I am an adopted scourer. What’s that? Scouse is an inedible stew – meat (or if no meat available – lob scouse, I believe) and veggies in what I believe might be an inedible constellation. I have never knowingly eaten it.
But I am an adopted scourer. Scouse is from Liverpool. I am not, but my kids, nearly, are. My work was in Liverpool. My heart has been in Liverpool for these many years.
So as a Scoucer, adoptive, I weep today with my fellows as the verdict from the Hillsborough inquiry as it is read out on the television. 1989. I remember the pictures on the television. I remember the horror. I remember the disbelief. I didn’t watch football at that time – but I watched that. And I wept then and weep now.
So – the police did not tell the truth. Football fans were squeezed into pens which, at the time were felt to be the best way to minimalise hooliganism. More and more people crammed in, there was no room, 96 of them suffocated. The pens were eventually broken open, some fans pulled to safety, some burst on to the field, the game was stopped. Say it again – 96 died. Suffocated. People tried to save their family, friends. The police – some – stood by, fearing a pitch invasion. Three ambulances arrived. Fans tried to help fans. People died. Help did not come.
Sons, daughters (two in one family), fathers, mothers granddads died. In the aftermath, families were corralled into a gymnasium to identify their loved ones (mostly aged under 30) then asked how much their relatives drank or had been drinking. The Sun newspaper (I suppose amongst others, but the one I heard at my hospital) accused Liverpool fans of being responsible – of stealing from and urinating on the dying, of being drunk and disorderly causing the press, of breaking down a barrier (on this the police colluded, although they themselves had instructed that the barrier be opened, causing the crush). I have rarely seen a Sun newspaper sold in Liverpool since then, though I know they are – I don’t know who could buy them.
So today, I do not salute the 96 and their families – I weep with them, for them, I remember them, I only hope that time does not give them relief but comfort. I cannot imagine their suffering.
I also acknowledge Tony Bland, a young lad left in a persistent vegetative state after Hillsborough who was allowed to die as a victim, and whose case is ground breaking for merciful treatment of those whose life has lost its meaning, and I do salute his parents.