THE families of the ninety-six victims of Hillsborough will find out more today than they have in 23 years about what happened to their loved ones and how people in positions of responsibility reacted to the disaster. They know, there has already been evidence, that certain people took certain steps to cover up the truth. They know, because they’ve seen it for 23 years, that certain people have continued to make efforts to continue the cover up. What they won’t know, until this morning, is just how much of the truth the Hillsborough Independent Panel have managed to uncover.
Anyone who has read stories or seen documentaries about the campaigns for justice and the battles for truth – excluding idiots who let partisan football rivalries, or partisan regional rivalries, or partisan class rivalries, or their own gullibility get in the way of just looking at the facts in front of them – knows that there are big problems in the way the aftermath of the disaster has been handled in those 23 years. To put it mildly.
Not everyone who believes the stories put out by someone in authority, that fans were to blame, stories splashed all over the front of The Sun newspaper in 1989 and repeated by the ignorant or self-preserving ever since, does so out of being an idiot. Not everyone has a connection to the tragedy that makes them spend time reading about it in any kind of detail. But countless times over the past few years, through this and other sites, people have got in touch to say they didn’t realise what had really happened, they didn’t know about the cover-ups, or about the detail of that Sun newspaper story, or about what kind of people fed that paper those lies. They apologise, they go out and tell others about what they’ve learned.
Decent people know, when they hear even a small part of the existing evidence out in the open, that 96 people died unnecessarily, that they didn’t die because some fans were drunk or even worse the wear for drink, that they didn’t die because of fans turning up without tickets, that they would still be here today if certain individuals had treated football supporters as people rather than animals.
Decent people know, when they hear for the first time about the 3:15pm cut-off, that there must be evidence out there never looked at, evidence that could not only shed more light on the failings of individuals that day but could also help prevent other tragedies from happening. The quest to protect people who were in the wrong means that for 23 years we’ve been at risk of a repeat of some of what went wrong after the disaster, or more accurately as the disaster continued to take place.
Ambulances lined up outside the stadium and ready to help with the expertise and equipment they had on board, which may or may not have been adequate but was at least better than nothing, were blocked from coming in. Because we’ve never had a formal investigation into why that happened, or what difference it could have made, how do we know that there won’t be similar failings in future? Whatever we have in place now in terms of planning for disasters, however it might have evolved in 23 years, the people making those plans have never had the opportunity to use the full facts of April 15 1989 to help decide what does and doesn’t work, facts that could include a tiny bit of detail that makes a huge difference.
Decent people know that the covering up of the facts, of the efforts by the establishment – and more than one political party – to either continue the cover-up or resist efforts to uncover the truth have caused untold damage and additional suffering to people who would never have suffered had their predecessors in the job acted in a way befitting of the duties of their positions of power. Decent people know that when people have nothing to hide they don’t try to hide anything.
23 years ago certain individuals, knowing they had blood on their hands, no matter how minor or major their part was in the 96 deaths, tried to get the truth hidden. They shoved the truth on a train and sent it away from the scene, fuelled by the facts they wanted burned, fuelled by their fears of being shown as incompetent, lazy, stupid, arrogant, greedy self-preserving buffoons, fuelled by in some cases their fears of being seen for what they are. For 23 years that train has been kept going by more of the same type of buffoon, with more of the same type of motive, as they do all they can to get the truth as far away from the people who need it as possible.
For 23 years that train has struggled to make a clean getaway. For 23 years the people who lost their loved ones and the people suffered but survived have fought back and tried to stop it, to slow it down. At times it’s looked like it will be stopped, only for another buffoon to find a way to fuel it a little longer. For many of those 23 years those people must have felt tiny against the might of the establishment. But as those 23 years have passed those people have been supported by a growing number of different people, including people who might not even have an apparent connection to what happened. People started to hear what really went on, from the accounts of so many people who really aren’t very different to them, and the more they heard it the more they realised how much of a connection they had to it as well. It’s not about football, or being from Merseyside, it’s about far more than that.
As 23 years went past the establishment’s train found it harder and harder to keep moving the truth away from those who needed to see it. As 23 years past the train slowed down. As 23 years past the train started to stop. As 23 years went past the train started to be dragged back with its truth and today the families get to see what that truth was. Or what’s left of that truth.
We don’t know what today will bring but whatever it does bring is down to those people who have campaigned tirelessly for 23 years. Not all of those campaigners will be here to find out what is revealed today, the authorities kept it hidden too long and some of those parents never got that chance for some peace and to come to terms with what happened.
Ian Brady kept the location of the body of his victim Keith Bennett a secret for almost 50 years. It remains a secret, and if it ever is revealed it will have been too late for Keith’s mother Winnie Johnson. She never got to bury her son, to get that opportunity to take that extra step in coming to terms with what happened. Brady is described as vile, despicable, wicked, shameful and countless other words that do little to really explain what suffering his actions caused – and his determination to never let that mother bury her son only add to what he did in the first place.
Those who have kept the truth from the Hillsborough families for 23 years can hardly complain if the same kinds of words are used to describe them. Whatever they did wrong in 1989, whatever justification they have given themselves in their own minds to try and help them sleep at night, nothing can justify their continued efforts to stop those families from getting the chance to move forward in their quest for justice, closure and maybe, just maybe, a little peace. Those who have come into positions of power since 1989 and have continued to help hide that truth, or deflect attention from that truth, can consider themselves to be just as bad.
And waiting 23 years to come out pretending your story in a now boycotted newspaper wasn’t that bad and trying to blame it on your boss is not going to suddenly see you considered as not such a bad person after all. You wrote lies. You made no effort to stand those lies up, to point out how far-fetched they were or to question the motives of those making the allegations. 23 years later you try to make out you were fair and your boss shoved some headlines on that made it sound different and you think that makes it all okay. It doesn’t, it just proves what countless people have thought about you for 23 years. Have a read of what you wrote. Your former boss is vile, but you were no better.
How many others will be shown to have been no better? How many others have spent 23 years watching their families growing up knowing that they played a part in adding to the suffering of those who never got to see one of their own grow up? 23 years.
An apology will never be enough but how difficult is it to say sorry? How difficult can that be compared to losing your children, losing your dad, being accused of despicable acts when you’d actually risked your own trying to help others, being accused of despicable acts when you were already desperately trying come to terms with the unspeakable horrors you were trapped in the middle of?
Nobody knows what today will bring but it could have been brought a long time ago. It should have been brought a long time ago. And the fight will go on until there is no longer a need to fight.
The truth will out.