OPINION: The Hillsborough verdict of not guilty cannot alter these critical facts.

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But in the midst of this devastation, anger and heartache, we must remember three things:

THE not guilty verdict on David Duckenfield will have destroyed so many families, survivors and activists in Hillsborough-here in Merseyside and beyond.

Paddy Shennan on why families, survivors and activists should be proud

* The ruling does NOT alter the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report released on September 12, 2012.

* The verdict does NOT alter the findings of the wrongful death investigation, which was announced on April 26, 2016.

* And the verdict does NOT alter the fact that David Duckenfield, during his interrogation during the March 17, 2015 investigation, agreed that his failure to close a tunnel “was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people.

It could be argued that the fact that ANY charges were brought after the investigations-and after all these years-was a miracle of our time, thanks to the monumental efforts of the Hillsborough families, survivors and activists.

Their achievements should never be underestimated.

Since April 15, 1989, they have been on a traumatic and agonizing journey, door after door, slammed in their face.

Who would have predicted these wrongful death sentences in 1991, when the long discredited verdicts of accidental death came back to the original investigations – which were passed 25 years later in the midst of emotional and unforgettable scenes?

And who would have expected to see David Duckenfield back in court 19 years after he left the Crown Court in Leeds on the private prosecution of Hillsborough families, charged with manslaughter?

It is a tribute to the dedication and determination of the Hillsborough families, survivors and activists that these second investigations took place, that Duckenfield made decisive confessions, and that he was brought before Preston Crown Court this year.

There are, of course, people who have not been charged. They know who they are, and we know who they are-and that will always be the case.

Therefore, in the midst of the devastation, anger and heartbreak that is felt today, there should be feelings of pride – pride in what was achieved against all odds on behalf of the 96 men, women and children who died needlessly in Hillsborough.

The passing of so many years has made many things so frustratingly difficult – not least legally – because the image of Hillsborough has been distorted. But the world should ask itself what the families, survivors and activists of Hillsborough have achieved over the past 30 years.

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