Boris Johnson’s Ballymurphy blunder shows need for reconciliation

A weasel-worded and incomplete apology to families was finally dragged out of PM

The British prime minister has made a public apology in the House of Commons to the families of the 10 people killed in the Ballymurphy massacre.

This week 10 years ago there was much basking in the glory of the successful visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth II and what the British government referred to as “the building of a whole new approach” to Anglo-Irish relations. The BBC suggested the queen had “left her mark on a once-hostile land. Anglo-Irish relations have been rejuvenated. The grip of the past loosened”.

There was a feast of similar heady assertions as various shoulders felt the hand of history. The engagements the queen fulfilled, including her presence on the hallowed nationalist turf of Croke Park, were largely silent but highly charged confrontations with the difficult past. There had been some far-fetched speculation in advance of the visit that the queen might “apologise” for historic crimes associated with British rule in Ireland. What she did instead, when she spoke at Dublin Castle, was to maintain it is “impossible to ignore the weight of history” and acknowledged, “with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all”.

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