It has been a moving time to live in Liverpool

The Hillsborough verdict shows the determination of my adoptive city

It has been an extremely moving experience living in Liverpool since the outcome of the long-running inquest into the 96 Hillsborough victims emerged.

Since coming to the city five years ago, I have met a number of relatives of the deceased football fans, and have been constantly struck by the determination of the families to establish the truth about what happened.

Those words, "Truth" and "Justice" placed on banners outside St George's Hall as the verdict came through from Warrington, summed up the feelings of the families. Campaigners like Margaret Aspinall, Trevor Hicks and the late Anne Williams epitomised the spirit of the city.

"They picked on the wrong city," is an expression I heard again and again, but it tells us a lot about a city whose people have shown a quiet dignity in the face of vilification from South Yorkshire Police, the Sun newspaper and senior Conservative figures like Boris Johnson.


When you spend time with Scousers, you are constantly struck by how different they feel, in their identity, from residents of the Tory heartlands in the south and east of England. Liverpool is very different from much of England, described as the only majority Celtic city, the result of intense settlement over the last two centuries from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Settlers intermarried with both the indigenous Lancastrians and those who came to the port city from all over the world, but left their very decisive mark on the city's character.

Above all, I have been struck by how, despite its size, Liverpool is fundamentally a family, whose members will stop at nothing to vindicate the good names of family members so unjustly smeared. The decisive verdicts of unlawful killing and of clearing the fans of culpability will undoubtedly help the healing process for the families, but, as Margaret Aspinall told ITV, issues of accountability by South Yorkshire Police remain.

For Irish people, the verdict is a reminder that while we have long been conscious of injustices to Irish in Britain in that era, such as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, British-born people were also likely to suffer injustice at the hands of an establishment which did not see working class communities and football fans as "our own". It is disappointing but not surprising that Sir Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, still refuses to apologise for his comments made in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy.

Of course, the many LFC fans in Ireland have followed the campaign with great interest and support.

This quiet determination which characterises Liverpool is one which is frequently misunderstood by commentators in the national media, who have seen self-pity where the issue is really one of a determination for justice. However, the previous findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel brought a new respect for the city, and they have been underlined by the results of the inquest, itself the longest such inquest in British history.

The determination I refer to is not confined to the Hillsborough issue, but has been reflected whenever the need to protest arises. Just as Liverpool FC fans were joined by those of rivals Everton in seeking justice for the 96, so also that sense of “family” that I refer to is broad enough to include Scousers of varying ethnicities and creeds. A striking example of that was last summer, when a visiting fascist group, determined to foster hatred against the city’s Jewish community, were physically driven out of Lime Street Station, one of its main organisers literally locked in a lost property office.

Ironically, on the very same day, Scousers of all backgrounds came together for the annual Anthony Walker Festival, which honours the memory of the black teenager from Huyton, just outside Liverpool, killed in a racist attack 11 years ago.

“You’ll never walk alone” is the club’s anthem, but it also says a great deal about the spirit of Liverpool.