‘If Eta can say sorry, why can’t Sinn Féin?’


Sir, – I respectfully disagree with Fintan O’Toole’s main conclusions in his article “If Eta can say sorry, why can’t Sinn Féin?” (Opinion, December 7th). The propaganda act staged by the leader of Eta’s political wing is similar to others staged by Sinn Féin representatives. None of them can be seen in a positive light.

Last April the mother of Paul Maxwell, the young boy killed in 1979 alongside Lord Mountbatten labelled Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s apology as “hollow” and “opportunistic”. The reason: it did not come with a condemnation.

Similarly, Eta’s leader Arnaldo Otegi “laments” the pain inflicted on victims of Eta’s terrorism without condemning or delegitimising the terrorist group that caused such an unjust ordeal. The acknowledgment of the injustice of the victimisation was also absent in his propaganda act.

Otegi did not say that Eta should not have done what they did. The translation is different: it is “the pain” of the victims what should not have existed.

So, he is simply saying Eta should have murdered but without causing pain to its victims. It is surreal that anybody can interpret such twisted language as an apology.

Mary Hornsey, Paul Maxwell’s mother, perfectly described as an “insult” the so-called “apology” by Sinn Féin: “I think the word ‘Sorry’ means very little from the lady who said it.”

Many victims reacted to Otegi’s words in the same way. Similarly, when in 2013 Gerry Adams “apologised” for the IRA murder of Garda McCabe he was criticised because it was felt he had not done everything possible to redress the wrong and provide justice to the victim.

Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s words years ago are still pertinent and applicable to both SF and to Eta’s political wing: “Their propaganda system is very focused. ‘We are the peace party.’ If you murder enough people and then stop, then you become the peace party.” – Yours, etc,


Professor of Politics,


Rey Juan Carlos,