Features/Opinion

A Profile Of Margaret Aspinall: Chairwoman Of The Hillsborough Families Support Group

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group lost her son during the Hillsborough Disaster on April 15, 1989.

Due to the events that took place and the misrepresentation that Liverpool football fans received from the media, Margaret vowed to not only do all she can to clear the name of her son but to clear the name of all the victims as a sign of respect for the victims but for their families.

With this prior knowledge in mind when I had the privilege of meeting Margaret I was unsure what to expect and understandably quite nervous, quickly I discovered that I had nothing to worry about.

From the moment I entered the main operations room of the Hillsborough Families Support Group I immediately felt at ease, although initially there was some confusion Margaret still took the time to speak to me.

Courteous, welcoming and warm are some words that spring to mind. Margaret treated me like an old friend: through the offering of tea, coffee, water and even donuts any stress that had lingered in the room had gone.

Margaret didn’t meet my stereotypical vision of a chairwoman, she dressed casually and sat with a minor slouch in her chair.

Earlier in the year Margaret and Trevor Hicks had been presented Honorary Fellowships at Liverpool Hope University.

Professor Gerald Pilay claimed: “In attending the ceremony that day, Margaret and Trevor did as they have done for the past 27 years, put their care for others before their own” he continued “in having to deal with their own grief so publicly, they have helped a city deal with theirs”.

At the time of our meeting Margaret had recently been honoured at the Women of the Year Awards, her kind side once again shun through as she was quick to remind me: “that wasn’t just for me, it was the families also”

She then explained how she and the families felt when they discovered they were to receive an award:

“We felt humbled, very proud, but at the end of it, we all realise, why we won that award. So there is a little bit of sadness with it because we all lost somebody. If we take that into account and always remember what those awards are about, it’s about the ninety-six innocent people who died, needlessly. But we still felt very proud and very privileged because the people recognised the achievement of the hard work that the families have done for these past twenty-odd years. I felt very proud and privileged as the rest of the families did”.

Current Prime Minister Theresa May presented Margaret with her award and when asked her opinion of Theresa May, Margaret said: “I found Theresa May a very straight forward, honest person” she continued “I’ve had a few meetings with Theresa May, before the establishment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, and for the first time I felt that at last someone is finally listening to what we have to say”.

She also went on to describe Theresa May as “a person who wouldn’t take any nonsense, but also a type of person who is very fair and who will listen”.

Margaret’s maintained passion for the cause she is fighting for was prevalent in her voice throughout the interview, it was clear that I was speaking to a fighter, however this passion was at its highest when asked what helps her maintain it: “what keeps you going is an injustice that we know, which has been there since day one, to get the truth”.

She continued “but also for the love that you had for your loved one who died. That gives you the passion…that gives you the commitment that makes you more serious. It also makes you be true to yourself and if you’re true to yourself then you’re being true to the ninety-six…that is important”.

Margaret commented how “I do like the idea of Liverpool and Everton football club being united, which they have been, on an injustice that happened and our city is a great city for speaking up. We’re not perfect, we get things wrong, but what I do love about Merseyside is how we’re like a family”.

I went on to ask Margaret about the infamous David Duckenfield and happened to have mentioned the word justice in my question, Margaret’s answer really stuck out:

“I’m a great believer there’s no such thing as justice for one person’s life never mind ninety-six. But I am a person who believes in accountability and that’s a big difference…I’m a great believer in being honest and truthful and having integrity”.

Whilst discussing the most recent inquest of the Hillsborough Disaster, Margaret had this to say: “it is wonderful for our fans and the survivors who were there that day…and most importantly for the ninety-six for their names to be cleared”.

Margaret concluded the interview by showcasing her passion for the cause one final time, her ending quote is as follows: “you cannot ninety-six unlawfully killed, ninety-six unlawfully killed without somebody being accountable for it, they cannot get away with that and if they try to, they’ve got another fight on their hands with the families and the fans”.

 

By Michael O’Neill.

February 28, 2017

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