Thursday, 13 September 2012

Justice for Hillsborough

A seismic moment yesterday in the Justice for Hillsborough campaign. The revelation that police and emergency service notes were doctored en masse to avoid criticism of their behaviour on the day and the assessment that nearly half of those who died could have been saved is a final damning indictment on the authorities and the establishment. It paves the way for criminal prosecutions of those responsible.

Like most of you of you forty-somethings, I remember watching the match live on the box and witnessing the carnage in complete astonishment and disbelief. It was blatantly obvious that the Leppings Lane terraces were packed solid and that the seats above were completely full. It was an F A Cup semi back in the day when they were close to the biggest fixtures in our football calendar, far more important than they are today.

The fact that it was Liverpool fans appeared to be less of a coincidence. They had a reputation for being "scallies," for jibbing train fares, shop-lifting and for getting into the big matches without tickets. They were renowned for "getting in" at Wembley in particular when they would do almost anything to see the game. They had also been involved in tragedy at Heysel when their fans caused a stampede and the death of Juventus fans. 

So, I for one, was ready to absorb stories that emerged from the authorities that there had been widespread heavy drinking pre-match which had contributed to the scale of the disaster. Drinking at football was far more prevalent then and I would have been half-cut had we been playing there in a semi. The lie that ticketless Liverpool fans had charged a gate and been climbing over the turnstiles also struck a chord and in spite of the desperate scenes of ordinary fans trying to save each others lives, the suspicion that the Liverpool fans were largely responsible was readily accepted. The idea that there had been a mass cover-up by the establishment seemed too convenient and, frankly, unbelievable. It was much easier to assume that was wishful thinking by "whining Scousers." The Sun famously took that line and grossly offended the entire population of Liverpool, most of whom obviously knew better.

Those like me owe the Scousers humble apology and we should be vigorous in the prosecution of those responsible for the cover-up. Perhaps the events of the last few years make this all possible now and easier for us to accept. Cheating, thieving politicians, pernicious journalists, bent policemen and other establishment cover-ups. 

The Hillsborough cover-up looks colossal. Doors of the stadium being locked so that police and ambulance staff notes could be doctored together? How could this have gone undiscovered by free-thinking journalists at the time. There were simply too many people involved and the victims knew different. The horrible impression I am left with is that someone senior in the press suppressed the truth and this, in my mind, would be worse than those with responsibility weighing heavy on their shoulders trying to straighten their stories to deflect blame. 

No doubt it will take another few years to iron this out and bring those responsible to justice but with politicians already having fallen from grace so spectacularly and the worst offenders doing time, it looks more likely than ever before. There is also the prospect that media and police may join them following the hacking scandal and now this. Never again should we tolerate Liverpool supporters being taunted for having fought this injustice.

1 comment:

AramintaTwittin said...

It was my brother's wedding that day and his wife and family were all huge Liverpool fans. My then husband and I had gone back to our hotel before the evening reception started and watched the news in a state of horrified disbelief. We decided not to tell anyone at the reception what we had seen. At the end of the evening everyone joined hands to sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' but I had to leave as I was crying so much.

That it has taken so long for anything close to the truth to finally come out is truly appalling and shameful, and apologies from David Cameron and Kelvin McKenzie worthless and meaningless against this cover-up of monstrous proportions.