Archive for the ‘LIverpool FC’ Category

Commemorating the Hillsborough Disaster. 20th Anniversary, Anfield.

The recent leak to BBC Radio 4’s World At One (15 March) of confidential cabinet papers on the Hillsborough disaster provides a fascinating insight into the workings of official propaganda. The papers recall a series of briefings given by Merseyside Police to Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, just four days after the disaster; essentially, they supported the view of colleagues in South Yorkshire Police that Liverpool fans were to blame for the deaths of the 98.

We have always known in the aftermath of the disaster that the police had privileged access to the media and to the very centre of government; and thus the opportunity to get their version of events on the record in public and in private as quickly as possible. Indeed, the scurrilous news headlines at the time, blaming the fans and exonerating the police operation at the ground that day, were not simply media inventions. In all likelihood they derived from police briefings, whose version of events and the headlines it generated are actually still believed by many today.

The Sun's take on the Hillsborough Disaster, 1989. All lies and no doubt sourced to police briefings.

It was very reminiscent of how quickly and effectively the British Army promoted its false version of events on Bloody Sunday in Derry on 30th January 1972, telling the British and international media that the 13 people shot dead by paratroopers that day were nail bombers and gunmen when in fact they were all innocent.  The army propaganda machine was so successful at this that some remarked on how quickly lies march around the world before the truth gets its boots on. The Widgery Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, just 11 weeks later, shamefully accepted and endorsed the army version and it took nearly 40 years for the Saville Inquiry to establish the truth that all 13 victims were innocent and for the British Prime Minister to formally accept this in parliament.

This is the kind of thing the Hillsborough families have faced ever since the loss of their loved ones in 1989. They’ve heard the lies of the media; they’ve seen the injustice of the inquest with its verdict of “accidental death” rather than “unlawful killing”; they’ve had the flawed verdict of the original Hillsborough (or Taylor) Inquiry of 1989, which left many questions unanswered but at least concluded that the police bore primary responsibility for what happened that day; and they’ve had to bear the insult of the Blair-sponsored judicial review by Lord Stuart-Smith in 1998, which decided there was no new  evidence on which to challenge the original Taylor Report.

Most recently came the news that the release of thousands of confidential papers that might help answer still unanswered questions would be delayed until this Autumn at the earliest because of the sheer weight of information they contain. Sheila Cole of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign accepts the reasons for the delay but she and many others will think it curious indeed that this particular document is being leaked now. We don’t know who leaked it and what interest they have in perpetuating the lies about how and why the disaster happened, which is a problem in itself. But the Hillsborough families, Liverpool Football Club and Liverpool fans everywhere will no doubt have strong suspicions that the police are, once again, getting their version out before the full range of papers are released, papers that might rightfully damn the police version once and for all, answer the still unanswered questions, and vindicate the finding of the original Hillsborough Inquiry that the fault for the disaster lay fully and squarely with the police and their operation at the ground that day.

Though I’m sorry to say personally and as someone brought up in Derry during the Troubles, I don’t hold out too much hope that the families will get justice from the British police anytime soon.