone to tell them the truth, what went wrong, why it went wrong; secondly to say sorry and to really mean that, and from someone with some skin in the game; and the third is to say how it is going to be avoided.”
Dr Scally’s three points seem a perfect blueprint for any interaction between the State and aggrieved citizens. So perfect in fact that if they were applied universally Mr Varadkar could be last Taoiseach to have to make such an apology.