Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has praised the British government’s decision to sanction the release of all documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster.
Ministers had ignored calls for the publication of reports about the 1989 tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of crushing caused by massive overcrowding at an FA Cup semi-final between the club and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.
But after an online petition calling for their release attracted 100,000 signatures, the Cabinet Office has confirmed the government is happy for there to be full public disclosure of all papers that an independent panel believes should be released.
“The Government is happy for all the papers to be released as soon as the panel so decides, in consultation with the families. We expect them to be shared with the Hillsborough families first and then to the wider public,” a Cabinet Office statement read.
The withheld files are said to include reports presented to then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, minutes of meetings she attended and correspondence between her Downing Street office and the interior minister at the time, Douglas Hurd.
The seven-member Hillsborough Independent Panel is going through the wealth of unseen files relating to the tragedy.
The families of the victims hope the new information will shed fresh light on exactly who was responsible for the disaster.
“It is fantastic news for the families,” said Dalglish, who was in his first spell as Liverpool boss when the disaster occurred.
“I think this isn’t a political issue – it is a humanitarian one, so at least common sense has prevailed.”
Dalglish praised the efforts of Andy Burnham, a member of parliament for the opposition Labour party who first called for the documents to be released in 2009.
“Andy Burnham deserves a hell of a lot of credit for what he has done. He pushed it forward two years ago and he has stuck to his word and delivered it as best he possibly could.
“Everything is looking positive for the families and everybody, irrespective of what team they support, has made a massive contribution towards the success they are having at the moment.
“Long may it continue because it was Liverpool, but it could have been any football club and I think people respect that.”
Under a government initiative, the 100,000 signatures for the online petition are enough for a parliamentary debate on the issue of the Hillsborough files to be considered.