News International crisis, but Hillsborough slurs remain

No tears will be shed by Liverpool fans, or Merseyside as a whole, at The News of the World’s demise in the light of the recent phone hacking revelations.

The fact that the paper could stoop so low as to hack the phones of the war dead, murder and terrorist victims (some of them children) and their relatives should not be a surprise to those who are aware of The Sun, another News International paper, and it’s treatment of Liverpool fans at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy.

I say “those who are aware” as it appears that Liverpool fans a have been fighting a lone battle against News International papers and specifically The Sun with, it seems, little sympathy or at least interest. Despite widespread boycotts on Merseyside papers such as The Sun and The News of The World have continued to sell elsewhere. Moreover Liverpool fan’s stance has been derided in some quarters and been branded as over sentimental, disproportionate or even whinging. So in case you didn’t know, or had forgotten, this is the brief background.

On 19th April 1989, four days after the Hillsborough disaster, The Sun ran an article entitled “The Truth” which, quoting unnamed sources, claimed drunk Liverpool fans in the Leppings Lane End (the part of the ground here the disaster occurred) had picked the pockets of the dead and urinated on them. It also said that they attacked the police and hampered rescue efforts. This was clearly nonsense and many fans who where there, including myself, knew it to be nothing more than a cheap, shabby lie designed to sell more papers.

The subsequent Taylor report concluded that it was the police (whose role in this latest story should also not be forgotten) and their failure to direct fans away from the central pen at the Leppings Lane End (having taken a decision open a gate outside the ground, the relieve a crush outside the ground) that caused the disaster. At no stage did the reports findings correlate with The Sun’s story and fifteen years later the paper tried to apologise for what was, in their words, “the most terrible mistake in its history”. Sadly the damage had been done, irreparably. So if this is over sentimental or whinging then I hold my hands up.

No doubt many will argue there is a difference between what I’ve just described above and what News International is being hauled over the coals for now, wrong. The common theme is intrusion on grief, and a grass lack of sensibility for the dead, their relatives and those who suffered, a greedy callous attitude to get a story at all costs. It is ironic that, after 22 years of opposition in Liverpool, it takes other tragedy(s) which are in the wider, more immediate, public consciousness to finally swing the climate of opinion against News International. As Liverpool fans we should complain that our calls have been ignored for so long but all the same we should be glad that News International has been taken to task for the way some of its reporters go about their business. It is about time and long overdue.

However, this isn’t the closing a chapter, far from it. No doubt many will suggest that “people power” has closed The News of the World however, I suspect this is more to do with lost advertising revenue as more and more clients jump ship afraid they would lose custom through being associated with the paper. Remember also after this weekend The News of the World will be no more but the harsh fact is that The Sun still exists and there are rumours that, eventually, it will replace The News the World as a Sunday red top. The Sunday Sun? The Sun on Sunday? The name is irrelevant it will be the same old sh*t or perhaps it would be too much to expect the papers to learn from this and exercise more responsibility when it comes to their reporting?

So the sister paper has gone but the big brother remains and, if this story is anything to go by, in more ways that one. To those who have just turned against News International welcome to “the truth” sorry it took you so long to realise.

Justice for the 96 and never buy The Sun.

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