23 Years

It was peculiar to hear yesterday the SYP Chief Constable apologising “even now” for the abuse of power way back then, or the BBC’s own emphasis that 1989 was comparatively much more recent history than police corruption in the 1960s. The reality of it is, this wasn’t just a criminal conspiracy perpetrated back at the end of the 80s, this was a cover-up that could have been dismantled by each and every government across the last two and a half decades.

I was born in 1990, the year after Hillsborough. The truth should have been (widely) known before my time. Those responsible should have been held accountable by the time I was one.

The Prime Minister’s apology yesterday didn’t hold back from identifying the affair an “appalling failure of the state”. For all to see, THE TRUTH:

  • the series of catastrophic errors by the police which caused the deaths of 96 men, women and children and the serious injury to hundreds;
  • the decision to hold back the fleets of ambulances outside the stadium, only two ever gaining entry — the emergency services which might have saved the 59 still alive beyond the 3.15 cut-off point at which they were declared deceased, 41 of which we now know had the true potential to have lived;
  • the systematic cover-up by the South Yorkshire Police, ranging from “amendments” to alcohol blood tests on the deceased (including a ten year old) and criminal record checks so as to impugn their reputation;
  • the fabrications reported by the media, most notably The Sun in that infamous headline story, which the people of Merseyside will never forgive.

And then there’s the government, who only a couple of years ago agreed on the release of most of the information pertinent to Hillsborough, despite the constant fight of the families of the victims, the people of Liverpool as a larger family, and Liverpool FC supporters worldwide. In this time, a reputation against them was created and entrenched in the national ideology. 23 years is much, much too long for this to possibly be reversed.

The city of Liverpool was not exactly a favourite of the institution at the time. The Thatcher administration didn’t stop at writing off its economic prospects – it systematically decimated it. Thatcher herself was well known for her hatred of a city that sought fairness through action, strikes that held stronger than most against her barbarism, its disillusionment with the system including the law. Last year saw the release of cabinet papers (due to the 30 year rule) which revealed she strongly considered writing off the city entirely by calling for evacuation during the 1981 riots instigated by the racist police. Instead, she bled it dry.

Fast-forward to 1989 and the loss of 96 innocent lives did not reach sympathetic ears at 10 Downing Street, and yesterday’s documents prove beyond all doubt that Thatcher was aware of the police’s responsibility for the disaster, and of the cover-up conceived mere hours after the horrific deaths which tapped into the convenient narrative of football hooliganism which the general populace would have no qualms buying into.

Margaret Thatcher is culpable for her part as accomplice and should be tried accordingly.

The extent of Thatcher’s role is unknown. Of course, it was in her own best interests not to play the whistleblower when she relied on the support of the police, as violent force (and a monopoly at that), throughout her tenure. But beyond that, the people of Liverpool have often suspected the Iron Lady had a more hands-on role in instigating the cover-up.

Conspiracy theory? Tell that to the families who have been called liars for the last 23 years. The relevant minutes and papers from the Prime Minister’s office in the hours after Hillsborough are yet to be disclosed.

Is it any wonder that Merseyside has little to no faith in the state? First-hand it has suffered the betrayal of its own people, blamed for their own loss after the failure of the police, the emergency system and the government itself. Every government since 1989 which ignored the cries for the truth.

Watergate didn’t last 23 years.

– David “AYBG” Smart

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