I have met some brilliant people in my life. I’ve made some great friends. Friends from all over these islands. From all backgrounds. All political and football persuasions. All religions and none. Black and white. Red and blue. Sky blue and red and black.
They have all known some important things about me and me about them. We’ve shared some of our most deeply-held views on everything from politics to the greatest Alan Partridge lines and everything in between. Over these years you talk. You share. You spend so much time together. You go to places rarely visited.
Throughout these years they have all known about my feelings about 15th April 1989. They have all been sensitive to the hurt and all of them – in their various ways – have paid their own respects to the families and the memories of the 96. They wouldn’t have been my friends for long if they hadn’t.
But friends – true, real, proper friends are honest with each other. True friends occasionally make you uncomfortable. They put you on the spot. They sometimes upset and hurt you – not in malice but in honesty. Telling you honestly what they think and how they feel. They tell the truth.
Over the last 27 years the message has been given to me many times. Sometimes in words. Sometimes a look. Sometimes in awkward silence. Sometimes in things said to others. Sometimes just in their thoughts that I’ve known have been there; thoughts their faces cannot hide.
You need to let it go now.
You need to move on.
You need to get over it.
You are making it worse.
You are prolonging the pain.
You are becoming the self pity city. You are an embarrassment.
It hurt. Every time. Every single time, it hurt. But they were not alone. Some of my friends – some of the best people I know – fell for the same lies, the same slurs, the same spin, the same vile stories that millions of others did. The national disgrace that was Hillsborough was as much about the way the country fell for “The Truth” as the lies that started the cover up themselves. The lies that the video evidence of the day exposed straight away but evidence that was ignored.
It has been said many times before that the broad mass of the public will fall for a bigger lie than a smaller one. Don’t we know it. We also know that although the country – and some of my friends – have now been confronted with the truth it is not right to say that the truth is now known. We’ve always known the truth. We knew it at 3:06. We knew it at 3:15. We knew it on that longest of nights and the dark, dark days that followed. We’ve known it for 27 long, painful, agonising, never-ending years.
My friends and others now know why we didn’t let it go for all these years. Why we wouldn’t go away. Why we wouldn’t just shut up. They now share in our truth. They now know what we’ve known for all these years.
As true, real and proper friends, we can now honestly say that although your doubt hurt us – hurt me – we can come together to enjoy the golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark.