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A full Orgreave inquiry is still crucial

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the strike that changed Britain forever, we have to remember its biggest miscarriage of justice remains unaddressed, writes KATE FLANNERY

HALLOWEEN for the striking miners brutalised by police at Orgreave and throughout the 1984-5 miners’ strike is a grim reminder to them, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and all of us, of justice delayed and justice denied.

On October 31 2016, after previously tricking us into believing that an Orgreave inquiry was likely, Amber Rudd, then-Tory home secretary, ruled out any kind of investigation into the police riot of June 18 1984.

Seven years on from this decision and almost 40 years since the strike, we continue our essential campaign to keep up the political pressure for a full and authoritative inquiry into government involvement and state-sanctioned brutality at Orgreave.

Many still carry the physical and emotional scars meted out by the police on the orders of the state. Miners attending the Orgreave picket were tricked and ambushed, assaulted and arrested, locked up and fitted up.

Neither the government nor the police have ever accepted responsibility or been held to account for any wrongdoing following the acquittal of 95 miners after the collapse of the prosecution case at trial in 1985.

Offences of police perjury and perverting the course of justice have never been investigated and, at the time, were just a whisper in the mainstream media.

Miners assaulted by the police and arrested during the strike, family members, supporters and activists involved in the miners’ strike looked on from the House of Commons public gallery as Rudd’s horrific inquiry rejection announcement was made.

The spurious, contradictory and unacceptable reasons for not holding an inquiry were that nobody died, there were no miscarriages of justice, it was too long ago, policing had improved since 1984, the police had nothing new to learn and it was not in the public interest to hold any kind of inquiry.

The current Tory government has decided to cover up the decisions and terrifying actions of the 1980s Tory government above truth, justice and accountability.

However, the OTJC continues its fight to expose these injustices and the Tories will not escape from the demons and ghosts of their past.

The Tory government used everything at its disposal to demoralise and demonise the miners and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) throughout the 1984-5 miners’ strike. It was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in Britain’s history.

The strike to protect jobs, industry, communities and trade unions also highlighted the Tory lies about their pit closure plans and their efforts to try to dismantle the trade union movement and organised labour through their privatisation programme and neoliberal ideology.

Despite being up against unrelenting Tory and right-wing media propaganda, the strike not only received phenomenal solidarity at home, with financial and practical support from organisations and people throughout Britain, but from all over the world.

The violent destruction of the British coal industry and mining communities has resulted in the violence of austerity and the inevitable hardship and poverty created by a private market putting profits before people.

The families and communities of ex-miners along with many in Tory Britain are either unemployed or now working in zero-hours, low-paid, insecure jobs in call centres, distribution centres, fast-food outlets and retail parks on the sites the pits once occupied.

Since 2016 there have been significant developments further exposing the need for an Orgreave inquiry. Some very revealing Home Office files and government papers relating to the strike have been released to the National Archives.

Disclosure by the National Police Chiefs Council has revealed the existence and location of Association of Chief Police Officers files relating to Orgreave and the miners’ strike which are embargoed until 2066.

We also understand that director of public prosecutions documents relating to arrested miners are now embargoed until 2071.

An independent approach by the Bishop of Sheffield in 2018 to Rudd’s successor, home secretary Sajid Javid, requested there be an Orgreave independent panel set up, similar to the format and terms of reference of the Hillsborough Independent Panel to help to commence scrutiny and consideration. This was rejected by Javid.

New evidence relating to police malpractice, police spies and the strike has also been revealed in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry, where the NUM is a core participant.

The Scottish Parliament’s review findings into policing during the 1984-5 miners’ strike, accepted by the Scottish Parliament in 2020, and the ongoing process into a collective pardoning of miners convicted during the strike, has been a significant move towards truth and restorative justice.

The Senedd has also continuously called for an Orgreave inquiry. There have also been various parliamentary petitions and debates over recent years requesting an inquiry.

Our OTJC petition calling for an Orgreave inquiry attracted thousands of signatures in addition to many councils and individuals writing to successive home secretaries and MPs.

A Daily Mirror article also exposed that Rudd did not want an inquiry as it could slur the memory of Thatcher and upset party members.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party recently announced at the TUC that a Labour government would “support a full investigation into the violent events at Orgreave.”

There have also been recent revelations by the former political editor of the Times about comments the late queen is said to have made about her opposition to the police violence at Orgreave.

The OTJC have never received a response to our request to meet the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to discuss all these important new issues.

Holding an Orgreave inquiry is in the public interest and very much a live issue relating to a lack of scrutiny and accountability.

While a large number of documents are in the public domain, in addition to the Independent Police Complaints Commission 2015 findings relating to police conduct at Orgreave, the government has denied any formal and official process to reveal the content of all these relevant documents and materials in any thorough and authoritative way.

Recent punitive and draconian legislation to further restrict our human rights and the right to protest and organise reveal a government determined to be unaccountable and to continue to stifle and criminalise dissent.

We are not deterred and are heartened by the determination of many other social justice campaigns. Many trade unions also continue to expose the instability of our economy.

We stand in solidarity with them as they recruit, campaign, organise, protest and strike. We are all galvanised as they win considerable disputes and continue exposing and challenging exploitative employment practices.

Plans are currently being made to commemorate and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.

Come to Sheffield on Saturday June 15 2024 and support the annual Orgreave rally.

Bring your banners, comrades and friends and march in solidarity with us to support our call for an inquiry for truth and justice for the miners brutalised by the state and police in 1984.

Kate Flannery is secretary of Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (www.otjc.org.uk).

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