James Delaney, Christopher Edwards and James Hennessy are names the people of this area will always remember.
Young men with their lives ahead of them were lost to us when they attended a football match at Hillsborough in 1989. In total, 96 football fans died and it is a mark of shame for this country that it took 27 years for the truth to become official, that these fans were unlawfully killed.
Like most people, I remember at the time the horror of the scenes unfolding on TV. I remember two lads from my football team appearing on the national news laying a wreath on the terraces in the aftermath which shook me to the core. We all knew someone who was at the match and in the days before mobile phones it wasn’t as easy to get the word out that somebody was safe, but the agony of waiting for news was nothing compared to the pain for those who lost loved ones.
Scandalously, we know that pain was only the start. What followed was a concerted attempt by the authorities and certain sections of the media to smear those fans. For those born in the last few decades it is difficult to comprehend just how much football fans were demonised by some at this time and they seemed the perfect scapegoat for the authorities to blame for their own negligence. But the families knew differently and they have shown tremendous spirit and determination to keep fighting for the truth.
The original inquest was a travesty and whilst the most recent one finally got to the truth, it was still made much harder than it needed to be by police lawyers continuing to smear the fans. The fact that no individual has yet been called to account for their actions is something that now needs to be put right. Prosecutions must follow.
Andy Burnham MP gave one of the most powerful speeches ever heard in the House of Commons in response to the official statement from the Home Secretary. He said “What kind of country leaves people who did no more than wave off their loved ones to a football match still sitting in a courtroom 27 years later begging for the reputations of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and fathers?”
We should all reflect on this, those complicit must answer for their actions and we have to ensure something like this never, ever happens again.