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Wednesday September 12th 2012 is a date that will go down in history, a significant and emotional day for all connected with Liverpool Football, but none more so than the families of the 96 who tragically lost their lives at the Hillsborough disaster.
I was just 13 when it happened, seeing events unfold on TV. It was clear something had gone badly wrong, but the magnitude was yet to sink in. Being so young and living abroad, the enormity of the families and survivors torment hadn’t registered with me. I hadn’t really had to deal with loss at that time, I wasn’t emotionally mature enough at that point to even try and comprehend what the victims families and friends, the survivors and the people of Liverpool were going through.
Except they didn’t just have to deal with the pain of loss, they had to suffer slanderous lies plastered all over the Sun newspaper; the names of the dead and survivors dragged through the mud in a malicious campaign instigated by South Yorkshire Police to shift the blame and besmirch those who should only have been receiving compassion and support.
Not until I was in my 20’s did I learn more about Hillsborough and the more I read, the more I was horrified. I would urge anyone has not yet read it, to read Hillsborough: The Truth by Professor Phil Scraton.
Incredibly, 23 years on, the Hillsborough families and other campaigners never gave up the fight for truth and justice. To have the stomach for such a long and emotional battle takes unimaginable strength, determination and courage.
But the dignity shown by the families throughout this battle is beyond words.
As a Liverpool fan, I can honestly say that You’ll Never Walk Alone is more than just a song we sing and I feel immensely proud that we’ve always supported the Justice For The 96 campaign. The FA Cup tie against Arsenal in January 2007 with The Truth mural on the Kop particularly stands out.
So, following an online e-petition, an independent panel was set up to review over 450,000 documents that were released to the by the government and after 18 months of careful scrutiny, they were ready to published their findings. The families, Liverpool fans and indeed, lots of fans other clubs as well already knew the truth, but the extent of the deceit and deception that followed the events of that fateful day was truly shocking.
41 of the 96 who died, had the potential to be saved.
Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to South Yorkshire Police
As a prelude to the announcement of the panel’s findings, the Prime Minister made a very frank statement and offered an official apology for the “double injustice” in the House of Commons. It was an important part of the record being officially and unequivocally being set straight.
Other apologies followed, including one from The Sun and one from its then Editor and man responsible for that infamous and spurious headline ‘The Truth’, Kelvin MacKenzie. Now, I cannot speak for any of the Hillsborough families or any other Liverpool fans, but I feel the apologies from The Sun and MacKenzie are not only 23 years too late, but empty ones and they can stick them.
The damage done by them may never be repaired and it’s a slur that any right minded person now knows was absolutely without foundation and untrue, but sadly there will still be a few that hold that suspicion and that is their legacy.
The disaster simply should not have happened – there was no valid safety certificate for the stadium at that time, the stand allocation was seriously flawed (The FA have to hold their hands up about their failings in this), the policing was inadequate.
But once it happened, lives could have been saved with proper medical care and response. What happened afterwards though, was not just about incompetence or negligence, it was about malicious deceipt, corruption and the biggest cover up in British history.
Those responsible have to be held accountable, there are individuals with blood on their hands and they must feel the full force of the law.
September 12, 2012 was about the truth, next must come the justice.
Written by Andy Wales
Follow him on Twitter @AndyArmchair
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