Hillsborough and a Sunderland view from Liverpool: no ‘sense of jubilation’

The memorial garden at Sudley House; Liverpool

John McCormick, the third Sunderland supporter to collect his thoughts and write on these pages about the agonisingly late recognition of Hillsborough truths, has a special reason to care enough to say what he thinks. Liverpool his adopted city, his children’s birthplace and the place from which friends and colleagues set off that day in 1989 to watch a game of football in Sheffield …

I thought long and hard before writing this. I was thinking of writing well before Jeremy posted on September 12 but I wasn’t there, at Hillsborough on April 15 1989 and have no links with any of the 96 or their families, so perhaps writing would make me a fraud.

Besides, enough people have already written eloquently and painfully of that day; what difference would I make?

However, I live here in Liverpool and I’ve been party to, if not part of, the suffering and humiliation that some decent, upstanding, law abiding citizens should never have had to endure. I’ve seen my home, the city where my children were born, dragged through the mud to protect reputations and save careers. I need to bear witness to that.

I did have colleagues who were there, and friends, and a couple of relatives. Thankfully, they all came home, bringing with them a tale of chaos, of incompetence, of blind insensitivity. But you didn’t need to be there, or in Liverpool, to know that. It was obvious from the TV pictures that were beamed around the world. What wasn’t so obvious was that the blame-shifting had begun.

As the early days grew into weeks, while the funerals were still taking place, the blame-shifting grew. Aided by The Sun, whose grotesque banner headline calumnised both the living and the dead, the lies were made real. Liverpool fans robbed the dead, Liverpool fans were drunk, Liverpool fans urinated on the police and stopped them doing their job. Lies – tell them enough and they become the truth.

Not this time. Not in Liverpool, not ever. We’ve known enough of the real truth from the start, and with that knowledge came the will to fight lies and evasions, injustice and moral cowardice. It was this which helped the families of the 96, with support from members of LFC, the Liverpool Echo, local MPs and the whole of Liverpool, to keep going until the whole truth came out.

The first intimations of that truth were not long in coming. A public inquiry led to the Taylor report of 1990, which found that the main cause of the disaster was “a failure of police control”.

However, that could never be enough. Taylor did not address many of the issues which required an answer, including the extent of any cover up, the action of the coroner, the culpability of individuals. That took another 20 years. Another 20 years of legal action, prevarication and suffering that could have been avoided had some people had the decency and the honesty to speak out or, in the case of Kelvin MacKenzie, the decency not to speak.

What now? I can’t easily describe the atmosphere in Liverpool. The word vindicated has been used and perhaps the cloud we’ve lived under is moving away. Even so, there’s no sense of jubiliation, no feeling of conclusion. The mood is sombre, reflective, quiet. The report can’t change the past. It can’t bring back the 96. But now the truth has finally come out, bringing with it the possibility that people will be held to account, that new inquests will be ordered, there’s a feeling that we might be able to move forward and ensure there is justice for the 96.

Twenty-three years and still waiting but at least, at last, we have the truth.

'Jeremy at his finest' was one verdict on his poignant, dignified article

** Jeremy Robson on the Hillsborough report: https://safc.blog/2012/09/the-robson-report-hillsborough-guilt-and-shame-a-glimmer-of-human-compassion/

*** Mick Goulding: the anger of a man who was there: https://safc.blog/2012/09/hillsborough-truths-that-were-always-known-a-victory-that-remains-bitter-sweet/

20 thoughts on “Hillsborough and a Sunderland view from Liverpool: no ‘sense of jubilation’”

    • Apologies but there was a John McCormick and I just assumed it must have been you. Should have looked at your photo before commenting! Still a good documentary though and anyone who missed it can catch it on the Channel 5 website for until September 2013.

  1. Dear Jill,

    Please don’t be put off by the above comments. Keep reading and enjoying the site. Your comments will always be welcome

    John Mac

    • John – I caught you on the Channel 5 documentary and came back here to re-read your excellent piece. It’s a shame that the responses section has been used as an arena for some political mudslinging.

      As I said in my intro to Sixer’s report of the Liverpool match the outcome of the report was no surprise to those of us who were going to football back then – it was an obvious truth.

      Likewise, those of us who have lived in mining communities know what went on during the 84 strike. I was living in a Leicestershire mining town, next door to a working miner, while my brothers in the North East supported the strike so I saw it from both sides and I witnessed at first hand how it was policed.

