The Hillsborough disaster and the cover-up needs to be part of the national curriculum and ‘The Real Truth Legacy Project’ aims to achieve just that.
Kevin Sampson’s powerful drama, Anne, hailed a masterpiece by many, has served to highlight the deeply troubling fact that despite a 2016 verdict recorded by Coroner Sir John Goldring that the 97 had been “unlawfully killed, due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care,” to date no individuals or organisations have been held accountable for their deaths.
Furthermore, the campaign of lies, distortions and black propaganda orchestrated by South Yorkshire Police in 1989 and disseminated by obedient politicians and various news outlets continues to bear fruit with people continuing to parrot these discredited lies decades on. Many have expressed despair at the fact that too many still wrongly believe that “Liverpool fans killed their own.”
However, one Merseyside MP is seeking to ensure that current and future generations learn the truth about Hillsborough, and he wants to ensure that school children have access to a definitive account of the disaster and the subsequent cover-up.
The 2 key features
Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, who himself survived the Hillsborough disaster, recently told the UK Parliament that the tragedy should be taught in schools as part of the national curriculum. He has so far received support from 30 MPs.
Byrne will be working with survivors and the families of the 97 fans who lost their lives as a result of the disaster to create ‘The Real Truth’ Legacy Project.
The project will aim to achieve the following two key elements:
First, is a political education toolkit that can be used by trade unions and Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and like-minded organisations that want to learn more about Hillsborough.
Political education on ‘The Real Truth’ at Hillsborough will be made available, with significant input from families, survivors and leading Hillsborough campaigners. Hillsborough ‘The Real Truth’ will focus on the fight for justice and provide a definitive record of the social history of Hillsborough.
The second element of the project is the campaign to get education about Hillsborough onto the national curriculum, including a dedicated ‘Hillsborough Day’ to take place on the nearest Friday to the anniversary of the tragedy on April 15 each year.
The Hillsborough Day would see every Liverpool school taking part in a special assembly and there will be a particular focus on Professor Phil Scraton’s influential book, ‘ Hillsborough – The Truth ‘, the definitive account of the disaster and its aftermath.
In an Early Day Motion (EDM) – a formal motion submitted for debate in Parliament – Byrne calls upon MPs to support the bill, stating:
“That this House acknowledges that, 32 years after the Hillsborough disaster, criminal trials collapsed in May 2021 and nobody has been held to account for the unlawful killings of 97 innocent people.
“(It) acknowledges that it took 23 years of campaigning for the truth about the disaster to be finally acknowledged at the Hillsborough Independent Panel and for lies and smears about victims and survivors to be corrected.
“(It) further acknowledges that it took 27 years for the true inquest verdicts of unlawful killing to be recorded.
“(It) recognises the important work of the honourable member for Garston and Halewood (Labour’s Maria Eagle) in getting Parliament to learn lessons from the disaster and her work to introduce legislation that would ensure that bereaved families and survivors of future disasters never go through the injustices faced by the Hillsborough families and survivors.
“(It) furthermore recognises the important role of education in learning the lessons from the disaster and calls on the Government to include the Hillsborough disaster in the national curriculum, a programme of education which should cover the events of the past 32 years, the continuing campaign for justice and how we ensure the events of that fateful day are not forgotten and that the ensuing miscarriage of justice is never repeated.”
Byrne has previously spoken movingly in Parliament about his experiences of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in 1989. In 2021, he fought back tears as he stood on the backbenches and recalled being left “questioning my own eyes” after “smears” and “lies” were pushed by the police and other establishment figures.
This is understandably an issue close to his heart.
Reflecting on Anne, the emotional drama-documentary, Byrne, writing in the Tribune, talked of how he has always found it difficult to watch or read content about Hillsborough, largely because he worried about whether the story would be presented accurately and authentically.
This is understandably a fear shared by many of those affected by the tragedy and is perhaps the driving force behind Byrne’s desire to ensure that present and future generations have access to a reliable and definitive account of the disaster and its aftermath.
Byrne told This is Anfield, “Kevin Sampson’s heartbreaking drama-documentary about the wonderful Anne Williams shows again why the Real Truth Legacy Project is needed, to educate and inform on Hillsborough.
“And to ensure that the establishment narrative and cover-up is exposed and never repeated. I’ll be working in and out of Parliament in 2022 to achieve these outcomes.”
The ‘Real Truth Legacy’
This week MPs have proposed a Hillsborough Law that would require authorities to disclose all information after a public disaster to avoid the cover-ups that followed the 1986 tragedy.
It is often argued that without a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the past, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of previous generations. This is perhaps evidenced best by the experiences of the victims of subsequent tragedies. Those affected by the Grenfell Fire would no doubt see similarities in their experiences to those of the Hillsborough families and survivors.
All of us, regardless of our city of birth or football allegiances, have a vested interest in ensuring there is widespread education about the causes and consequences of the Hillsborough stadium disaster. Without it, we have no guarantees that the victims of future catastrophes won’t face the same issues.
Educating the public about what happened to the families or the 97 and the survivors of the 1989 disaster is one way of ensuring they are forearmed and informed enough to challenge current and future cover-ups.
However, Byrne also recognises the importance of systemic change to ensure that families are better supported and protected in future and that the system loses its ability to “close ranks” and shift blame.
To that end, he is lending his full support to proposals, tabled by Maria Eagle MP, to create a dedicated independent adviser to work on behalf of families bereaved in major disasters via her Public Advocate Bill, a so-called “Hillsborough Law,” which is now gaining significant momentum, as a key step in achieving this.
The Hillsborough families and survivors of the disaster have fought a decades-long campaign for truth and justice. They wanted the world to know what really happened to them and their families, and for those responsible to be held to account.
Talk to any of them and they will tell you that they never want anyone to go through the same hell that they experienced. The State has now been forced to acknowledge the truth, but it has steadfastly resisted being held to account, that is a tragedy all of its own, and it shames the country.
However, the creation of a “Real Truth Legacy” and a “Hillsborough Law” can help ensure that nobody else has to sacrifice their best years in search of justice ever again.
For the sake of past and future generations, this is something everybody must get behind.