Today Tuesday 26 April 2016 the jury at the Hillsborough Inquest return their verdict on the deaths of the 96 Liverpool football fans who were killed at the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough football ground, Sheffield on Saturday 15 April 1989.
The jury found that the fans were unlawfully killed and match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was “responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care.
How are we, the Hillsborough families, still standing? We took the power back
Through 27 years of stress and trauma, we have led the way for others seeking truth and justice for ordinary people. That is our legacy
by Julie Fallon
As we pick through the Hillsborough inquest findings and analyse the process itself over the coming days, I ask myself, what is the significance of today? What is our greatest achievement? And what will be our legacy?
For me, the significance of the verdict that those who died, including my brother Andrew Sefton, were unlawfully killed is the truly astonishing fact that we as a support group – a mixed bag of bereaved, devastated family members, thrown together 27 years ago – are still standing here at all. We were not meant to be and if others had their way, we wouldn’t be. This is also our greatest achievement.
For at the risk of invoking some of the many slurs thrown at both us and the city of Liverpool over the years, I feel I need to say that while it is an unpalatable truth for a portion of the population and one that they would really rather not hear or accept, it is the shameful truth that for the vast majority of the past 27 years, we the families, the survivors and the fans, were systematically and maliciously bullied, intimidated, manipulated, lied to and lied about. We were used for personal and political gain, marginalised and publicly vilified by those in our country who were placed in positions of power and influence, which were primarily designed to support, protect and administer our fundamental rights.
It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say that for most of the families, lives have been irreparably damaged. People have suffered illness and trauma, brought on by years of ongoing stress. Hillsborough has permeated our lives to such an extent that we now no longer have any idea of the people we would have been without its influence. It was only after 23 years of institutional neglect and abuse – when the commitment and unswerving support of those who have fought with us from the beginning, combined with our own passion for the truth, finally led to a handful of decent politicians backing us – that the government implemented the Hillsborough Independent Panel report. A report so shockingly thorough and outstandingly competent that even the authorities had no choice but to respond to its findings and finally give us the inquest we had always had the right to in the first place.
A victory, then. Except that this country has never known an inquest of this length before. Rocky, unchartered waters that left the families sitting silent for more than two years while the legal system tried to work out how to administer it. A gargantuan process that has further taken its toll stealthily and steadily on the families, bringing them to the point of physical, emotional and financial exhaustion.
So, how on earth are we still standing here, then? We are still standing here because we are decent, ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances of someone else’s making. In order not to be cowed whatever the cost, we have had to find within ourselves skills and attributes we never knew we possessed. We are an example of the very best this nation has to offer; dignified, resilient, honourable, compassionate, fair-minded and driven by a determination to have the truth exposed.
And there lies our real legacy, our real headline in history: “Hillsborough – the real truth”. We have paved the way for other ordinary, decent people in this country, who also find themselves in extraordinary circumstances of someone else’s making, to tread the path to truth and justice. We have swept the road before you, heaved boulders, checked for mines, swallowed dust, buried our dead at the roadside and, at times, crawled on our hands and knees, so that the path is now a little easier for you to walk on.
That is the significance of us still standing here after 27 years, and it is what the Hillsborough families should be ultimately remembered for, that we, at a very dear cost to ourselves, have given a measure of power and hope for what is possible, back to the ordinary person.
Now may the 96 rest in peace.
Julie Fallon is the sister of Andrew Sefton, who was one of the 96 fans killed during the 1989 Hillsborough disaster