Orgreave – Time for Scotland to force the issue

article-2548413-00F5408100000191-360_634x807Jim Monaghan talks about the toxic legacy of the Orgreave police riot of 1984, and what we can do about it.

When the BBC aired a documentary in October 2012 covering the actions of South Yorkshire Police (SYP) in the aftermath of the battle between police and miners at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984, the IPCC quickly set up an internal Police investigation. The TV programme came quickly after the damning report into the same police force’s deliberate attempts to pervert the course of justice over the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

It has taken over 2 years for them to conclude that they will not do anything about it. We shouldn’t be surprised of course, police investigating police rarely gets anywhere. However, the excuses were weak, citing ‘time lapse’ conveniently overlooks the 1987 court cases where 95 pickets were charged with riot, unlawful assembly and other offences. All of the papers from that time are available and there is a lot of very clear evidence. All of the cases collapsed in court, SYP eventually paid over £500k in compensation and costs to 35 miners. No police officers were charged with misconduct.

But the new evidence didn’t tell us much that didn’t all know already. We all already knew that news footage was edited to show miners attacking police first rather than the other way round. We knew about the actions of SYP at Hillsborough. We have all heard about allegations of serving soldiers disguised as police on the day at Orgreave. I personally know of three cases of this. One, a woman from our village identifying her son (a serving soldier) on TV dressed as a police officer convinced me very early. I have a friend who’s cousin was in the army and was detailed for action at Polkemmet here in Scotland. He was given leave not to attend as he could have been identified. And I met a former soldier on a college course in 1993 who told our whole class of his experiences serving at the Kent coalfield during the strike as a Coldstream Guard but dressed as a Met officer. It was a military operation. There had been pickets at Orgreave for days leading up to the battle. Everyone who was there on any of those day,s and the final day, retrospectively remembers how relatively easy it was to picket. Whereas police made great efforts to prevent miners getting from one part of the country to another, and made strenuous efforts to contain them when they arrived, at Orgreave it was almost like an open invite, police watching as hundreds of miners arrived and proceeded to gates of the plant without interruption. It was, of course, a trap.

This was the state and all of its arms, Whitehall, the Govt, the police, the armed forces, at war with organised workers. The authorities would be delighted to keep focussing on the actions of one single police force to deflect from that fact.

The brutality on the day was designed to break the back of a militant union, to issue a vicious show of strength from the state. The miners represented more than workplace organisation. They were willing to go further than just their own dispute over closures and terms. They had shown that in the past. For the Tory Govt to implement the law changes planned to weaken the unions, the labour movement’s front line troops had to be brought into line. Only active and militant unions challenge the state and vested interests, the NUM were the prime example having brought down a previous Tory Goverment ten years earlier. Paul Kenny of the GMB will not need to fear state intervention or undercover troops interfering with his cucumber sandwiches in the Lords tearoom, that’s for sure.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Commission was set up at the NUM offices in Barnsley shortly after BBC documentary in 2012 bringing miners, trade unionist and activists together to campaign for truth.  But, with the Tories in charge and with a majority we all know that the UK Government will do nothing – a full enquiry will not happen any time in the next 5 years. Andy Burnham can make a call for one but, unlike Hillsborough, this is about the full state and its organs, not just a police cover up where Patsy’s can be found to hang out to dry.

So are we stuck? No, there is a way to force the issue from here in Scotland. Neil Findlay MSP made a call to the Scottish Government in 2012 to re-open the cases of ALL miners convicted during the strike and it’s aftermath. The then Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ignored it, but new blood in the shape of Michael Mathieson, and Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to portray her party as the party of Social Justice gives us an opportunity to open enquiries where the evidence from Yorkshire, Westminster and Whitehall could be called upon. The SNP would have nothing to fear from the enquiry and could score big with the public if they took up the baton on this issue.

We often talk about the powers we do and don’t have in Scotland, sadly far less than talking about what we can do with powers we already have. We have an opportunity to expose the UK state as the brutal corrupt entity that it is. We should that grasp that thistle now.

Comments (12)

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  1. Mark Rowantree says:

    I fully support any move to inquire into the sad cases of infers who were sacked after being arrested during the 1984 Miners Strike for Jobs and Community. I unreservedly call upon the Scottish Government to support any inquiry into this situation.

  2. Independence Live says:

    Well said Jim.

  3. Jim Bennett says:

    Jim Monaghan has written an excellent summary of the issues around Orgreave and a definitive call for action. Excellent stuff which should be circulated widely.

  4. Gayle Smith says:

    Jim Monaghan hits the nail on the head . A common sense approach from a principled, straight talking socialist. Go for it Nicola, not because it’s a vote but because it is morally right.

    Best Wishes

  5. Ian Greenhalgh says:

    What is the next step to get this moving?

  6. Paul says:

    And there is this very good documentary about what happened at Orgreave;

  7. Anne Milligan says:

    First time on Bella, tho have been reading for a while and getting educated in the process. Totally agree that hows the time for our Scottish government to use the powers we have, take the initiative to do what Westminster failed to do (obviously cos its not in their interests) take up the fight for justice for the miners and their families. How long ago this happened is irrelevant (aswas the case with the hilborough victims, and historical abuse cases, rightly so) Is this not exactly the sort of thing we put our trust in the SNP to do?

  8. HerewardAwake! says:

    Well done! This is a chance for Scotland to shine a huge light on this disgraceful episode in British history. It must not be left smouldering under the carpet of history any longer. If the IPCC won’t do it somebody else must.

  9. Connor McEwen says:

    Like the Chilcot, McCrea [1985].Mmm Chilcot

  10. margaret mcauslan says:

    the Scottish Government must surely hold a public enquiry. The younger people if Scotland need to be made aware of what happened to our communities, and our rights during the Thatcher regime, and how that has led to where rUK is at now.

  11. Connor McEwen says:

    See the Yorkshire Post and Guardian are lifting the baton

  12. Billy George says:

    Disappointing response from the SG on this issue. What happened to those guys in the strike was an utter disgrace.

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