Thursday, 13 September 2012

I'm Sorry

What is about those words that makes them so hard to say? As a parent I spend a lot of my time encouraging, cajoling, pressuring and even forcing my children to apologise when they have done something wrong. I can see the resistance and sulkiness displayed by my children when they are made to apologise to someone they don't think deserves it, but I won't back down. It is my parental duty to make sure that my children are capable of recognising when they have done something wrong and are given the tools to subsequently make amends.

A failure to apologise for something you have done wrong shows at best a weakness of character and at worst an utter lack of respect for your fellow human or even a lack of morality. How then does it feel to find out that the organisations we are supposed to entrust with our democracy, liberty and safety have so little respect for us that it takes them 23 years to offer an apology for a tragedy that they were entirely culpable for?

In April 1989 I was a 17 year old pool attendant at a leisure centre in Stockport. During a break between shifts I was in the bar watching a football match at Hillsborough Stadium degenerate into a tragedy that caused the death, before my very eyes, of 96 innocent football fans and the injury of hundreds of others. It was a horror to watch that I have never fogotten. I can't begin to imagine how it must have been for the family and friends of the victims to spend the next 23 years being told that their loved ones were too blame for their own deaths through drunkeness and violence. Or how it must feel for 41 of those families to have found out yesterday that their loved ones actually died through the total failure of the police and emergency services to offer the most basic of first aid.

As the saying goes, no-one is perfect. We all make mistakes. What counts, and what I strive to teach my children, is the ability to take responsibility for your actions and take the necessary steps to rectify your inevitable wrongs. It is tragic that our children can demonstrate a far better grasp of the necessity of this than the pernicious, self-serving, reprehensible adults who knew the truth of what happened in Hillsborough yet who willingly engaged in a conspiracy of lies for nearly a quarter of a century.

Yesterday the truth came out and our Prime Minister said what needed to be said; "I'm sorry". Whether it is a systemic operational failure of a state organisation, or a toddler who threw her doll at her friend, the words are an acknowledgment of wrong doing and a way of moving past the hurt.

I was in the car with my daughter this morning when this song from the year of the Hillsborough disaster came on the radio. Seems as good a way as any to end this post.