The full horrors of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 football fans were crushed to death during a Liverpool V Nottingham Forest FA Cup Semi-Final became all-too clear yesterday as members of their campaign visited Derry for the first time.
Three pivotal members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group spent the day in the city, accompanied by Shadow Health Secretary and Hillsborough campaigner, Labour MP Andy Burnham, Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan and members of both the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign and Bloody Sunday Trust.
The Hillsborough families were hosted at the Rath Mor Centre in Creggan and the Museum of Free Derry, and each were presented with the recent book chronicling the Bloody Sunday campaign, ‘Setting the Truth Free’.
On September 12 and following many years of campaigning, the British government are to release a report on previously unseen secret police and government documents that may shed light on the events of April 15, 1989, and the extent to which efforts were made to shift blame from the police.
Jenni Hicks is one of the more recognisable faces in the Hillsborough campaign - having devoted her life to uncovering the truth.
“I lost two daughters at Hillsborough, my daughter Sarah was 19 years-old and my daughter Victoria was 15 when she died,” Mrs Hicks told the ‘Journal’. “We went to the match as a family, Trevor and I and the girls - we are avid Liverpool fans and drove up from London to the game on April 15. I will never forget that day.”
Mrs Hicks believes the discussions with campaigners locally have been invaluable as they await a report of their own.
“I learned a lot from meeting everyone in Derry. This part of the campaign is a new thing to us, and obviously the Derry families have already done something like this, so their experiences could be invaluble to us in helping us avoid some of the pitfalls that we could fall into.”
“We got some fantastic advice on how to handle the media and in fact, we’re now going to copy that idea and set up a media centre of our own.”
With the new report only weeks away, Mrs Hicks is determined to see the history books rewritten in relation to the Hillsborough disaster.
“What I’d like to see is the evidence to back up what we had always thought - that there was a conspiracy between the media, the government and the police - to shift the blame from where it really lay on to the supporters themselves. We need to change the inquest verdict of accidental death to its rightful verdict of unlawful killing.”
Visiting Derry for the first time yesterday was Sue Roberts, Secretary of the Hillsborough Support Group, who lost her brother Graham. “We’ve got to get to the truth this time,” she told the ‘Journal’. “It’s often seemed like things are going our way and at the last minute we’ve been let down again. So fingers crossed this time it won’t happen and we will get there - 23 years later.
“Unfortunately I’ve lost both my parents now and so I’m carrying on the fight for them as well as for my brother Graham. There are so many similarities between the two groups that meeting the families in Derry was a great opportunity for us.”
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James during the 1989 disaster, has always admired the Bloody Sunday campaigners.
“The families here in Derry have been a tremendous help to us today and have made us so welcome,” she told the ‘Journal’. “We’re going home with so much advice and help and we can’t thank them enough.”
Derry’s Mayor Kevin Campbell also met with the Hillsborough camapigners yesterday, telling them: “Just as you provided support for the Bloody Sunday families over the years, we will show our support for you too. We know the importance of your case and we wish you well in finding answers.”