We have the truth, now we need justice for the 96

You asked yourself: why hadn't it been revealed, an injustice on this scale?

How do I feel? A mix of emotions. There is euphoria at the utter vindication for the families prevailing in their dignified campaign and the complete achievement of the first objective, which was was to clear the names of the 96. But there is also anger that this was allowed to happen and sheer disbelief that Parliament could allow an injustice on this epic scale to stand for so long. The passage of time makes it harder, not easier, to accept.

In Liverpool, there have been people who saw people die at close quarters, in unimaginable circumstances and have been walking round for 23 years hearing that in some way they were to blame for what happened. It's hard to understand the psychological impact of that. I've come across so many people over the years who have spoken of their difficulty in dealing with what happened and the way in which the tragedy was portrayed by the police.

On Wednesday, we cleared the names of all Liverpool fans who were there that day, and the value of that can't be overestimated. The enormity of what was revealed made it more difficult to comprehend. You asked yourself: why hadn't it been revealed, an injustice on this scale? But there are also deep questions, and the Prime Minister touched on this. The policing system, the coroners' system, the legal system and the political system all failed to bring out the truth. Why?

In the legal system, people prepare a version of events and then fight it out in court. That is what they tried to do in this case. But because it came at the end of a decade when football supporters were treated as second-class citizens and the police were believed whatever they said, they created a version of events that stuck. When it came to fight out these versions of events in court, the truth wasn't established.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel has done a magnificent job. It has created a potentially valuable model for government and society in the future, because what it did in a non-adversarial way was to put the emphasis on disclosure, not on two sides fighting their case.

There is also a parallel between Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough. Although the initial events were very different – one involving direct violence in Northern Ireland which left 14 dead, and the other where terrible negligence left 96 dead – the actions of the state in the aftermath were very similar. The effect on the bereaved was also similar: the denigration and the attempts to smear innocent people.

Believing eventually that the "truth will out", I took the Hillsborough families over to Derry in July via Mark Durkan, the SDLP MP. To hear the two groups of families talk was a humbling experience. But what was interesting was that the Derry families told us that they only eventually got together to fight properly in 1992, 20 years after the shootings.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein put their differences aside and fought as one for 20 years. And on the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough, I went to Anfield and listened as people told me what they wanted. Twenty years – that seems to be the period when people recover enough to eventually demand truth and justice.

If we hadn't made the call for disclosure when we did, it is unlikely the truth about Hillsborough would have been able to be told in the way it has. We are talking here not so much about Cabinet papers, but papers held at local level by public bodies; every year that passed our inability to retrieve this material increased.

All this came together at the right time and may not have happened with further passage of time. The key thing now is that after truth, must come justice. And that means a new inquest.

I cannot rest until that verdict of accidental death is removed from public record. The case for a new inquest is overwhelming. Only then will we be able to say we have righted one of the greatest injustices on British soil of the 20th century.

The writer is the Merseyside-born shadow Health Secretary and helped set up the Hillsborough Panel

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