Today is the 22nd anniversary of the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in which 96 Liverpool football fans died. A friend had put a tribute on his Facebook status and I decided to read about the story and refresh my memory. Wikipedia has a moving account of the Hillsborough disaster and the extraordinarily inept action by the police that is generally felt to have been the reason for the disaster. The Taylor enquiry into Hillsborough made many conclusions about safety and its recommendations became the blueprint for future football stadium construction.
The Liverpool F C website has a number of videos and eye witness stories that transported me to Sheffield on that fateful day. I was rather puzzled by the recurring theme of “Justice for the 96” and discovered that many relevant papers have been suppressed and 22 years later, the Government is refusing to make them available.
It took me back to another tragedy 23 years earlier on 21 October 1966 when an unstable coal tip slid down a hill and engulfed Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan and 116 children and 28 adults died. You can read about the events on my tribute website. The response of the authorities after the disaster was nothing short of appalling. Government, NCB and the Charity Commission behaved reprehensibly and their actions, coupled with media insensitivity made the grief of the survivors, their families and the wider Aberfan community even more difficult to bear.
The Sun newspaper famously published an edition following the Hillsborough tragedy that was breathtakingly insensitve and downright deplorable even by its own low standards and to this day, Liverpudlians still boycot the paper. The Liverpool FC website portrays well the dignity and compassion shown by and towards the bereaved families despite their not being told the full facts of the disaster.
Cover-ups, weasel-word excuses and downright obfurscation and concealment of truth have no place in 21st century society. Where there has been negligence, mistaken action or just unwitting error, the truth must be established openly and action taken. Bob Dylan expressed it well:
Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
And Liverpool fans express it more simply in the words of the world’s best football anthem: You’ll Never Walk Alone.