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Editor Peter Stanford Editorial Director Han Gerard Noel
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Sorry is the hardest word
ITS all too easy to be wise after the event — particularly after a national tragedy like Hillsborough. This week has seen a rush to condemn — be it the police who opened the gates, the officials at Hillsborough, the Football Association, or the football clubs themselves. In this battle of charge and counter charge we are still waiting for someone simply to say "sorry" to the people of Liverpool for what has happened to a part of their community, their family. Someone obviously made a mistake that resulted in 94 deaths. Perhaps a fitting preface to the public inquiry would be for all concerned to utter that simple word before we get down to examining the details.
The other depressing factor in the barrage of accusations this week has been the unseemly haste with which those with power over what goes on in football grounds have rushed to implement practical changes without stopping to consider whether they are wise. Thus football clubs have announced that perimeter fences are being torn down at once. If a little more thought had been exercised before they were erected in the early 1980s then Saturday's tragedy might have been avoided.
The government too, though it has announced an ill-defined postponement of its football spectators' bill which will introduce identity cards to football grounds, seems fairly determined to proceed with the measure — whatever the findings of their own inquiry into Hillsborough's causes. Many would hold that such a membership scheme would have increased the chaos at the Leppings Lane end last Saturday.
And in all the analysis there has been a belated and in some cases grudging acknowledgement that football spectators are human beings. No would-be nice middle class crowd at the opening of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical would be caged in, and subjected to the iron discipline that police inflict on football fans. But then again no theatre-goers have committed the kind of violence that has brought football supporters the reputation that before Hillsborough was thought to merit such savage treatment.
But whatever, they are — and 95 were — human beings. They enjoy and enjoyed an equal dignity with the rest of the community, and the inquiry must find out whether they were treated as such.
In such national tragedies it is often hard to see the hand of God. Perhaps the words of the administrator of St Marie's Cathedral, Sheffield, Fr John Ryan, contain a message for all Christians. "Its so hard to see the hand of God, but perhaps we need to remember that God has no hands in this world but our hands and perhaps in time we will be able to see the hand of God in the hands of those who dragged people up to a higher level in the stand to safety, to see the hand of God in so many willing hands of nurses, doctors, social workers and clergy."