Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Johnson in new apology for article

London Mayor Boris Johnson apologised over a Spectator article on the Hillsborough disaster

Boris Johnson said he was "very, very sorry" for comments made in a 2004 Spectator article about Liverpool fans involved in the Hillsborough disaster.

Speaking in central London, the capital's mayor said: "I'm very, very glad that this report does lay to rest the false allegation that was made at the time about the behaviour of those fans.

"I was very, very sorry in 2004 that the Spectator did carry an editorial that partially repeated those allegations, I apologised then and I apologise now. I do hope the families of the 96 victims will take some comfort from this report and that they can reach some sort of closure."

Mr Johnson went on: "I'm glad that this independent report has finally nailed the myth that drunken fans were in any way responsible for the deaths of 96 people.

"That was a lie that unfortunately and very, very regrettably got picked up in a leader in the Spectator in 2004, which I was then editing. I went to Liverpool to apologise unreservedly for that mistake and I repeat that apology today."

The original Spectator article, which was not signed, was written in the wake of the death of British hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq, but went on to criticise "drunken" Liverpool fans at Hillsborough.

It read: "The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool's failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon.

"The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident."

Mr Johnson apologised at the time, writing subsequently in the magazine: "It was sloppy to repeat the old canard that the Hillsborough tragedy was caused by drunken fans, when the inquiry report found no evidence for this whatever.

"To judge by the huge mail I have received, that mistake caused real offence and hurt. Faced with such anger, any editor would feel obliged to make amends, and that is what I do now."

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