The fact that it has taken 28 years for a Hillsborough families report is nothing short of a national disgrace. Many Hillsborough family members and also survivors of the disaster have had to deal with awful mental health problems as a result of the tragedy in 1989. An example of this is Becky Shah whose mother died in the disaster. She has since spoken out about her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and feelings of guilt as she survived the disaster. Adequate support hasn’t been given to people like Becky for numerous reasons. But clearly the most important reason as to why there hasn’t been a Hillsborough families report is that, for 25 years, consecutive governments and the national press did not believe that the ninety-six Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed. Consequently, they did not believe that the families were right to fight for justice.
The authorities wanted to suppress the families, not help them. David Duckingfield and other members of the police force knew exactly what went on at Hillsborough but instead chose to blame innocent fans. But, it went beyond blame. The police, the Thatcher government, and especially The Sun newspaper had an interest in not only blaming Liverpool supporters, but vilifying and dehumanising them. The authorities felt the same way towards the Hillsborough families due to an institutional belief of superiority and power. Nobody wanted to help the Hillsborough families as they were simply viewed as an annoyance by those in power. Even under the Labour government, a government that was allegedly for the working classes, Tony Blair did not publish a Hillsborough inquiry in order to appease his friend Rupert Murdoch at The Sun – a newspaper that had just given their support to Labour. No one with any power wanted to give any attention to the Hillsborough families as they simply wanted any news of the disaster to disappear and be swept under the carpet to keep the police’s credibility intact.
Clearly, attitudes towards mental health are different in 2017 than they were in 1989, but this is absolutely no excuse for not offering support to those affected immediately after the tragedy. It is outrageous that only since the truth has come out there is now a Hillsborough families report. This suggests that those in power thought that before 2017 there was no need to publish an official report for the simple reason the families were wrong. This argument completely forgets the fact that Hillsborough families have been dealing with the losses of loved ones for the past 27 years, and not only that, their sons, brothers and daughters were being labelled as hooligans by the police and The Sun newspaper. Ultimately, it’s as if the authorities have said, ‘When we thought you were wrong, you did not deserve our help’. This report is 28 years too late, and we can only hope that a situation like this is never repeated again.
(Image courtesy of Time Magazine)