Project team member Prof Shadd Maruna has authored this blog to accompany the release of the research report of the same name, which can be accessed here.
With the launch of this report, we are thrilled to finally start to release some of the very preliminary and descriptive results from our 2017 survey of the general public across the island of Ireland, north and south, as part of this ESRC project on public apologies. The survey, carried out by Perceptive Insight, involved over 1000 face-to-face interviews with a stratified random sample of adults across every county in Ireland regarding what they think about the role of public apologies across a range of sensitive and controversial subjects.
Overall, we were surprised by how well respondents engaged with this topic and the level of support for (even demand for) further apologies across a range of issues clearly shines through in these results.
This first report focuses primarily on the responses regarding the banking scandals that shook Ireland in the past decade. Over three-quarters of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that public apologies by the banks or the State were an important part of moving on from the scandal. Yet, hardly any respondents can recall hearing a single apology from these groups, with only 6% remembering an apology from individual bankers and 12% remembering an apology from the Irish state. It is little wonder, then, that fewer than 5% of respondents felt that any of the responsible parties had adequately apologised for their role in the banking crisis to date.
One of the benefits of our survey is that it allows us to compare these responses across a variety of other social issues, including the institutional abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in Ireland and the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. Without drawing any false equivalencies between these very different aspects of Ireland’s recent history, it is interesting to note, for example that a larger percentage of survey respondents felt that the Church or the British State, for example, had adequately apologised for their roles in these other crises than the banks had for their role in the economic crash. The overall finding, however, is that the public overwhelmingly feels that we are owed more and better apologies across all of these different domains.