I wasn’t born in 1989 and for that, I will always be grateful. I didn’t know anybody at Hillsborough, I didn’t watch the news to see the images of fellow football fans being crushed in the Leppings Lane End and I didn’t have to fight to protect the reputation of friends and family who never came home as the press and authorities sought to tarnish their name. For many, all of the above applied.
The 15th of April 1989 will always be the defining day in the lifetimes of so many. For those who lost loved ones, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign has dominated the 22 years since, but no event in the fight for the truth will ever surpass the significance of the disaster itself.
In my lifetime, as a football fan who didn’t experience the tragedy, Monday 17thOctober 2011 could well be the defining day. This was the day where the response to Hillsborough as I knew it changed. It should never have taken 140,000 signatures to make the government take notice of the Hillsborough families’ pleas, but together, we have set the wheels in motion. Many of the people who signed the e-petition won’t have been directly affected by the tragedy, but have made their voices heard on behalf of the 96 and their families.
From a deeply emotional day in London, both the city of Liverpool and football as a whole can emerge with a great sense of pride. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has always maintained the utmost dignity in the face of adversity. As doors have continually been slammed in the faces of the families, they have continued the fight in the right manner. As the Home Secretary agreed to the release of all Hillsborough documents, their persistent efforts were rewarded.
Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham have been exceptional in their commitment to the cause. Accompanied by Alison McGovern’s emotional and touching speech, the performance of those representing the city of Liverpool and the wider football community should be a source of pride. With people like this in our corner, it is only a matter of time before justice prevails.
There will always be a short-sighted, malicious minority who take joy in the suffering of others. They will continue to make ill-informed accusations, but those that matter are now beginning to listen. When the truth is told, the lies of this minority will fade into insignificance.
However, there are others who had a platform through which to promote their lies. Those who celebrated in the grief of the Hillsborough families and attempted to manipulate public belief by accusing the true heroes of the day will never be forgiven. For one man in particular, the next steps in the road to justice will be very uncomfortable indeed. For Liverpool fans, they could be very satisfying indeed.
It doesn’t seem right to write at length on Hillsborough today. There is little that we can say that wasn’t said, quite brilliantly, in the Houses of Parliament by our representatives and hasn’t been said for 22 years by the Hillsborough families.
However, on Monday, things changed.
For years, there has been a belief that outside of Liverpool, nobody was interested. Following the brilliance of Liverpool’s MPs and the support from football fans across the country, this government have no choice but to listen to what the people of Liverpool have said since 1989. It has taken far too long and far too many people have been subjected to unnecessary additional pain, but now, more than ever, justice is a real possibility.