Flanagan’s extraordinary non-apology apology

There are THREE kinds of apologies - full, half (-arsed) and none at all.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan opted for the latter - a so-called apology for the disaster that is the Skellig Star Hotel Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen that turns out to be no apology whatsoever.

And, as we all know, a dressed-up, pretend apology that is empty of substance only makes matters worse. It adds insult to injury and salt to the wound because it attempts to take people for fools.

In his open letter to the people of Kerry, in particular those in Cahersiveen, published in full on page 11 of this newspaper, Minister Flanagan says he’s writing ‘both to apologise and to explain’.

Then comes the classic non-apology, which is worth repeating. He says: “I want to apologise most sincerely to the people of Cahersiveen, for the way in which we had to open the Direct Provision centre in the Skellig Star, but I also want to outline why we had to do it in the way we did. I hope you will allow me do both.”

On the face of things, it looks like the genuine article, a proper mea culpa - but on closer examination, it’s clearly a dud, political counterfeit - nothing but a fake.

The word ‘had’ betrays the entire apology proposition as nothing more than a shameless political contrivance, empty of real meaning.

Minister Flanagan said he apologises for the way they ‘had’ to open the centre. Which is as ridiculous as it is politically manipulative.

If they ‘had’ to open the centre in the way they did, then what in the name of goodness is he apologising for?

From this on, Mr Flanagan dropped any pretence of apology and went on to the real purpose of this open letter - explaining why he did what he did.

He admits people were moved to the centre with great speed that left no time for consultation. He admits it was a fait accompli.  Then in a self-serving, exculpatory statement, he says: “All I can say...is we simply did not feel we had a choice.”

No choice means no wrong was done, no mistake was made and no blameworthiness attaches to him or his Department.

How can anybody be blamed for doing something about which they’d no choice?

Mr Flanagan denies anybody knew of an asylum seeker being infected before transfer to Cahersiveen and that they ‘recklessly’ went ahead with the transfer to Kerry nonetheless.

Nothing wrong there as well.

He says that everybody infected has been moved out. Nothing untoward there either.

The rest of Mr Flanagan’s non-apology apology explains, inter alia, what they’re doing to make life easier for the asylum seekers in Cahersiveen, how he knows there’s goodwill in Kerry towards people coming in from abroad, and how grateful he is to the staff at the centre.

But there is no contrition. There is no expression of sincere sorrow on the basis of a wrong done and, definitely, no purpose of amendment - traditional and basic conditions for forgiveness.

It’s hard to fathom the political or any purpose of Mr Flanagan’s open letter. What was he trying to achieve?

In fairness, Charlie Flanagan has form when it comes to political idiocy - Don’t mention the war: Come out ye Black and Tans! - but this takes it to PhD level.

Further, he didn’t include the asylum seekers in his bluff apology. As Minister responsible, he has a duty of care for people over whom he assumed responsibility under human rights and international law. Yet, despite the virus infections they endured, there was no apology, not even a hint of one.

One thing is very clear from Minister Flanagan’s letter - he intends to keep the centre open. He says: “The centre is operating and it will continue to do so.”

That’s the real message to the people of Cahersiveen and Kerry in this extraordinary letter.