When sorry seems to be the hardest word…

3 mins read

When events in Cyprus go badly wrong due to unfathomable incompetence expect absolutely nobody to take responsibility, bite the bullet or put their hand up.

There is no culture of accountability in public office, and no respect for anyone who feels morally obliged to accept the blame when the wheels come off.

Cypriots in public life admitting they are politically responsible is simply not expected, in fact having such sensibilities disqualify you for the job.

To be a successful politician it requires building a reputation where nothing sticks, like a Teflon don, even if the blame sits squarely on your shoulders.

Politicians are not expected to be saints or martyrs to the cause, we don’t anticipate the Cyprus model to be particularly intelligent or persuasive.

It would be appreciated if politicians read the writing on the wall and made a gracious exit from office.

No one wants to look a fool or be ridiculed in public, but circumstance never usually dictates that a price must be paid by those in the command and control room.

This is partly the fault of a sycophantic and politically motivated media that fails to challenge a system where nepotism trumps morality.

A plane fell out of the sky (Helios) killing a 121 onboard – mostly Cypriot families going on holiday, the biggest air disaster in the island’s history.

There were questions raised about how the airline was supervised but nobody wanted to step down or apologise out of common decency.

A naval base at Mari and nearby power station was blown up through official negligence and ineptitude in badly storing confiscated munitions.

Firefighters and service personnel died but nobody in government fell on their sword, again sorry was the hardest word. The Mari debacle was entirely preventable, a reflection of government without responsibility.

Negligence costs lives. As a society, we seem to tolerate official crass indifference to rule breakers. Casino bankers were encouraged by the ruling elite to bleed this country dry, leaving behind an IOU on a crumbled piece of paper at the barbershop.

The government didn’t collapse, no one went to jail, but we did get a severe haircut and free austerity with every parcel at the food bank.

As our leaders wear failure like a badge of honour, there was no surprise that a damning report on the suicide of a teenage boy who suffered years of domestic abuse was met with empty words and a collective shrug of the shoulders.

The boy was known to the police and social services as a vulnerable victim, instead of extracting the 15-year-old they sat on the fence watching from afar.

Police were aware of domestic violence complaints but found it prudent to keep social services out of the loop. The father was also convicted of violent behaviour, this failed to raise any red flags.

A damning report by Ombudsman Maria Stylianou-Lottides said a timely response by social workers or the police could have saved the life of the boy.

Social services were deemed negligent, bordering on the criminal, for failing to act properly following a previously attempted suicide by the same child.

Social workers simply looked the other way without ever considering whether the boy was being psychologically or physically tortured as was the mother.

Lottides said social services broke every rule in the book in ‘handling’ this case, showing indifference on an industrial scale to the family’s plight. There was no support and no lifeline given.

Despite the litany of mistakes, nobody has acknowledged accountability and again that word sorry went missing in action.

Feeling no shame or remorse, social workers staged an impromptu work stoppage to protest the “victimisation” of their colleagues.

Going on strike after being blamed for contributing to a child’s shocking death by suicide is not the best PR look in the world.

Social workers could have legitimate grievances that the system is broken while their caseloads are inhumane, but a modicum of sensitivity and humility would not go amiss.

This case is not about their entitlement but the wholly avoidable death of a child allowed to live in fear.

Amid determination to conduct more strike action their mission statement seems more about saving their own reputation rather than protecting the vulnerable.

Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, the political overlord for social services, is adamant she will not resign for the wrongdoing of others.

This misses the point entirely. A preventable tragedy happened on her watch while she was in charge. There is a moral and ethical imperative that determines the honourable thing to do is resign.

Tradition dictates this is not the done thing, but at least it would set a welcome precedent for others to follow.

It would also convey a sense of regret and remorse for the loss of a young life when sorry becomes the hardest word of all.