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The miners’ strike and the horror of injustice 

Halloween for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign marks a grim anniversary – five years since Amber Rudd ruled out an inquiry into the brutal events of June 18 1984. But campaigners have no intention of giving up the fight, says KATE FLANNERY

OCTOBER 31 is no celebration of Halloween for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC). This year is the fifth anniversary of the Tory government’s refusal to order an Orgreave inquiry. 

It was on October 31 2016 that Tory home secretary Amber Rudd made the shock announcement in Parliament that there would not be any kind of inquiry into the police riot at Orgreave on June 18 1984 during the 1984-5 miners’ strike. 

Miners who had been assaulted by the police and arrested during the strike, children of miners, supporters and activists involved in the strike watched in horror from the House of Commons public gallery as this statement was made. 

The OTJC now has this anniversary to commemorate each year — a Tory trick and no treat. 

It was a day when this Tory government chose again to protect the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s government above accountability, truth and justice. 

However, the Tories cannot escape the ghosts and demons of their past mistakes forever. The OTJC continue fighting and highlighting this historic injustice — and truth and justice will prevail.

Previous home secretary Theresa May, and then her successor Rudd, had indicated to the OTJC in 2015 and 2016 that an inquiry was likely. 

Following the findings of the Independent Police Complaints Commission Orgreave scoping exercise in June 2015 Theresa May invited submissions on why a public inquiry was needed into Orgreave. 

The OTJC submitted a full written submission to the Home Office in December 2015. A meeting took place with the OTJC and Rudd in September 2016 where the format of an inquiry/investigation was discussed. 

In September 2016, the Times even reported that an official inquiry into police behaviour at Orgreave was set to be announced by the Home Secretary.

The 1984-5 miners’ strike was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in British history. The government used everything at its disposal to demonise and demoralise the miners and the National Union of Mineworkers. 

The strike was not only about fighting to protect jobs, the coal industry, communities and uncover the lies of the Tory pit closure programme, it was about protecting the trade union movement against Tory plans to destroy it and pave the way for privatisation and neoliberal ideology. 

The destruction of the coal industry and mining communities and the hardship and poverty it created has resulted in a private market putting profits before people, an unstable economy and the exploitation of workers. 

The strike received massive support from people throughout Britain and all over the world. The legacy of the pit closures means members of the families and communities of ex-miners and many in our society are either unemployed or are now working in low-paid, zero-hours, insecure jobs in call centres, fast-food outlets and retail parks on the sites the pits once occupied. This was the case long before the Covid pandemic. 

Some of the 2019 general election intake of Tory MPs assert that they represent working-class people in previously Labour-voting, ex-mining communities. 

None of these MPs appear to have supported or spoken in favour of an Orgreave inquiry. 

Many disagreed with Rudd’s spurious and unacceptable reasons not to hold an inquiry (that it was too long ago, nobody died, there were no miscarriages of justice, policing had improved since 1984 so the police had nothing new to learn and that it wasn’t in the public interest to hold any kind of inquiry) and since October 2016 there have been significant developments. 

Some Home Office files relating to the strike have been released to the National Archives with some of the relevant documents from several British police forces sent to the South Yorkshire Archives for cataloguing. 

There has been disclosure by the National Police Chiefs’ Council of the existence and location of Association of Chief Police Officers files relating to Orgreave and the miners’ strike that are understood to be embargoed until 2066. 

An independent approach to previous home secretary Sajid Javid by the Bishop of Sheffield in 2018 requested that there be an Orgreave independent panel set up, similar to the format and terms of reference of the Hillsborough Independent Panel as a means to commence scrutiny and consideration. 

This was rejected by Javid. New evidence relating to the strike has also come to light as a result of the ongoing Undercover Police Inquiry, of which the National Union of Mineworkers is a core participant. 

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

The Welsh Assembly has also continuously called for an inquiry and an Orgreave inquiry is a Labour manifesto commitment. 

The OTJC has recently written to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to ask for a meeting with them to discuss all these issues. We have never received a response. 

Holding an Orgreave inquiry is still very much a live issue with a high degree of public interest and unrest about lack of scrutiny and accountability. 

A recent Daily Mirror article has also exposed Rudd’s real reasons for not holding an inquiry — because it would “slur the memory of Thatcher” and upset party members.

While there are a large number of documents in the public domain, the government has still not made it possible to access all relevant documents and material or made any attempt to officially reveal their content in any thorough and authoritative way. 

The OTJC’s activism is relentless and we continue to keep up the political pressure and explore our legal options. 

Kate Flannery is secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Please support us in our continued campaign for truth and justice and sign our petition at mstar.link/OrgreavePetition.

Find out more and follow the OTJC campaign at otjc.org.uk Twitter @orgreavejustice; Facebook; @OrgreaveTruthAndJusticeCampaign; Instagram www.instagram.com/orgreavetruthandjustice.

 

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