Monday, 16 April 2012

96 - It's more than just a number.

Three years ago I wrote this post, to put down in words my experiences of being at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989. After writing the piece I went, with my brother, to the memorial service at Anfield. It seems that this service was a turning point.

It was the best attended service ever and as the then Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Andy Burnham, stood up to read the governments thoughts, a crescendo of noise, chanting for "Justice for the 96", filled the vast stadium. A few days later I was engaged in a conversation with a longstanding and vociferous Liverpool fan. He was apoplectic about the treatment meted out to the minister.He was convinced that the incident had set back the justice campaign and made Liverpool fans look like the "professional victims" that they have been tagged as by rival fans.

However, Andy Burnham heard the chants. But more. He also listened. Before he was relieved of his position in the ministry he had started the process that would end up with the release of all papers relating to the disaster into the public domain. The Independent Hillsborough Panel, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool and including such luminaries as Peter Sissons and Phil Scraton (if you ever need to know more about Hillsborough then find a copy of his book). This panel will release its findings, first to the families of the victims and then publicly, before the end of this year.

This report will also be a huge step in the process for Anne Williams who is campaigning to have the inquest into her son Kevin's death reopened. His case is at the heart of Justice for the 96. It highlights the co-ordinated smear campaign that the victims, survivors and families have had to endure for 23 years.

It also highlights something that crystallised to me at the memorial service today. At the end of the service, the congregation once again chanted for "Justice for the 96". I watched the service again at home. At the end of the LFC TV coverage this tribute was played. It was the first time I had seen a photograph of each of the 96 victims individually. I have seen montages of their faces many times before, but as I sat and watched the tribute I realised that each of the victims have their own story. Each is a son or daughter. Some will be mums or dads, brothers or sisters. The things that unities them is their love for Liverpool FC and their tragic end. But there are so many other things that separate them. Their taste in music, favourite food, ages. A million differences in 96 individuals. The inquests lumped all of these individuals into one group and assumed that they all died from exactly the same set of circumstances and exactly the same injuries. The evidence that Ann Williams has regarding Kevin's circumstances certainly point to his circumstances being different to those offered by the coroner at the original inquest. If there is one exception, then why not 95 other exceptions?

Liverpool's anthem is You'll Never Walk Alone. The Hillsborough families have always felt that they never walked alone, but for the first time in 23 years, there seems to be some genuine hope in our hearts as well.

In the last twelve months there have been two debates in parliament regarding Hillsborough. One in support of a new inquest for Kevin Williams held in Westminster Hall in which the Attorney General gave hope of a new inquest if the Independent Panel reported that this was the right direction to go in, and a general Hillsborough debate in the house of Commons presided over by the Home Secretary. During that debate, Steve Rotherham read out the names of each of the victims.

So if it is good enough for Hansard, it is good enough for me.

  • John Alfred Anderson (62)
  • Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
  • James Gary Aspinall (18)
  • Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
  • Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67)
  • Simon Bell (17)
  • Barry Sidney Bennett (26)
  • David John Benson (22)
  • David William Birtle (22)
  • Tony Bland (22)
  • Paul David Brady (21)
  • Andrew Mark Brookes (26)
  • Carl Brown (18)
  • David Steven Brown (25)
  • Henry Thomas Burke (47)
  • Peter Andrew Burkett (24)
  • Paul William Carlile (19)
  • Raymond Thomas Chapman (50)
  • Gary Christopher Church (19)
  • Joseph Clark (29)
  • Paul Clark (18)
  • Gary Collins (22)
  • Stephen Paul Copoc (20)
  • Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)
  • James Philip Delaney (19)
  • Christopher Barry Devonside (18)
  • Christopher Edwards (29)
  • Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)
  • Thomas Steven Fox (21)
  • Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)
  • Barry Glover (27)
  • Ian Thomas Glover (20)
  • Derrick George Godwin (24)
  • Roy Harry Hamilton (34)
  • Philip Hammond (14)
  • Eric Hankin (33)
  • Gary Harrison (27)
  • Stephen Francis Harrison (31)
  • Peter Andrew Harrison (15)
  • David Hawley (39)
  • James Robert Hennessy (29)
  • Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)
  • Carl Darren Hewitt (17)
  • Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
  • Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
  • Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
  • Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
  • Arthur Horrocks (41)
  • Thomas Howard (39)
  • Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
  • Eric George Hughes (42)
  • Alan Johnston (29)
  • Christine Anne Jones (27)
  • Gary Philip Jones (18)
  • Richard Jones (25)
  • Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
  • Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
  • Michael David Kelly (38)
  • Carl David Lewis (18)
  • David William Mather (19)
  • Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
  • Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
  • John McBrien (18)
  • Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
  • Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
  • Peter McDonnell (21)
  • Alan McGlone (28)
  • Keith McGrath (17)
  • Paul Brian Murray (14)
  • Lee Nicol (14)
  • Stephen Francis O'Neill (17)
  • Jonathon Owens (18)
  • William Roy Pemberton (23)
  • Carl William Rimmer (21)
  • David George Rimmer (38)
  • Graham John Roberts (24)
  • Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
  • Henry Charles Rogers (17)
  • Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
  • Inger Shah (38)
  • Paula Ann Smith (26)
  • Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
  • Philip John Steele (15)
  • David Leonard Thomas (23)
  • Patrik John Thompson (35)
  • Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
  • Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
  • Peter Francis Tootle (21)
  • Christopher James Traynor (26)
  • Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
  • Kevin Tyrrell (15)
  • Colin Wafer (19)
  • Ian David Whelan (19)
  • Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
  • Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
  • Graham John Wright (17)
Rest in Peace

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