Belfast Telegraph

Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Stormont's bungling politicians

As the list of doomed Stormont initiatives grows, from health to education, an Irish Language Act to the new police training college, Malachi O'Doherty argues our ruling elite could learn lesson from Korea, where failings caused by arrogance and stupidity require public abasement before the whole nation.

They know how to do it in Korea. If you make a haims of things through your own arrogance and stupidity, you abase yourself before the whole nation. That is what happened when a brat who happens to be the daughter of the guy who runs Korean Airlines brought the company into disgrace.

Cho Hyun-ah was head of cabin service at Korean Air. She took extreme umbrage at the manner in which she was served nuts on a flight. They were brought to her in a bag, not on a plate. She ordered the offender off the flight and the pilot had to return to the departure gate at JFK where the offending member of staff could be ejected.

And what happened next was a potential example to the whole world and the more inept among us here.

First of all, her father apologised on her behalf.

Now there are cultural aspects of that which wouldn't play well here. Cho Hyun-ah is in her forties. She can take responsibility for her own failings. And she did.

What was intriguing about this was the manner in which she did it.

Standing before the assembled media, representing the people of Korea, she bowed low and said she was sorry.

I'd like to see that kind of thing here.

They have a variant of it in Japanese culture where the shamed person not only bows low but while in the prostrate position slips a blade into his own guts. When attendants clearly see intestinal tubing on the tip of the withdrawn blade, they take that as a signal to spare him further pain and grief by chopping his head off. I'm not sure Northern Ireland is ready to demand that of those who have failed us, but we might be getting there.

For we have been grandly failed.

Of course, in a divided society, we are unlikely to agree on who should step forward for the first ceremony of public humiliation, the first formal apology.

If you are one of those who feels most betrayed by the denial of an Irish Language Act, then you are as entitled as others to an apology, for you were promised one. So take a bow, Edwin Poots the first Culture Minister to take a pot shot at the project. Take a bow Gregory Campbell for being a sneering, petty-minded critic of the respect others have for Irish. Take a low bow and say sorry.

Or it may be that what you miss most is the Ulster-Scots Academy we were to have. Thirteen million pounds was earmarked for that, and where is it? Only alive as a nurtured fantasy in the minds of Nelson McCausland and a few others.

Who has scuppered it? Probably the unionists themselves haven't the nerve to ask for nationalist assent while blocking the Irish Language Act, so take another bow for that, Edwin, Nelson, the lot of you.

It wouldn't be hard to draw a long list of failures of the Assembly. The hard part would be knowing where to stop.

Take education, the madness of ending the 11-Plus before a system was in place that couldn't be undermined by rebellious principals.

That's your fault Martin McGuinness. Man up and say you're sorry. Take the rapid transit light rail system that Conor Murphy promised us. Should he take a low bow for failing in that?

The multi-sports stadium? Step up please, Nelson McCausland and your successor in Culture, Arts and Leisure, Caral Ni Chuilin. Let's see the tops of your heads now.

And who's going to take the rap for the collapse of the plan for a nice big new college for training the police, the Prison Service and the Fire and Rescue Service, that was to be built at Desertcreat in Cookstown.

Somebody got the sums wrong. We did get as far as having a name for it, The Northern Ireland Community Safety College.

At present its future looks even more doubtful than that of the big new golf course and hotel at the Giant's Causeway. Remember all the agonising about whether it would impinge on a World Heritage site. Alex Attwood got us round that little problem. Take a bow, Alex. Business was to be more important than the environment, but after all the fretting and wrestling with an ecological conscience, what have we got but a brisk landscape of windblown sand dunes?

Who's going to take the rap for the routine congestion of the A&E departments of the few hospitals which still have one?

When Edwin Poots was appointed Health Minister there was speculation that he would have a couple of years in which he wouldn't have to worry too much about elections in which he could push the radical overhaul of the health service that we need. Then he could step down and let Jim Wells coast us towards 2016 with the leaner, meaner system.

Where did that go wrong? Ask health experts and they say you need to close small hospitals, centralise services and turn people away from A&E if they haven't had an accident or aren't facing an emergency, the clue being in the name.

So take another bow, Mr Poots, or tell us where the plan went wrong and who else we should blame.

The Troubles are over, but I want to see Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, Billy Hutchinson and his comrades bow low and say that when they were 20 years old they were as stupid as the rest of us at that age and that it's an awful pity so much ill came of the decisions they made.

And I want Blair to apologise for wrecking the prospects of growth at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, making two party rule impregnable at St Andrews. But Blair would have conceded anything to get agreement; he said so himself.

And we could do with apologies from some of the church leaders for the petty and pernicious theologies they stood over.

You'd think that after the mess the Catholic Church made of education and childcare they would be glad to get out of it.

Evangelical ideas that undermine the teaching of science should disqualify anyone from running a school, but instead they have bequeathed us Stormont ministers who spread the same ideas and would legislate to reinforce them if they could.

We have brilliant people in the political parties who know what a mess has been made in this generation.

It is not too late for them to step forward, move against their current leaders with their prejudices and their conspiratorial fantasies, and deliver government by good sense.

If they don't they'll have much to apologise for themselves.

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