MacKenzie Unrepentant

Just prior to last week’s Hillsborough debate in the House of Commons, David Cameron pledged to release secret government documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster of April 15th 1989.

Steve Rotheram, MP of Liverpool Walton, opened the Parliamentary debate with a moving speech outlining the necessity for the release of all government documents relating to Hillsborough as a starting point to justice for the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives as a result of the disaster; something no-one to date has been held accountable for.

During the speech, Rotheram alluded to The Sun’s reporting of the incident under the editorship of Kelvin MacKenzie. The piece stated allegations (later dismissed in the Taylor Report) that some Liverpool supporters pick-pocketed victims, urinated on police officers and beat up a police officer giving the kiss of life. Although these allegations were also reported by The Daily Star and The Daily Mail, it was The Sun’s headline ‘The Truth’ that induced such profound pain for the families of the victims; a headline the writer of the piece urged MacKenzie not to use.

MacKenzie has never apologised to the families of the Hillsborough victims and even stated on a 2007 episode of Question Time that ‘I wasn’t sorry then and I’m not sorry now’. However, he last week apologised to Lord Leveson for comments he made in a seminar on press standards regarding the credibility of an inquiry into the phone hacking scandal surrounding his former employers News International. In his speech he stated that Leveson ‘couldn’t win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion’. He apologised for such flippant remarks with ‘Before I delivered my speech, he was very courteous to me and yet I repaid him by being disobliging. I shouldn’t have done it and I am sorry.’

After his speech to the House of Commons, Rotheram tweeted that he’d ‘been appointed to serve on Parliaments Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee. Mr MacKenzie has been invited to give evidence.’ I’m not holding my breath on MacKenzie accepting.

The release of all the government’s Hillsborough papers will be progress. Holding those in the upper hierarchy of the South Yorkshire Police in 1989 accountable for the deaths caused under their command and the lies they perpetuated about the causes of the disaster will be justice. However, for many the wounds may not begin to heal until MacKenzie apologises for the unnecessary anguish he further inflicted on the families of those who went to a football match and never came home.

Written by: Andrew Parkinson

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