Regrets, they've had a few. But can you guess how many?
Edith Piaf would not have been impressed. There were 230 uses of the word “regret” - or variations thereof - during the 304 hours and 13 minutes of testimony which were recorded by Oireachtas TV over 49 long days at the banking inquiry.
Congratulations if you got that number right – the word comes thick and fast in the video above assembled by indefatigable Irish Times video journalist Enda O’Dowd, who found each one and spliced them all together for posterity. In its own way, his mash-up is as valuable a record of what went on and what was at stake at the inquiry as anything on the official record.
At least, to be fair to the long line of regretters (regretees? regrettables? regrettists?) who appear, very few can be accused of indulging in that most wretched modern practice, the non-apology apology. You don’t hear them saying that, if someone was hypothetically offended by their actions or statements, then that might be something to be regretted. However, when you’ve played a leading role in the destruction of an entire banking system, the bankrupting of an economy and the ensuing immiseration of hundreds of thousands of people, the non-apology apology was probably never going to cut it.
Hence the long line of regretting bankers and regulators, along with some rather less apologetic journalists and politicians . Let’s be clear, though. Regret does not necessarily mean guilt, which implies something either emotionally painful or with (God forbid) legal consequences.
Regret is polite. Regret is genteel. Regret is slightly painful, perhaps, but you’ll get over it. I regret to tell you your job application has been unsuccessful. We regret the late arrival of the train from Cork. But I regret completely failing to do my job properly and therefore contributing to the worst financial catastrophe in the history of our country? Doesn’t really seem adequate, does it?
The mind-numbing repetition of the ‘R’ word inevitably renders it less than meaningless. Perhaps that’s why Michael Fingleton has earned grudging respect in some quarters for his refusal to simulate even the most shallow contrition. Although the same can’t be said for the inquiry’s true Piaf, former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy, who, as Miriam Lord reported last July, regretted he couldn’t apologise for himself. Because, obviously, he could only do that if he did something really wrong, and he didn’t. Therefore, “I have no regrets.” Sometimes, sorry still seems to be the hardest word. Hugh Linehan
This video also appears in:
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ECB refusal on bondholders 'left public with inappropriate burden'
Burning bondholders ‘could have saved the State €9bn’
Banking inquiry: ECB says it was always transparent about role
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