Orgreave: Sense of injustice still burns fiercely in pit villages

A press conference at the NUM headquarters in Barnsley after the IPCC announcement

A press conference at the NUM headquarters in Barnsley after the IPCC announcement

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It was one of the most violent clashes of the year-long miners’ strike, leaving images that remain in the public consciousness even today.

And more than three decades on, the mental scars left by the Battle of Orgreave were clear to see as campaigners vowed to continue their fight for a full inquiry into the events of June 18, 1984, at the coking plant near Rotherham.

Arthur Critchlow, one of the dozens of miners who was falsely accused of riot, was among those due to speak at a press conference organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign in Barnsley yesterday.

Starting to recount the events of the day, he described being arrested and suffering a fractured skull, but found himself unable to speak despite the encouragement of his fellow ex-miners.

As the press conference continued at the headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers’, ex-miners, campaigners and members of the former mining communities stood up one by one to tell of their continued anger at the events of the day.

In total, 95 miners were arrested at the Orgreave coking plant after clashes with police that left 50 people injured. When the cases came to court, all were abandoned after it became clear that evidence provided by police was unreliable. South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.

Campaigners organised the event to discuss their plans after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that too much time had passed for it to launch a full investigation into the Battle of Orgreave.

When asked whether a public inquiry was still worth pursuing more than three decades on, campaign founder Granville Williams said: “I have been asked before, why bother? It is because of the burning injustice. You only have to talk to people about their lives’ work, about the closure of the pits.

“If you live out of the mining community you don’t understand the harrowing destruction that took place. It is not going away and that is why it is important.”

Kevin Horne, 66, from Mexborough, one of the miners arrested in the clashes with police at Orgreave, said the publicity generated by the IPCC’s refusal to investigate “could actually work in our favour”.

He said: “It is a public inquiry we wanted in the first place. It was the police that referred themselves to the IPCC, we think they only did it as a buffer to slow us down.

“It took Hillsborough families more than 20 years so I think we can still achieve what we want, which is a public inquiry.”

A few miles away in Grimethorpe, there are few signs that the local pit was once the beating heart of the community prior to its closure in 1993. It was here that an effigy of Margaret Thatcher was burned in the days after her death in 2013.

Steve Barnes, 47, a father-of-one who runs a gym in the village, said: “It is a very tight community, 80 per cent of the men here were miners. My dad was and my older brother too. They all think the police on the front line during the strike weren’t police officers, they think they were squaddies.

“But Grimethorpe has fetched itself up better than it was before, there is a bit of business, there are a fair few jobs about.

“It was terrible at the time, the high street was smashed to pieces, it has got back now and it is better than it used to be.”

Kathryn Needle, a 66-year-old cleaner, said: “The village has changed so much, the community is not there like it was, it was a really good community here in Grimethorpe. They destroyed that when they destroyed the mines.”

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Orgreave: Yorkshire Post coverage

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