Public Apologies, Accountability and Blame-acceptance

We live in an ‘age of apologies’, in which governments and public sector organisations seek to atone to the public for past state wrongs. The delivery of apologies is not unique to states and state actors, however, but blame acceptance by non-state actors for past wrongs affecting the public remains comparatively understudied in the political sciences. Using the island of Ireland as a case study, this paper examines public apologies by paramilitary organisations for conflict-related harms, by religious organisations for institutional abuse, and by financial institutions for the 2008 economic crisis. The research forms part of an ESRC-funded major grant project concerning ‘Apologies, Abuses and Dealing with the Past’, in which the use of apologies by state and non-state actors in Ireland as a means of offering accountability, legitimacy and reputational preservation are examined. The quantitative and qualitative data gathered to date include an all-island survey, focus groups, and interviews, and examines public apologies from both recipient and provider perspectives.