      Incidentally, I was at Selhurst Park in 1997 when we were relegated following a defeat to Wimbledon. The fans were in good humour and were laughing and joking despite the disappointment. My sister and I – me in my forties and her only a few years younger – were passing a police transit when someone jumped on a police motor bike and went for a ride down the street. At this a signal was obviously given and suddenly truncheon wielding police were everywhere displaying uncontrolled aggression. One mounted copper, using a torrent of abuse, threatened a chap with his young son and all they were doing was crossing the road.

      When I got home I wrote to my M.P. saying that the police response could have provoked violence when there was no threat whatsoever and that they had over-reacted to the admittedly stupid, but impulsive behaviour of one individual. He contacted the Met on my behalf and guess what. In their letter of reply they blamed the hundreds of Sunderland fans who had been drinking heavily all day and had refused to follow police instructions.

      Let’s hope the rhetoric of the past few days isn’t hollow and that justice is seen to be done for the families and memories of the 96.

  2. Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to walk the streets if there was someone like you anywhere near me.

    Nobody is bullying you. What are you talking about? This is a healthy debate, or it was until you started attacking the tone of the comments etc and not the content. I’m not quite sure what your problem is but it must be obvious to everyone that you have a fairly serious one.

    So Maggie Thatcher had “balls” did she, to send soldiers in amongst the rank and file of police to attack people with batons? She’s nothing but a criminal protected by her office. You are just as bad for defending her. The Miner’s Strike was about saving an industry and preserving jobs in areas which God help us, needed it badly, in case you need reminding. People like you fill me with nausea.

    • Who said that I was being bullied?

      Certainly, I did not!

      Maybe you should learn to read (as per Tim) before making yourself out to be a buffoon.

      I questioned the inaccurate content, not the tone!

      In addition, I must ask you to justify your penultimate sentence.

      Do you believe that any industry deserves to be saved when it is none sustainable and is costing the taxpayer money hand over fist?

      • Obviously, Jill does not have an answer to the question I posed her and has disappeared in an attempt to deal with her spiders, shadows and ghosts!

  3. “Why certain individuals find it necessary to use it to spout, ill informed, left wing, political rhetoric I will never understand.”

    The problem with Tories, such as you is (well…….it’s just one of the problems, as to list them all would take until Christmas even if I was in a hurry), is that anything they disagree with becomes “ill informed rhetoric.” Maybe this bloke lives on Mars or Uranus or some place, but the comments that Tim made are absolutely 101% correct. Thatcher was responsible for the abusive use of the police force and was terrified of offending senior officers who knew the full inside story of what happened in the strike just a few short years before.

    There’s much more to come out about this now. The toothpaste is our of the tube, and those involved, including Maggie Thatcher will have to face their accusers. There’s no going back on this.

    • Jesus!

      Are you allowed to walk the streets?

      Being so neurotic I find it hard to believe that you can sleep at nights, with all of those spiders, shadows and ghosts!

  4. Some of us remember the Miner’s Strike mate, and some of us still bear the scars of police brutality. If you think Thatcher had no involvement in the cover up, then you should read the documented remarks made to Herd at the time. She’s as guilty as sin and had to be called to book.

    The nation is still recovering from the trashing of the working people committed by her and her goons. Fascist Phil just wants to silence those who speak out. He’s just as guilty as Thatcher is.

    • I must confess, as an outsider, I had no sympathy with Scargill or his tactics.

      For me, what Maggie did was to show “balls” and not give in to a bully and his bully boys.

      That is an attitude I’ve always had – try bullying me and you will get back more than you bargained for!

      Regarding the Hillsborough cover up, I prefer to read the conclusions of the report than accept those of the uninformed!

      Having waited all these years I find it amazing that someone would attempt to read things into it that even HFSG do not!

    • Fascist Phil?

      I’m proud to class myself as a staunch nationalist but fascist?


      They are too left wing for me!!

  5. This is bang on. Thatcher should have been in the dock years ago for her part in the Miners Strike and she should be brought to justice for her role in this cover up. Without her blessing, the real facts about what happened at H’boro would have come out back then. Even Deadly Dougie Herd was stood four square behind the Taylor report. The police were her weapon against the lads on the picket lines and she was their friend when they should have been charged for events at H’boro.

    The whole business shames the country. Those who were at the top and sanctioned the alteration of documentary evidence are criminals and murderers and nothing less.

    • This is a football blog!

      Why certain individuals find it necessary to use it to spout, ill informed, left wing, political rhetoric I will never understand.

      In the report, published this week, there was no suggestion that Maggie Thatcher was, in any way, party to the cover up.

      Don’t, though, allow the facts to get in the way of an uninformed rant!!

