South Yorkshire mining communities have joined fresh calls for a public inquiry into the miners’ strike to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the most bitter industrial conflict in living memory.
A series of events will be held by local miners, their families, supporters and union activists in the coming weeks, while the anger and bitterness which characterised the dispute will be re-kindled.
The revelation in government papers released by the National Archives that Margaret Thatcher secretly considered calling out the troops at the height of the strike has strengthened the belief that a full-blown inquiry should be held.
Labour MP Ian Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, has tabled an early day motion in Parliament, which ‘regrets that nearly 30 years after the strike ended, there are still men who were wrongly arrested or convicted during the dispute, who have never received justice.’
Mr Lavery told reporters: “People who live in great mining communities across the UK have not forgotten the strike and they will never forget.
“Passions have not waned. In 100 years time I am confident that people will say that their great grandfather was a miner and was proud to have taken part in the strike. That is how deep this thing runs.”
Pressure is also mounting for a full public inquiry into the battle of Orgreave, when 96 people were arrested and 51 injured during clashes between pickets and police.
The day started peacefully on June 18 in 1984, when pickets started arriving at the South Yorkshire coking plant but within hours there were pitched battles between miners and police, many on horseback.
The police maintain they were subjected to a hail of missiles from among the thousands of pickets who had gathered outside the plant to try to prevent lorries leaving, but the pickets say the police over-reacted.
Joe Rollin, chairman of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said he believed the police were sending out a political message to miners that they would not tolerate mass picketing.
“We think that was a political decision made by Mrs Thatcher. The ramifications are still being felt today, with lasting damage to coalfield communities which suffer high levels of unemployment and drug and alcohol-related problems,” he said.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow said: “Many of our activists were victimised, hounded and sacked for acting in solidarity with the miners and RMT will be supporting events the length and breadth of the country this year to mark the struggle of 1984/85. The fight goes on.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is expected to make a decision about whether or not to hold an inquiry by the summer.
Union insists that it is still supporting miners today
The National Union of Mineworkers insists it is still ‘alive and kicking’ – despite seeing membership collapse following the closure of most of the country’s pits.
The union had 250,000 members when Arthur Scargill was elected president in 1982, but that figure has fallen to just 1,800.
The union is helping to organise events to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1984 strike, including a memorial service for two miners who died during separate incidents during the dispute.
Closure of colliery was trigger for pit protests
The closure of Cortonwood Colliery, near Barnsley, in early March 1984 was the catalyst which led to the miners’ strike.
Within days, half of the country’s miners had walked out in protest at pit closures. Most of the UK’s 190,000 miners were soon embroiled in a daily routine of picketing outside collieries.