“I’m sorry,” are words we’ve heard a lot recently from our politicians.

The prime minister is regretfully sorry” for the parties that he may or may not have attended; Doug Beattie was ashamed and sorry” for derogatory comments he tweeted over a decade ago; and most recently, a handful of Sinn Féin politicians were also deeply sorry” for historical sectarian slurs made on Twitter. It’s fair to say it’s been a difficult week for those in politics. Our political figures who are soaked in controversy are stretching the elastic band of trust.

I must admit, I have found it rather painful to observe and I am sure I’m not alone in my disappointment in those we elected. No doubt, I am sure many politicians regret ever downloading Twitter in the first place.

You don’t need to have been personally offended by any of these tweets to fully appreciate just how jarring these comments were. Unequivocally these tweets fall well below the standards we expect from our public representatives.


Politicians are of course human, and as humans we make mistakes. We too, say and do things we later regret and I am sure we can all relate to this feeling. Perhaps, it was a comment you said or an opinion you held – and now you look back with horror and regret. Hindsight is a difficult pill to swallow. It is however, through these experiences we learn, and try to better ourselves.

Doug Beattie has said he’s learning and reflecting from these mistakes, so perhaps this thorny political moment can lead us to a place where hard and honest conversations can be had about the misogyny built into our institutions and culture. A prescription for change is needed in the way politicians conduct themselves on social media – they can do better. Let’s be people who think before we speak or type.

Our words matter.

If nothing else, the past week has reminded us of the power in our words and the hurt they can cause. Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21). In Genesis 1 the first act of speech called the world into being. God spoke and it was. Words brought light into the land of darkness. We learn in Genesis 3 that the serpent used words to distort reality and subsequently cause chaos.

It is crucial that we fully grasp how significant our words are and the weight they carry. The book of James talks about the power that words have, indeed he furthers his point by even comparing the tongue to fire (James 3:6). Just like fire, words can be used to ignite passion or cause devastating harm.

A redemptive story?

As our politicians apologise, we’re often implicitly being asked to trust that they are learning, reflecting and trying to do better.

Often between justice and mercy there is considerable tension. Redemption doesn’t mean simply that we gloss over the mistakes; it may even be entirely appropriate that disciplinary actions are taken. But thankfully our actions do not demean our value, because in the Christian story there is always space for redemption.

Crucially, we should care about how those who we have elected and lead our country act and what they say. We should care about the ethics of the political stage, which have often been dictated by societal values, the courtroom and even the church. It’s integral that those in the public eye act with honesty, integrity and humbleness – a vision we should all seek to pursue.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9