Now we have the truth about Hillsborough, it is time for justice

The report proves that it was the fans who were the real heroes on the day.

A national tragedy requires a national response. At such a time, it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to speak to Britain, for Britain. It is a task that only the Prime Minister can fulfil and its symbolism has a profound effect on those directly and indirectly associated with the tragedy. Today, the Prime Minister delivered, for the families, survivors, and the city of Liverpool.

Hillsborough will always be synonymous with one of the biggest losses of British life in any one day since the end of the Second World War. In the 23 years that have passed, two very different stories have emerged about that day, and three key elements have haunted those associated with it. The failure of the authorities to help protect people. The attempt to blame the fans. And the doubt cast on the original Coroner's Inquest.

The real version of events was told today and I am confident it will become known simply as ‘the truth’. It is a version of events that depicts the carnage at Hillsborough through the eyes of the survivors and the families of the victims. It makes clear that whilst the police froze and did nothing, the fans reacted and saved many more lives.

The second version, which has now been proven to be false, was told through the eyes of a warped media. The Sun newspaper despicably produced a headline that suggested Liverpool fans had stolen money from the dead, had urinated on the "brave cops" who were trying to save lives and had been drunk and ticketless. As the Prime Minister said, "This was clearly wrong."

Today's report has shocked the nation. 96 deaths, of which 41 could and should have survived if those responsible for our safety had done their jobs. 164 police officer statements amended, 116 negative comments removed from witness statements, and a 23 year campaign for truth and justice.

It proved, once and for all, that it was the fans who were the real heroes on the day and that the police, press and politicians, conspired to instigate a cover up that would smear a city and its people, whilst allowing the guilty to evade responsibility for their deadly mistakes. Liverpool has been exonerated. The guilt for the deaths lies squarely at the door of South Yorkshire Police, who made catastrophic mistakes and unashamedly sought to deflect the blame onto the fans.

The Hillsborough families cannot accept the Coroner’s verdict of "accidental death" and some have never even picked up the death certificates for their loved ones. It has been proved that some victims were alive well past the 3.15pm cut off and that if the authorities had acted quicker, more people would have survived.  After today’s publication, the families will be appealing for the Attorney General to make an application to the High Court for the inquests to be reopened and a new cause of death to be determined.

Hillsborough was a tragedy that transcends party politics and unites parliament and the country. So whilst the overwhelming majority of Merseyside fundamentally disagrees with the Prime Minister’s politics and the direction he is taking the country, today we are eternally grateful.

His apology will not be met with celebrations on Merseyside. Instead, there will simply be dignified remembrance from a city that will no longer be a lone voice in a sea of ignorance and scepticism. Whilst for some, the true horror of 15 April 1989 has been eclipsed by the passage of time. For others, today’s news will see the conclusion of half our 23 year cause. Now that the truth has been ascertained, it is time for justice to be delivered.

Steve Rotheram is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton.

A Liverpool Football Club shirt with 'The Truth Now Justice At Last, RIP The 96' is tied to the Shankly gates at Anfield stadium. Photograph: Getty Images.

Steve Rotheram is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton.

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Theresa May's offer to EU citizens leaves the 3 million with unanswered questions

So many EU citizens, so little time.

Ahead of the Brexit negotiations with the 27 remaining EU countries, the UK government has just published its pledges to EU citizens living in the UK, listing the rights it will guarantee them after Brexit and how it will guarantee them. The headline: all 3 million of the country’s EU citizens will have to apply to a special “settled status” ID card to remain in the UK after it exist the European Union.

After having spent a year in limbo, and in various occasions having been treated by the same UK government as bargaining chips, this offer will leave many EU citizens living in the UK (this journalist included) with more questions than answers.

Indisputably, this is a step forward. But in June 2017 – more than a year since the EU referendum – it is all too little, too late. 

“EU citizens are valued members of their communities here, and we know that UK nationals abroad are viewed in the same way by their host countries.”

These are words the UK’s EU citizens needed to hear a year ago, when they woke up in a country that had just voted Leave, after a referendum campaign that every week felt more focused on immigration.

“EU citizens who came to the UK before the EU Referendum, and before the formal Article 50 process for exiting the EU was triggered, came on the basis that they would be able to settle permanently, if they were able to build a life here. We recognise the need to honour that expectation.”

A year later, after the UK’s Europeans have experienced rising abuse and hate crime, many have left as a result and the ones who chose to stay and apply for permanent residency have seen their applications returned with a letter asking them to “prepare to leave the country”, these words seem dubious at best.

To any EU citizen whose life has been suspended for the past year, this is the very least the British government could offer. It would have sounded a much more sincere offer a year ago.

And it almost happened then: an editorial in the Evening Standard reported last week that Theresa May, then David Cameron’s home secretary, was the reason it didn’t. “Last June, in the days immediately after the referendum, David Cameron wanted to reassure EU citizens they would be allowed to stay,” the editorial reads. “All his Cabinet agreed with that unilateral offer, except his Home Secretary, Mrs May, who insisted on blocking it.” 

"They will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay, which will be evidenced through a residence document. This will be a legal requirement but there is also an important practical reason for this. The residence document will enable EU citizens (and their families) living in the UK to demonstrate to third parties (such as employers or providers of public services) that they have permission to continue to live and work legally in the UK."

The government’s offer lacks details in the measures it introduces – namely, how it will implement the registration and allocation of a special ID card for 3 million individuals. This “residence document” will be “a legal requirement” and will “demonstrate to third parties” that EU citizens have “permission to continue to live and work legally in the UK.” It will grant individuals ““settled status” in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971)”.

The government has no reliable figure for the EU citizens living in the UK (3 million is an estimation). Even “modernised and kept as smooth as possible”, the administrative procedure may take a while. The Migration Observatory puts the figure at 140 years assuming current procedures are followed; let’s be optimistic and divide by 10, thanks to modernisation. That’s still 14 years, which is an awful lot.

To qualify to receive the settled status, an individual must have been resident in the UK for five years before a specified (although unspecified by the government at this time) date. Those who have not been a continuous UK resident for that long will have to apply for temporary status until they have reached the five years figure, to become eligible to apply for settled status.

That’s an application to be temporarily eligible to apply to be allowed to stay in the UK. Both applications for which the lengths of procedure remain unknown.

Will EU citizens awaiting for their temporary status be able to leave the country before they are registered? Before they have been here five years? How individuals will prove their continuous employment or housing is undisclosed – what about people working freelance? Lodgers? Will proof of housing or employment be enough, or will both be needed?

Among the many other practicalities the government’s offer does not detail is the cost of such a scheme, although it promises to “set fees at a reasonable level” – which means it will definitely not be free to be an EU citizen in the UK (before Brexit, it definitely was.)

And the new ID will replace any previous status held by EU citizens, which means even holders of permanent citizenship will have to reapply.

Remember that 140 years figure? Doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?

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