'Hillsborough work changed my life': former Bishop of Hull James Jones
A FORMER Bishop of Hull who chaired the independent panel into the Hillsborough disaster has told how it changed his own life.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, was initially approached to act as panel chairman almost three years ago by the then Home Secretary, Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson.
The two knew each other from the bishop's previous role in Hull.
He was Bishop of Hull for four years before moving in Liverpool in 1998.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
The bishop said: "The more I have worked with the panel, in consultation with the families, the more their pleas resonated with two fundamental aspects of my own faith and ethics.
"First, the call to heal the brokenhearted and secondly, the plea to grant justice to those who are denied it."
He chaired all but three of the panel's 40 meetings, missing the others because of a heart bypass operation last year.
He said: "The first question I asked the consultant was: 'Would I still be able to do Hillsborough?' I am delighted to say the answer was yes."
The bishop said the victims of the disaster provided him with the inspiration to complete the panel's work.
"On my desk in my study, I have a photograph of the stadium on the day, I have the names of all the 96 and I put those there at the very beginning to remind me each day of the importance of the task."
Although set up under the previous Labour Government, he revealed the panel's future had faced some uncertainty with the advent of the coalition Government.
He said a number of "robust" discussions with MPs finally secured their commitment to continued public funding for the panel's investigations.
"I said that if you did not know 21 or 22 years on how and why your child died, your grief would be unresolved."
The bishop said his determination to uncover the truth behind the tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died was fuelled after an initial meeting with relatives of the dead.
"At this point, their dignified determination made a huge impact upon me personally and upon all my colleagues and that almost provided the glue that bound us together in our common purpose to achieve this work.
"When you hear how they have been treated in the past, I found that very hard to hear."
The bishop said the work of the panel was "arduous and demanding" but was fulfilling because of the role they were serving and the job they had to do.
"It meant the panel members were caught up in it and worked harder than perhaps they should have done," he said.
"We never wondered whether we'd cope because, frankly, it was always about the families and how they had coped. It is fair to say we got our momentum from the families."