Hillsborough 96 granted Freedom of the City of Liverpool
By Press Association
Last Updated: 23/09/16 7:04am
The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster have received the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in an emotional "bittersweet" ceremony.
Families of those who lost their lives in Britain's worst sporting tragedy on April 15 1989 collected a specially designed scroll and a unique medal with the name of their loved one inscribed on it.
It was the first time the city has posthumously awarded its highest civic honour.
Also receiving the Freedom of the City at St George's Hall from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Roz Gladden, were Professor Phil Scraton, who led the research by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his wife, Marina.
Each family member who picked up their award was greeted with rapturous applause, as were the Dalglishes, but the biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for Professor Scraton, whose tireless campaigning since the tragedy eventually led to the fresh inquests into the deaths, the unlawful killing verdicts from the jury in Warrington and the ongoing criminal investigation.
Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough family support group, said she was "delighted" that Prof Scraton had been honoured by his home city, while Trevor Hicks, whose daughters Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, died in the tragedy, said it was "very deserving".
Speaking ahead of the service, Prof Scraton said: "On the one hand it's a bittersweet experience.
"We should not be here, those people should never have died so I cannot help but think that the most important part of tonight is the commemoration of those who died.
"But at the same time it is also a celebration - a celebration of ordinary people who can pick up the mantle and fight for justice, and that they can win. To me that is a tremendous, tremendous indication to other families in other situations to never give up.
The Dalglishes were recognised for their "unstinting support given to the Hillsborough families over 27 years" and for their "substantial charity work" - they have helped raise millions of pounds for cancer treatment in the city through the Marina Dalglish Appeal after she successfully battled breast cancer.
Dalglish, who was joined at the ceremony by former team-mate Alan Hansen, said he felt "very, very humble" to be honoured.
He said: "All we did is we went out, enjoyed ourselves, played football and won a few trophies. When Hillsborough came along we only did to the families of Hillsborough what they did for us and that was support us.
"I think it is normal for people to help each other in their moment of need. If somebody wishes to reward you then, that is their choice.
"We did it because it was the right thing to do. Myself, the players, everybody involved at the football club, it was our responsibility to turn supporter and help them through the darkest days they had.
"I think it's a tremendously rewarding night for [the families] because of what they have achieved. They can look forward and be very proud of themselves at what they have achieved, the sacrifices they have had to make to get here.
"They are the real heroes. It is nothing to do with us, we only lent them a hand."