Finally, the actual truth on Hillsborough

Posted on October 18, 2011

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“Now for the truth”. The Liverpool Daily Echo has every reason to be happy with the outcome of yesterday’s parliamentary debate on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Twenty-two-and-a-half years is a long time to wait for justice. But the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who tragically died will finally get the truth after Home Secretary Theresa May promised full disclosure of some 300,000 documents relating to the tragedy.

It is about time. The families of those who died have had a lot to put up with over the past few years. Having lost loved ones, they were then forced to see the memory of those loved ones denigrated in what can only be described as an organised campaign on behalf of the police and the gutter press. They were then stonewalled in their long campaign to have papers released, a process that has only been sped up in the past couple of years by the efforts of Labour MPs Andy Burnham and Maria Eagle. Other prominent politicians have gradually joined in the calls for the papers to be made public.

But there has been a growing public awareness that the stories peddled by the police through papers such as The Sun in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy were lies, and now we will finally know the facts as to what happened on that fateful day. As David Conn notes, if responsibility had been acknowledged by the police at the time, there would have been no justice campaign and the families could have been left to grieve in peace. Instead many people will now have to face up to what amounts to a serious miscarriage of justice all these years later.

South Yorkshire police must finally acknowledge the scale of the cover-up that occurred in the aftermath, as they attempted to pin the blame on “drunk” supporters rather than their own failings. The Margaret Thatcher government of the time must explain and apologise for its misplaced backing of the police, after her spokesman at the time, Bernard Ingham, blamed “tanked-up” Liverpool fans for the tragedy. Rupert Murdoch’s News International must apologise for peddling police propaganda, and reveal the source (though Roy Greenslade feels it unlikely that an individual will be revealed). And The Sun must not only apologise, but do it in the same big, glaring letters that it used to promote South Yorkshire Police’s lies in the first place, along the lines of “THE TRUTH: WE LIED”.

None of this will change the horror of what happened on that day in 1989. But a legacy of cover-ups and misinformation will finally be corrected, and the lost 96 can rest in peace.

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