Terry Prone: To apologise properly, your focus should only ever be on the victim

When acknowledging a wrong done to others, it may feel right to bring your own feelings centre stage. But don't. It's not about you

It may have felt right for a hospital employee at Aoife Johnston’s inquest to say she would always remember the dead girl’s beautiful face, and that the experience changed the relationship she had with her own daughters — but the comments greatly upset Aoife's sister Meagan, above, who said: 'We have to go home without Aoife every day'.
29th Apr 2024
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Originally published in the Irish Examiner.

You're giving evidence to the Aoife Johnston inquest and you indicate your understanding of the horror of the teenager’s death.

It feels like you should do that. It feels like you should show sympathy or empathy or both.

It feels right to mention how haunted you are by the young girl’s beautiful face and how the experience changed the relationship you have with your own daughters.

Of course, it feels right, at the time, long after the event, when you’re planning what you’re going to say at the investigation of that event.

But in the moment, when it actually happened, it went badly wrong.

When the HSE executive mentioned her own daughters in what she was saying, Aoife Johnston’s sister threw a wrench into the works.

Surrounded by weeping relatives, she angrily pointed to the key difference between her family’s suffering and the suffering claimed by the executive giving evidence: The Johnstons would go home that day without their daughter/sister. Because she was dead.

That was the difference, and its infuriated articulation led to a pause in proceedings.

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