Under the maudlin headline “We all share in the shame of Hillsborough,” the Daily Telegraph columnist Matthew Norman has written a column as cheaply facile as it is misleading.
“We are all guilty!” is too often the misleading cry of the self-appointed moralist. But here, sentimentality is compounded by sheer careless ignorance.
Norman appears to take it for granted that the repugnantly false accusations published the day after the disaster in The Sun, accusing unquestionably innocent Liverpool supporters (exonerated of any accusation of drunkenness through recent reports) of robbing dead bodies and urinating on the police, have been widely denied ever since. Which is manifest nonsense.
For my own part, I barely noticed them. Of my two sons, the older sent £70 which he could ill spare to the disaster fund, the younger joined with a fellow photographer to elicit photographs from all over the world which raised £12,000 at auction.
According to Norman, such slurs “have taken two decades to be debunked.” Where has he been living?
From a personal perspective, the disaster was utterly traumatising. Reaching some kind of crescendo when, a few days after the disaster, I found myself covering a European Cup match at San Siro where, at one marvellous moment, all the Milan fans packed into their terrace sang, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” At which I simply broke down.
An Oxbridge graduate who doesn’t know the meaning of “begging the question” – for his belated information, it signifies reaching a conclusion without evidence, and has nothing to do with posing or raising the question.
Norman is no more relevant when it comes to the subject of Heysel. Where, at a European Cup Final, Liverpool fans – many of whom were certainly drunk, as I can testify from seeing as much even before the game – suddenly and brutally attacked Italian fans on the same terrace, putting them to flight and driving 39 of them to their deaths when a wall collapsed.
All Norman can tell us, mealy mouthed, is that “the violence of some Liverpool fans contributed to the Heysel Stadium disaster.”
Contributed? The sadness of it being that those who were chased, whose who died, were not hard core Juventus fans, who were all stationed at the other end of the stadium, but largely families, sometimes with children, who had got their tickets in many cases from Italian guest workers living in Belgium and arguably should not have been on that terrace at all.
“Also worth remembering,” is Norman’s emetic coda, “over the days ahead is that so many of us sacrificed a part of our humanity by failing for so long to recognise theirs.”
No we didn’t. Speak for your deluded self.