Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why the only person Barry McElduff’s sorry for is himself

Former Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff.
Former Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff.
The Twitter feed of him with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head
Stockpiling grocer Edward Coyle
Julian Assange

By Lindy McDowell

According to my son - and he has a point - there's a trick to how people in public life apologise.

Step one: The guilty party gives themselves a right oul' telling off.

"What I did was reprehensible. I have hurt people. My behaviour fell far below the standard acceptable. It was wrong and unforgivable."

Step two: They forgive themselves.

"Having realised what I did was wrong I now feel it is essential to put the episode behind me and move on. There is nothing to be achieved by continuing to focus on the episode. I have learned from it and believe it has made me a better person."

Step three: Having delivered this absolution, they then add a disclaimer shifting the blame, oddly, to another incarnation of themselves.

"I was a different person back then. My actions/comments do not represent who I am now."

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Step four: They lie low for a short period before re-emerging into public life.

Step five: They then suggest that actually they are the real victims in all this, having had to tolerate the fallout...

Which brings us to Barry McElduff who, needless to say, is back seeking public office (as we all knew he would be) and speaking highly of himself and his fortitude.

Barry didn't even tick all the boxes in the checklist above. He didn't really apologise. He just went straight to the victimhood bit.

To recap, Mr McElduff, an educated, well-paid servant of the state, an MP expected to serve all sides of the community (and not just the ones who voted for him), previously posted online a sniggering video mocking the dead on the anniversary of one of the most brutal sectarian atrocities of the Troubles.

Ten innocent working men were murdered by the Provos in the Kingsmill massacre - solely because of their religion.

Barry McElduff claims any hurt caused by his video was, of course, unintentional. And that it was entirely coincidental - entirely - that he posted it on the anniversary of the slayings.

Presumably entirely coincidental too was that in the days and weeks following his lead, dozens of callers to the home of the 92-year-old mother of one of the young men who died taunted her by asking for 10 slices of Kingsmill bread.

I don't have to labour how pitiless and perverted, how shameful and despicable that was. Even writing it down now, it's hard to believe somebody actually did that. What sort of gutless beings stoop to such a thing?

But now Barry is back and never mind that "unintentional hurt" he caused to all the Kingsmill families, never mind the abuse of a 92-year-old woman who still grieves for her lost son (a young man whose last act on this Earth was to reach out to save the Catholic friend he believed was the gunmen's intended target), never mind the demeaning of the office Barry held and for which he lifted a tidy sum in taxpayers' money...

What about what Barry has suffered?

"It's been a very challenging personal experience," he bleats in a newspaper interview, "but I'm trying to show character and resilience by returning to make a political comeback."

Barry believes that he took "a hit that maybe I didn't deserve to take".

A darkly ironic turn of phrase there, when you compare it to the utter horror of that bloody massacre near Whitecross on that cold January night in 1976.

It would be a bit harsh of course to suggest that a public figure who does wrong should be barred for all-time from future office.

But it isn't a lot to expect that those who do cause enormous offence and, as in this instance, very real hurt show some genuine remorse.

Barry McElduff hasn't.

Yes, Barry is sorry. But only for himself.

Julian’s been shown the door

Unwanted house guest of the week: Julian Assange, who after seven years has been removed - by police - from the Ecuadorean embassy in London after his once-happy hosts decided they'd had enough of him. Etiquette experts always advise that it's important for guests to know when to leave. As an indicator, when you find yourself being hauled out in handcuffs, shouting in protest, you can take it that you've probably overstayed your welcome.

Stone me, that’s some diamond

Pricey gemstone of the week: The largest 'square emerald cut' diamond of all-time that is being put up for sale. Estimated price - unknown. But it cost over £40m before the sellers even started work on it. The stone was found in a mine in Botswana. We may not know its current price tag but one thing we can be pretty certain of: the person who actually found that bit of glittery rock will not be the one raking in the phenomenal profit.

Brexit really does take the biscuit (and garlic bread)

Scientists this week announced they have finally managed to put together a picture of a black hole - sparking inevitable comparisons with the Brexit black hole that has been sucking all life out of politics, creating chaos and spewing out dark matter and Mrs May's withdrawal agreement.

The black hole has been papped via an array of radio satellites right across the world.

One theory is that not only can the black hole swallow the entire universe as we know it, it may also bring matter back up again.

Obviously even a supermassive black hole also has a backstop.

And like Brexit it goes on and on and on for all eternity.

Mrs May has this week been granted a new EU extension until October. Which comes as a bit of a gunk to Edward Coyle from the Centra shop in Raphoe who has been stockpiling essential items for his customers in the event that a hard border would lead to shortages.

Things like custard creams and garlic bread. The factory supplying the latter for the whole of Ireland is (who knew?) in Northern Ireland.

You would think that however hard the border, the garlic bread would still get through. The smell anyway.

Canny Mr Coyle, however, had stockpiled a considerable quantity of back-up frozen French garlic bread which he now needs to shift.

He has also been left with around 4,000 custard creams whose sell-by date pre-dates the new October deadline.

Forward planning is all very well. But even a black hole would have difficulty swallowing that lot.

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