Liverpool’s Bloody Sunday

Not the incident itself but the official cover up. For once Chris Donnelly treads more lightly than he might have. Even in the Leveson era, this is much bigger than a media travesty. 

Even if the Liverpool inquiry has delivered the plain unvarnished truth, to treat scores of Liverpool football fans  almost as sub humans apparently unworthy of rapid emergency treatment was surely the worse crime committed in Sheffield that day and subsequently.  

Later, two senior judges although critical of police negligence, in the end believed police lies in preference to the victims’ relatives. Football fans in general may have partly deserved a poor reputation in those days.

But stereotypical thinking is the enemy of integrity. Uneasy as I usually am about following mass outrage, it is better to face what is obvious and not look for excuses, when it comes to the terrible particular.

The parallels between Londonderry and Liverpool are tragically clear. There were of course differences of follow up after the earliest whitewash. In Derry 30 years on a massive public inquiry was part of a political process that already included police reform.

Political insurgency of a kind although not unknown in Liverpool never compared with anything in Derry eight years before the Hillsborough disaster. Thankfully the community there was spared serious  “radicalisation,” although Scotland Road still has the capacity to ignite.

But the problems of Toxteth have little to do with Liverpool football fans and should not be confused through metropolitan bigotry.

As Simon Jenkins points out, it was local initiative that nailed the South Yorkshire police. The Sheffield Hillsborough disaster will give a huge boost to English police accountability that is currently inferior to the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Ironically it was that champion of the NI variety Hugh Orde who found himself on the wrong side of the argument back in England after last year’s riots.

Orde’s defence of the quality of the police response and his dismissal of the significance of David Cameron’s intervention may well have cost him the leadership of the Met. It gets harder and harder to decide who is the good cop these days.   

Good cops were shockingly thin on the ground in Sheffield in 1989.  Today, police accountablity has still some way to go. They would  do themselves  a big favour and the communities they serve to embrace accountability rather than try to sabotage the latest efforts, as they have so often in the past.

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

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