Freedom of the city for victims of Hillsborough disaster

A fan at the Hillsborough Memorial, at Anfield, Liverpool
A fan at the Hillsborough Memorial, at Anfield, Liverpool
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THE 96 football fans who died at Hillsborough are to be posthumously awarded the Freedom of Liverpool.

Key figures in the 27-year campaign for justice are also to receive the city’s highest honour, including former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his wife Marina, the Rt Rev James Jones, who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, and long-standing campaigner Professor Phil Scraton.

The families of the 96 victims, who led the fight for justice, were honoured with the Freedom of the City in 2009.

Inquests concluded in April that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989 were unlawfully killed.

Liverpool Council said it was awarding posthumous honours for the first time to the “96 innocent people who paid the ultimate price for the failings and actions of others”.

Those who receive the Freedom of the City later this year will also be awarded a specially commissioned medal and a brass Freedom of Liverpool plaque is to be placed in the city’s Town Hall honouring those who died.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We want to bestow the honour on those who died, together with a number of people who have played a pivotal role over many, many years - not just in the Hillsborough campaign but who, through their actions, have enhanced the life of the city as well.

“It has needed tremendous diligence and persistence to demolish the wall of lies that was cruelly created by the establishment to deflect blame for the tragedy away from those that were really responsible.

“The individuals we will be honouring have played a crucial role in righting one of the biggest wrongs seen in recent British history.

“We are also, in truly exceptional circumstances, posthumously awarding the Freedom of the City to the 96 innocent people who the whole world now knows paid the ultimate price for the failings and actions of others, and who have been disgracefully smeared over many years.”

Dalglish was Liverpool manager at the time of the tragedy and along with his wife Marina represented the club at many funerals in the aftermath. The couple have maintained close contact with the Hillsborough families ever since.

Retired bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones led the panel whose report led to the quashing of the original inquest verdicts and the launch of criminal investigations.

Prof Scraton led the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s research team and his book, Hillsborough: The Truth, first published in 1999, is widely accepted as the definitive account of the disaster.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the city has chosen to honour the 96 in this way as it is a wonderful tribute to their memory.

“I couldn’t be any more thrilled that Bishop James, Phil Scraton and Kenny and Marina are also being recognised as they have all given fantastic support to the families in their own special way over the years and they thoroughly deserve this honour.”

The council will also be presenting the Citizen of Honour award to people who played an important role in the Hillsborough campaign.

Tony Concepcion, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, said: “The campaign for truth has been a long and difficult struggle and has succeeded, in part, thanks to the determination and support of the people we are honouring.

“It is right and proper that, on behalf of the city, we convey and formally record our thanks for doing an incredible job in uncovering the evidence necessary to get to the truth and clearing Liverpool fans of any wrongdoing.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council has called for Kenny Dalglish to be knighted in recognition of the role he played in the wake of the disaster.

The 65-year-old was Liverpool manager on the day of the tragedy and has been described as a “shining light in the darkest hour” for his support of the families of the 96 victims.

Dalglish helped fans at the scene and also attended many funerals in the aftermath, including four in a single day.

He recently said the fans of the club have been “totally and utterly vindicated” by the Hillsborough inquest verdicts and should be proud of their efforts to get the truth.

The knighthood call came as Glasgow City Council agreed a motion praising the families of the Hillsborough victims for their campaign for justice.

Council leader Frank McAveety said: “Kenny Dalglish is a legend of world football and is quite rightly held in the highest esteem in Glasgow, Liverpool and across the globe.

“However, the Hillsborough disaster transcended sport, and Kenny has played a central role with victims’ families in their quest for truth and justice. We believe that a knighthood would be a fitting recognition of this, as well as his services to the beautiful game.”

Dalglish had a celebrated football career with Celtic, Liverpool and Scotland before moving into management.

He was given the Freedom of the City of Glasgow in 1986.

The council motion, proposed by depute leader Archie Graham, read: “The council welcomes the findings of the Hillsborough inquest, which concluded the 96 football supporters who lost their lives at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed; recognises this as a monumental step in achieving justice for the victims; congratulates the Hillsborough families for their tireless campaign, the people of Liverpool for the support they have given the families, and pays tribute to Glasgow’s Kenny Dalglish who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Liverpool and played a critical role in supporting the campaign for truth and justice.”