Dear Deputy First Minister,
If we’re to judge by today’s media reports, your apology for the whole Bobby Storey funeral thing has been met with stony faces and grim head-shaking. For you to say that you are “truly sorry” your actions at the Bobby Storey funeral have caused hurt, and that you now offer “a heart-felt and unreserved apology” – well, it appears that just isn’t enough. Given that time cannot be rewound, I expect you’re wondering what more you can possibly do by way of apology and expression of regret. I think I may have the answer.
Have you ever been to Mexico City? That’s where the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located – the most-visited Catholic shrine in the world. I have been there and it was indeed impressive to see the devotion and humility of the people. Many of them approach the Basilica from a distance of maybe a hundred yards on their knees. This was to indicate the depth and sincerity of their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and was an unforgettable sight.
To move to a separate but related matter: when the IRA declared a cease-fire back in the 1990s, Ian Paisley spoke then of the need for republicans, if they were truly penitent of their deeds, to wear sackcloth and ashes. It didn’t happen then but it might be useful now.
My modest proposal is that you should combine these two matters – moving forward on your knees while simultaneously dressed in sackcloth and ashes. Where you did this wouldn’t matter much, but perhaps the mile-long approach to the Stormont Assembly building would be fitting. As to the ashes, I’d suggest you rub or have these rubbed into your face and arms and legs, with sackcloth sewn roughly together serving twin causes: the preservation of your modesty and the expression of your contrition.
I can’t guarantee , of course, that this will assuage the rage of some of your critics but it would surely go a long way towards acceptance by a number of them.
It’s a modest proposal I offer, on behalf of all right-thinking people, and I hope it helps damp down the flames of indignation that are at present consuming your political foes.