      • Football and politics, in a perfect world, would be separate. This sorry affair shows that this is nigh on impossible

        “In the report, published this week, there was no suggestion that Maggie Thatcher was, in any way, party to the cover up”- correct, but she created the “culture of impunity” in which officialdom could basically get away with whatever.they felt necessary.

        Sounded like a rant, fair enough, but a well-written and informed one to me

      • “Thatcher should have been in the dock years ago for her part in the Miners Strike and she should be brought to justice for her role in this cover up.”

        Ignoring the reference to the miner’s strike, the remainder of the sentence, to me, shows just how uninformed the “rant” was!

        As I suggested, though, if people wish to display their ignorance they only demonstrate just how foolish they are!

      • Just because the report doesn’t say it (which I acknowledged) doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Other than that one piece of supposition and opinion, it seemed to be based on fact.

        The Sun didn’t let the facts get in the way of much….

      • I know I will receive (and will accept) all of the thumbs down that be forthcoming because they reinforce what I know to be true.

        Socialist bully boys always hunt in packs because they lack the balls (especially on the internet) to be identified individually!

        Cowards – no more, no less!!

  6. I will use the word “magnificent” for the second time today, to describe your piece on this painful subject John, because “magnificent” is what it is.

    There are some other comments which I refrained from making yesterday, but having had the privilege to read the comments from our various contributors and particularly after Mick’s post and yours, I hope that the time is right. Without going into some lessons on social history, there are some matters germaine to what happened in the immediate aftermath of Hiilsborough. My hesitation to post at all, mirrored some of your reservations too John, In fact I only produced the article when prompted to do so by Colin.

    The 1980s was characterised by a sea change in the way that the police acted, were used and hence in their perceptions of self worth and to some degree, omnipotence in dealing with large groups of people. In particular the South Yorkshire Police, arguably stood alone in their own mire of misuse and abuse of power. The various confrontations on the picket lines during the miners strike in the early 80s and the horrendous scenes at Orgreave live long in the mind. To the SYP, any crowd of mass gathering was perceived as a threat to be controlled irrespective of the location, venue or occasion.

    Margaret Thatcher had (mis)used the offices of the police force to win her battle against the striking miners and in particular the force of South Yorkshire. Her comments and response to the original investigations into Hillsborough were that it amounted to a damning indictment of the police. Thatcher was clearly concerned about the damage this would do to the already tarnished reputation and which Jack Straw (Ex Home Secretary) described as a “culture of impunity” in the police. Small wonder, I suggest because had the real truth been exposed, then the heads of senior figures within the police service would have had to roll. I doubt very much whether the dirty horrible secrets surrounding Thatcher’s own use for the police at Orgreave and elsewhere would have remained hidden for long.

    Despite what were recent events at that time, to some degree there remained a widely held misperception of the modern police officer as some sort of latter day Dixon of Dock Green character; a friendly grandfatherly figure who everyone would wave to as he rode around on his creaking bike. This was of course in stark contrast to the snarling violent lines of blue which appeared at picket lines, the length and breadth of the country only a few short years before. Thatcher’s contempt for the working class and in particular for areas such as Merseyside, South Wales, the North East and most of Scotland simply meant that the body count at Hillsborough on that April 1989 presumably meant very little. She had no time for the working class of this country when at work and no respect nor concern for when they were at play either.

    The truth remained hidden and the response to the Taylor report offered by Douglas Hurd was toned down by Thatcher. David Duckenfield and Bernard Murray (officers on duty that day) were disciplined and left the force. Had the full weight of the law come down on them at the time, then a whole other can of worms would have been opened for the Prime Minister. Murray was cleared of two counts of manslaughter and no verdict was reached in the case of Duckenfield (now deceased), at a private prosecution brought in 2000. I am no lawyer but wonder whether double jeopardy would apply in the case of Murray (assuming he is still alive), in the light of recent disclosures.

    The part that Thatcher played in the cover up must now be subject to a thorough investigation. Some twenty three years on we have seen the truth at last but possibly too late to see justice served against those who may be now departed or too frail to face prosecution. Is the timing of this release just a little too late and a little too convenient.

    There is so much for the guilty to be held accountable for. 96 lives. The victims were aged between 10 and 67 years of age. 79 of the victims were under 30 years old. There were two sisters, three pairs of brothers, a father and son, and two men who were expectant fathers for the first time.

    The time for political expedience and hiding is over.

    • Jeremy, do you not realise that you are contradicting yourself?

      You said “The time for political expedience and hiding is over.”

      However, you seem hell bent on using this thread for exactly the first part of that sentence!

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