I have no profound observations to make, but I feel that I must say something on this extraordinary day.
Justice and the truth can never bring people back from the grave. And neither can the unrelenting efforts of families, friends and campaigners. If they could, then 96 people would most certainly be back with us. 96 people who went to a game of football – a game of football for Heaven’s sake – and never came home.
Hillsborough will forever be a byword for tragedy, distortion, deflection and wrongly-attributed blame. It will ALWAYS be a stain on both a wonderful sport and the country which which gave birth to it. It will also forever be a millstone around the neck of The S*n ‘newspaper’. We can only hope that it is heavy enough to sink it to the bottom of the cesspit in which it dwells.
Today’s inquest verdicts are not the end. There will NEVER be an end for those connected with the tragedy. They will always feel an acute sense of loss and the burning pain of knowing for a legal fact that 96 people were unlawfully killed while going to watch 22 men kick a ball around. Nor is this even the end of the process. Separate police investigations, the decisions of the Crown Prosecution Service, and ultimately the courts will determine whether criminal charges are brought and proven against individuals and organisations involved in the events of that awful day.
This saga has an awfully long time left to run. Hopefully no stone will remain unturned in the further pursuit of the truth and justice. There should be no hiding place for anyone, no matter how senior or obscure they are, and no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing the process is for them. Because nothing, absolutely NOTHING can possibly feel as bad as the blackness experienced for over a quarter of a century by those who lost loved ones at Hillsborough, and who simply wanted to get to the bottom of what actually happened.
It remains utterly incomprehensible that it has taken 27 years for an inquest to finally rule on the Hillsborough disaster having PROPERLY considered a FULL range of relevant information rather than just a bewilderingly narrow subset. The fact that it took the herculean efforts of ordinary folk who simply wouldn’t give up to force ‘the system’ to look again at the circumstances surrounding the 96 deaths is a national disgrace and an affront to common decency. Those 96 people and everyone connected with them deserved better.
And they still deserve better. ‘The system’ now needs to be given time to do its job properly, consider the need for criminal charges to be brought and to learn a veritable mountain of lessons. Anyone who is charged clearly has the right to due process, but make no mistake it will be an absolute outrage if heels are dragged and excuses found to justify inaction over the coming months and years.
Ninety-six dead football fans deserve justice and to rest in peace.
An army of everyday people who invested, time, money and a vast amount of emotion to uncover the truth also deserve as much closure as it is possible to obtain in these wretched circumstances. They also deserve enormous respect and admiration from the likes of you and me. Because today’s verdicts are a stunning vindication of their tireless campaign and – quite frankly – a triumph of the human spirit.
They – unlike ‘the system’ – have done the 96 proud.