David Cameron says that all Cabinet papers relating to the Hillsborough disaster will be handed over to a commission set to investigate the truth behind exactly what happened on that day in April 1989.
The move comes after 100,000 people signed an epetition on the Number 10 website that forced a Commons debate on the subject and follows over 20 years of lobbying from MPs and charities.
But the Hillsborough Justice Campaign has also called on The Sun newspaper to publish any documents relating to its sources for a number of horrendous, false allegations subsequently rubbished by the Taylor report.
These sources – the same sources quoted conservatively and subsequently retracted in other news sources – amounted to a few officers within the South Yorkshire police, determined to cover their own backs and apportion the blame elsewhere, and Tory MP Irvine Patnick who was reportedly the source for The Sun’s front page report.
The man personally responsible for mocking up the notorious “The Truth” front page was Kelvin MacKenzie. MacKenzie apologised for printing the allegations that LFC fans picked the pockets of dead fans, urinated on police trying to help stricken fans and abused the corpse of a young girl – but he then retracted his apology. He has since been unrepentant on the matter.
Here’s what The Sun’s newsroom made of the front page, recounted by Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie in their book Stick it Up Your Punter!: The Uncut Story of the “Sun” Newspaper.
“As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people a collective shudder ran through the office, [but] MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.
“Everyone seemed paralysed, ‘looking like rabbits in the headlights’, as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight.
“Nobody really had any comment on it – they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a ‘classic smear’.”
A toxic mix of politicians, police forces and right-wing press birthed the lies about Hillsborough, but Kelvin MacKenzie was at the heart of it. Reportedly with odds with the rest of the Sun newsroom over the credence he gave to the lies that had emerged from the South Yorkshire Police and a Patnick, MacKenzie took it upon himself to dress up the worst of the allegations as hard fact.
It is to be hoped that the new documents give some sense of closure or comfort to the people involved – and it’s important that the whole sorry business is brought out into the light; 22 years on all the relevant parties seem to be in agreement on that one.
Well, almost all. As of today The Sun has neglected to print one article over the last month related to the release of documents outside of its sport section. Seemingly the story isn’t considered important.
MacKenzie too has been uncharacteristically silent – despite the high media profile afforded to him by the Daily Mail, BBC and Guardian.
The Sun attempted to apologise for its Hillsborough coverage in 2004, but until the day all the relevant parties offer a fulsome apology and acknowledge their role in one the vilest smears perpetrated in British journalism, Hillsborough will remain a chapter in Liverpool’s history with no end in sight.
Image by Eric The Fish (2011), Flickr