So much has been written about this week’s decision that the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed, but I would just like to add a few more paragraphs.
I remember listening to the tragic events unfold on that April afternoon over a quarter of a century ago, but today I would like to pay my own small tribute to men, women and children who didn’t return from what should have been a day of sporting celebration, and to all those who fought so hard and for so long to reveal the truth that others had tried to bury beneath a disgusting web of lies and deceit.
Families suffering the most unthinkable grief somehow found the strength and courage to challenge a fundamentally flawed and corrupt establishment, and a cowardly gutter press intent on one-sided sensationalism. But to continue that fight for twenty-seven years is truly remarkable; and to be totally and so publicly vindicated must have released an overwhelming tide of contrasting emotions.
The calculated actions of the South Yorkshire Police were and remain completely indefensible. Notwithstanding what happened on the day itself, the police took blood alcohol samples from the victims, checked computer records on the national police database and subsequently “altered” 164 witness statements in an attempt to deflect blame and their own culpability onto innocent people who had died watching the football club they loved in a stadium where they had every right to be protected by those whose job it was to ensure individual and collective safety.
Maybe the families have their “justice” with the verdict from the coroner’s court—but surely they’ve every right to also demand accountability from those involved in such a shameful and reprehensible cover-up. That said it is particularly sad that some campaigners did not live to hear that verdict… the only thing these wonderful people could not overcome was the passage of time.
Since the jury’s decision was given, the reaction in Liverpool has understandably been incredibly moving and, like many others right across the country, I have been genuinely touched by the coming together of the red and blue halves of this magnificent city. Sporting rivalry is fine… but there comes a point where the city is bigger than the club you support; and the good folk of Liverpool have shown immeasurable strength through unity, as well as true honour and dignity.
Today I salute the city of Liverpool, everyone who fought for “truth and justice”, but most of all the 96 supporters who perished… but will never walk alone.
Rest peacefully x