In the House of Commons, David Cameron the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom just delivered a profound and heartfelt apology to the families and victims of the Hillsborough Disaster, and the City of Liverpool.
And not before time!
There are a million links ... I included one to the Guardian. Google "Hillsborough".
In a deeply moving tribute, Cameron apologised on behalf of the government and the nation to the families of the victims of a policing disaster.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister said the findings in the report were "deeply distressing". He said: "With the weight of the new evidence in the report it's right for me today as prime minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 … On behalf of the government, and indeed of our country, I am profoundly sorry that this double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long."Twenty three years ago, fifty thousand football supporters attended a football match in the city of Sheffield. Ninety six died where they stood.
They died because of an inept South Yorkshire Police Department. They died because of an elderly and unsafe stadium.
They died, and that was bad enough .... What happened next was beyond appalling.
In the immediate aftermath the South Yorkshire Police conspired to cover up their ineptitude. That they did so was understandable. They had failed and ninety six people, some teens, had died from crush injuries. It must be extremely difficult to accept responsibility for that as an organisation, and as individuals.
What marked this as truely reprehensible was that they tried to cover up by blaming and impuning the dead.
The Police alleged drunkeness and lawlessness. They accused the fans of deliberately arriving late and ticketless, and of forcing their way in. In some cases they ran national database checks on the dead supporters to try to unearth criminal records .... In short, they lied, they conspired and they were utterly wrong.
Let us move to look at The Sun newspaper. The Sun is and was the flagship, mass circulation daily newspaper owned by News International. Editor at the time was Kelvin MacKenzie. The Sun, under a "King is Dead" typeface rushed to blame the supporters. They too accused them of being drunk, of robbing the dead and even, and this is breathtaking, of urinating on Police Officers.
AT every stage The Sun failed in it's duty to report the truth. Not for nothing did the phrase arise in the UK:
"There are Lies, Damned Lies, and Sun Exclusives"!
This chapter is not yet over. There will now, in all likelihood be new inquests into those ninety six deaths, and this time the inquest will have access to the truth. Truth the families have known these last twenty three years. Truth the Police have known too.
It will not bring them back, but it might bring peace for the families of the victims, and the many thousands of survivors from that terrible day.
On a personal note ... I sat down that day to watch a game of football on TV. What followed was truely horrific, with live BBC coverage of the tragedy as it unfolded. Even at the time it was clear that the authorities had no idea how to respond, Neither the Police nor the Ambulance Service knew what to do, and it was supporters, from both teams who were rescuing those in danger.
They even resorted to breaking up advertising signs to use as makeshift stretchers. They gave mouth to mouth, and cardiac massage to their fallen friends ... and they wept.
Today .... Let the healing begin.