What began as a day out in the spring sunshine 20 years ago ended as the darkest hour in the history of British football - Peter Went
I think I have a good memory of events from twenty years ago today. It was a Saturday and I had been listening to the radio most of the day in my H-Block cell. Liverpool would be playing in the FA Cup semi final cup in the afternoon and their opponents were Nottingham Forest. Liverpool had been in such form throughout the season and were sufficiently smarting from the previous year’s defeat at the hands of Wimbledon in the final of the same competition that Forest could not conceivably stand in their way.
I had another reason for listening to the radio long before the match was due to kick off. Earlier in the week two IRA volunteers had been arrested on active service in West Belfast just after they had attached a booby trap bomb to the gate of a RUC barrack. One, Pat Sheehan, was a close friend and a former hunger striker from the protest that had taken the lives of ten of his comrades. He had visited me on a number of occasions in the jail after he had been released. The roles would be soon reversed. The other, Marie Wright, now deceased, was also a former prisoner.
On hearing of their appearance in court I was devastated, particularly for Pat given that I had known him so well. As determined as both of them were, knuckling down for the long haul would be no easy challenge. I had no thoughts for their intended victims. We were at war with them and they with us. That’s how it was then. Compassion was a finite resource, limited to our own side and denied to the other. With thoughts of Pat and Marie still in my mind I settled down to listen to the game. Like everybody else 6 minutes was as far as I got before disaster struck. My thoughts of what had happened in a Belfast courtroom were soon to be displaced by trauma from a Hillsborough football stadium, the pangs of which still tug at my emotions to this day.
As a Liverpool fan I had always wanted to stand amongst that multitudinous throng of moving, swaying, chanting bodies. There was a deep affinity with the souls who populated the Kop. Many years earlier on black and white television after Liverpool had pulled back from a two goal deficit to beat derby rivals Everton, the camera stayed on the moving mass in the Kop for what seemed like an eternity. It looked like heaven on earth. It wasn’t live. Outside of FA cup finals which were televised as they were happening we had to wait to that evening or the following day to watch English soccer. Years later I would make it to the Kop. But the experience has become indivisible from the tragedy of twenty year ago. Today 25, 000 people gathered throughout Anfield to remember the dead.
96 fans lost their lives that day, men and women, boys and girls. So rapid was death that only two fans died in hospital. The oldest was 67 and the youngest 10. Their names are etched on a monument outside Anfield. Whenever I am in Liverpool for a game or not I make a point of visiting the shrine. The emotion is powerful. I can only compare it to visiting the resting places of republican hunger strikers. That says a lot about its potency.
One thing that annoyed me deeply after it was when some fool called Albert phoned up the popular BBC Talkback show to suggest that because the Anglo Irish Agreement had been signed at a place called Hillsborough the horror visited on the Liverpool fans in a Sheffield stadium of the same name might be God’s revenge. There is no bigot like a religious bigot. His hateful comment prompted me to write a piece called ‘Albert the Imbecile’ which I sent out to a local Sinn Fein newssheet in South Belfast. The editor declined to carry it on the grounds that it might have sounded sectarian.
Immediately after the disaster the police and gutter press between them began lying with the intention of putting the blame for the disaster onto the Liverpool fans alleging they were drunken hooligans. Professor Phil Scraton describes how the cops got together to falsify their accounts and realign their stories. Lord Justice Taylor who carried out the inquiry into the disaster in his report rubbished the notion that ‘hooliganism’ played any part in the events of the day. He placed the blame on bad police management and was scathing of the police officer in charge for being ‘untruthful’ in his account. He also rubbished the Sun for its reporting which showed that the paper had attacked Liverpool fans with a venom usually reserved for Irish people.
The disgraceful inquest verdict of two years later recording ‘accidental death’ infuriated and depressed the families of the dead. The path that Taylor had blazed through the fog of cover-up had been rerouted back into a marsh where truth was sucked down. With the approval of the coroner the police through a coordinated legal strategy fought an action aimed at discrediting the Taylor finding.
Undeterred, those who want justice for the 96 continue to this day, determined that they shall never walk alone.
if u had been ordered to place a bomb at an english football ground when u were in the ra would u have done it if yes theres not much difference than u and albertReplyDelete
Anonymous; that's a misleading and unfair question. The ra never maliciously set out to kill civilians. That distinction belongs to the British Army.ReplyDelete
I guess it doesn't take much courage to attack someone while hiding behind the name 'Anonymous' on an internet blog.
Anonymous, we'll just leave you guessing on that one. You know what they say about the granny if she had balls ... The IRA never ordered any football stadiums to be bombed and I didn't bomb any! It didn't order rockets to Jupiter or order the sabotage of the Kremlin from within. So you guess whether I would have or not and I’ll guess who you areReplyDelete
u spent most of the troubles in jail most murders r unsolved it stands to reason most murderers r never charged u were unlucky still u done ur wack ud no other option do u expect people to respect for u as these x prisoners groups want when half of them signed statements wat does that make them no better than mc guinnessReplyDelete
Anonymous, it's not the phone text style that makes this difficult. I'm easy with that. There just seems no coherence to it. Otherwise I would attempt an answerReplyDelete
u cant reply that quick u were in jail most of the troubles wat would u no wat was going on not just with the provies inla iplo u didnt no morrison had a deal in his pocket so that tells u allReplyDelete
thats complete lies jim lynch says the provies had no intensions of killing civilians he must of for got bert mc cartney sid johnstone mickey mooney guarda mc cabe ect im attacking nobody behind a pc sure gerry wasnt in the ra professional liars not my words the darksReplyDelete
y did u sign ur self any body signing broke the green book no excuses then again scap used to be ur hero not a bit of wonder u spent most of the the war in jail thats y u cant anserReplyDelete
Jim;I think Anonymous was raising a valid point in his/her initial question given Anthony's publicly declared pride with regards to his former IRA membership.I assume Anonymous was attempting to square the sentiments expressed in "Justice 96" with what Anthony has previously described himself as "unspeakable acts" in respect to particular IRA atrocites.That the ra never set out to maliciously kill civilians is and will, no doubt, remain a hotly debated subject however what evidently is not debatable is ownership of the distinction for the actual malicious killing of civilians - and that is a dirty little trophy that belongs in all our cabinets.ReplyDelete
Whatever the merit of the discussion it tends to show a self absorption with the North and its problems. The most important item - the 96 dead - don't as much as get a look in.ReplyDelete
The Provos never set out to kill civilians , hiding behind PC's ,maybe balaclavas are Pc's ,what absolute rubbish , anyone who cherishes life would say what a complete waste of young life that fateful day , but years later as I watched David Beckham leave a football pitch and 2 Liverpool stalwart fans in full view of the world media and with the best seats in the house bend over the balcony at Wembly and shout "I hope your kids get cancer" at D Beckham what brave guys they were no hiding there. As someone who believes that all kids should partake in sport as I believe it is a great help in adult life , to witness both of the above events I ponder which was the worst tragedy the deaths or the threat of death. The Provo's did plant a bomb in a Birmingham pub and killed football supporters but because it wasnt a Stadium its ?????? sorry if I dont leave my name but I cant get this Balaclava offReplyDelete
Must agree with AM about how did we get from the people of Liverpool being killed to the troubles of our little piece of earth , maybe we should start to look beyond this heartache that we have all contributed in some way to and realise that our's is not the only hurt.ReplyDelete