I remember the day 23 years ago 15 April 1989, when the tragedy at Sheffield Wednesday’s Football Ground took, I was entertaining Pam and Robert, the news came on the television of something happening – it was turned off immediately after they arrived – as we moved onto other topics. It is strange the things you remember, I was making Ratatouille.
It was a different time then, living in Sheffield I had grown used to the contempt of the Government down in London, I had passed the Orgreave Coking Plant on my way from work and seen the Miners March through Sheffield, I had lived through Guildford Pub Bombings, and the subsequent false imprisonment of the ‘Guildford Four’ and trying to argue that even though they had been involved in bombings it wasn’t fair to convict them for a bombing they did not commit. The bombings in London were all too frequent and Belfast could have been a war zone as we watched to terror stalk this country.
Belfast, Liverpool, and Sheffield were the source of all the evil in the land, left-wing, militant, and proud. We were to blame, of course, for everything because we were not rich and affluent.
It was a different time, a right-wing Government was trampling all opposition, and using the Police as an instrument of the State, it was a terrible time that we were going through – looking back I am not sure how we survived. Hillsborough was just another tragedy, a few years earlier another Football Stadium – Bradford – had caught fire killing or injuring over 300 people.
Having listened to the public apology made by the Prime Minister I had hoped that we could move on, the country had moved, but it was all in vain. Less than 24 hours after the apologies and politicians beating their chests shouting mea culpa we have the recriminations, the calls for vengeance, the call for ‘justice’. Everyone is looking for a political angle to this, personally I can accept that the Conservative Government wasn’t going to look too closely at the disaster because it was the South Yorkshire Police that had crushed the Miners, and with it the Trade Union Movement for the Tories, but does that help?
I do find it reprehensible that the Police created a wall of silence, I find it obscene that the The Sun newspaper branded the Liverpool supporters as the cause of the deaths, even though we were in a worn torn country – and make no mistake we were in a bloody civil war – it was the truth, as ever, that was the first casualty. I find it chilling that Police Officers altered statements, the Police were the para-militaries of the Tory Government, and it seemed they could do almost anything.
Even the BBC showed aerial pictures of Bramhall Lane, the home of Sheffield United, not Hillsborough – the spin had already begun.
I keep going back in my head to the first Government after the fall of the Third Reich in Germany, yes the crimes that had been committed have to be acknowledged, but much more importantly everyone has to resolve that it should never happen again.
We have moved on, the battles we fight are different battles, the war has changed and so has its context. The scandal of Hillsborough needs to be marked and remembered, but do we need the blood-letting, the accusations, the endless quibbling over points of law.
Ninety Six people lost their lives, lets remember that. Vengence is not a healing experience, we need healing over the events, not recriminations.