Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Oops, sorry, if I offended you, I really didn’t mean it, honest

We’ve all heard of back-handed co-mpliments — you know, the sort of line that’s meant to be nice but is actually quite derogatory, like, “For a fat girl y’don’t sweat much.”

Well, it’s been a week of back-handed apologies here and in London. First it was the Lord Mayor of Belfast. He’s had a rough week and is probably considering re-naming the position “Nightmare” as opposed to Lord Mayor.

Niall O Donnghaile refused to shake the hand of a young Army cadet at the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in the City Hall last week.

If he was in the running for consideration on an Olympic Mayoral Team, he’d probably just have missed the cut. He turned up, he appeared able, but at the last hurdle, he backed off and got four points for a refusal.

But when the crowds complained, he “apologised”.

That word is used rather too loosely. Because when someone apologises, but it’s clear that they don’t actually think what they’ve done needs an apology, then it’s not really an apology, is it?

He said he was sorry for offending the young girl and her family and was prepared to meet her and them to reassure them that his actions were “nothing personal”.

Well doesn’t that rather negate the apology right there and then?

Of course it was personal! It was him. It was her. Then it was her and not him. It was her and his stand-in. There was a hand shake, but not from the Lord Mayor. His hand did not touch her hand. He refused to touch her hand. His individual hand refused to touch her individual hand. Can you get any more personal than that?

Every body, organisation, corps, group, entity, is made up of individuals. It’s always personal.

The DUP lept to condemn the Lord Mayor, which is a bit rich seeing as their Deputy Lord Mayor won't shake hands with him.

Then Jeremy Clarkson made his comments on the General Strike and later, after loads of complaints, apologised. Or did he? He actually said he was sorry “if” he’d caused any offence.

Oh! Red rag to a bull, that one. As a seasoned arguer on a personal level, I rank that statement as the most back-handed apology ever. That little word “if” totally wipes out any apology. What he’s really saying is, “Catch a grip and stop being a bunch of humourless t***s! There’s no need to take offence at what I said and if you did you’re a moron, but I like my job so I’m going to do what I’m told by my bosses, but I’m still right and you’re still wrong. You humourless t***s.”

Thanks. That’s made it all much better Jeremy.

(Actually, my own personal take on the JC line is that he was stating two ridiculous responses to the day’s action, neither of which was serious. A better response from him to the complainers would have been to say, “I was making two ridiculous statements that were obviously meant to represent the sort of extreme views expressed by extreme people. Not my views. I was making a satirical comment on commentators.”

But that’s harder for humourless t***s to follow, so easier just to look as if you’re apologising.)

By the way, I’m sorry if anything I’ve said has caused you any offence, it was never my intention and of course, it was nothing personal

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