Liverpool’s tragic legacy

The rawness displayed at the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Hillsborough disaster is a reminder that legacy issues cling to places other than Northern Ireland. The boos directed at Everton supporter and Sports Secretary Andy Burnham on the Anfield turf recalls the rough reception given to NI Secretaries of State Jim Prior and Tom King in the bad old days. Media misdeeds are not forgotten; the Sun still isn’t forgiven for its claim that drunken fans urinated on the dead. A factor common to both sides of the Irish Sea is a strong sense of public injustice, often deserved, sometimes not. Did police complacency followed by panic deserve a prison sentence? I ‘m not sure. The suggestion over a different issue that Liverpool’s working class pride can degenerate into wallowing in victimhood cost Boris Johnson a couple of his nine political lives. Another factor in common may be the stronger the sense of identity, the longer the memories linger. Overall though, Liverpool is living with its scars and and its community relations are a model we could do worse than follow. It’s a lighter legacy to bear though, when identity is mainly expressed through football loyalties and tragedies.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London