One day, this will all be over. The Hillsborough disaster will simply be a piece of ugly history, a barely-believable tale that seems completely at odds with the British sense of fair play and decency. That day is still a long way away.
Six people will face charges over criminal offences relating to the tragedy that occurred on April 15, 1989, at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield. An afternoon that should have been memorable for fun and football would eventually lead to 96 deaths. They are the fatalities we know about. Thousands more lives were blighted, some terminally.
The biggest misunderstanding about Hillsborough is that it was a football problem or a Liverpool issue.
What happened at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, where the victims were crushed to death, had wider ramifications. There was a complete breakdown of civic services. The people charged with protecting the public failed in a catastrophic manner. The blame was deflected onto the victims. For more than two decades it was the accepted narrative that Liverpool supporters caused the situation and behaved dreadfully in the immediate aftermath.
The reality was different.
The Sun made scurrilous, irrational allegations about the disaster ()
Despite the scurrilous, irrational allegations that were given credence by Kelvin MacKenzie in The Sun, fans did not cause the disaster.
The real reasons were clear from very early on. The families of the dead and their supporters were regarded as cranks and fantasists by the general public but much of the evidence that was laid bare with forensic brilliance by the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) in 2012 was a matter of public record in the early 1990s. Few people wanted to listen, though.
A decade ago, Hillsborough felt like a lost cause. There was little political backing – the Labour government had no interest – and the families and their supporters seemed to be fighting a quixotic cause….