ANYONE who knows me knows one of my chief passions in life is Liverpool Football Club.
Like many Liverpool fans, my memories of the Hillsborough disaster are as clear now as they were when 96 supporters lost their lives at the FA Cup semi-final match against Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
I remember the sheer horror unfolding on live television. I remember questioning where the emergency services were as dying fans were being carried by fellow supporters on advertising hoardings that had been turned into makeshift stretchers.
I remember the opposing managers, Kenny Dalglish and Brian Clough, being forced to appeal to their supporters for calm as the authorities continued to convince themselves they were dealing with hooliganism rather than a disaster.
Most of all, in the days before texts and e-mails, I remember receiving and making phone call after phone call as the death toll rose.
The calls were between me and friends from across the country who were fellow Liverpool fans.
We were checking if our mates were at the game. There was relief if they weren’t and terror if they were until we could get hold of them.
I was lucky. Only one of my friends was at Hillsborough that day and he was not in the Leppings Lane end.
But he saw what happened and it scarred him for life.
In the 23 years that have followed relatives and friends of the 96, along with thousands of Liverpool supporters, have campaigned for justice.
It has been a long battle against police cover-ups, national media lies, and successive governments that did not (or did not want to) believe the truth.
Yesterday the world learned the truth. And it was not ‘the truth’ as so disgracefully reported by The Sun in the days following the disaster.
The report of the independent panel set up by the last government to review all documentation concerning the disaster confirms once and for all that the police and the Hillsborough stadium authorities were to blame for the tragedy.
Liverpool fans did not die because of their own behaviour.
They died because the people whose job it was to keep them safe failed in their duty.
Worse still, some of them could have survived if the authorities had reacted in the appropriate way to the unfolding disaster.
Those authorities then set about defaming the dead and organising a systematic and co-ordinated cover-up.
They knew they were to blame and they covered their tracks. And they were supported by the powers- that-be – from the coroner whose original shoddy, shameful inquest verdict must now be overturned, to the Thatcher government that had an in-built hatred of football supporters.
Yesterday was not the end of the fight to achieve justice for the 96. It was the beginning.
Now those who lied, and covered up, and broke the law, to shift the blame away from themselves must be brought to book.
The truth has been told.
Apologies have been given. Now justice must be done.
We need a review of SDR safety
THERE needs to be an urgent safety review following yet another accident involving a lorry on Newport’s Southern Distributor Road.
Tuesday’s accident, in which a lorry carrying scrap metal toppled over near the Ebbw Bridge roundabout, is the third such crash this year. There have been at least a dozen such incidents at various places along the SDR since it opened in 2004.
So far there have been no serious injuries as a result of these accidents, but it is surely only a matter of time before a lorry driver is hurt badly or a lorry topples on to a car.
There can only be two reasons for these accidents – bad driving or bad road design.
Drivers who use the SDR need to know which it is. If it is the former then there needs to be a police crackdown on the driving standards of truckers on that stretch of road.
But if it is the latter then something needs to be done to rectify the problems before there is a fatality on the SDR.