Campaigners have welcomed reports the government is to launch an enquiry into the police handling at the Battle of Orgreave.
Striking miners clashed with mounted police officers at Orgreave in South Yorkshire in 1984. One officer was filmed straddling a miner on the ground and battering him repeatedly about the head with his truncheon.
A year later 15 miners were charged with riot but the trial collapsed after 48 days amid claims of police officers colluding to provide evidence showing the miners, not their fellow officers, were responsible for the violence. The miners dispute this, likening the alleged establishment cover-up at Orgreave to that of Hillsborough disaster, which involved the same South Yorkshire Police police force.
Following the recent enquiry into Hillsborough, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hinted she wants a similar enquiry into events at Orgreave.
Unite organiser and OTJC chair Joe Rollin said that he was “quietly confident” the inquiry would go through.
He said: “Unite has consistently called for the truth about South Yorkshire Police’s actions at Orgreave to be uncovered and has been part of the campaign to make sure that happens.
“For far too long the events of June 1984 have not been properly acknowledged or investigated. The impression I got from Amber Rudd is that she believes it’s time for that to change.”
Commenting on the reports, Rollin said he was “very pleased” that a public inquiry may have been given the final go-head.
“However,” he noted, “we need to make sure that this is an actual full public inquiry, which has the full powers to investigate and obtain evidence.
“There also must be, as there was with the Hillsborough inquiry, an ability to produce a report which provides full analysis of all the evidence.
“We won’t be happy until we get to the bottom of exactly what happened on June 18, 1984.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Orgreave families and the NUM have fought for over 30 years to get justice. They have displayed huge courage and tenacity in trying to hold the authorities to account. For there to be confidence in the inquiry, it must be given the full scope, independence and resources needed to uncover the truth and see that justice is done.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “UNISON has repeatedly called for an independent and thorough investigation into what really happened at the Battle of Orgreave during the miners’ strike.
“The official version of events – put forward by the police – was that the miners were to blame for the violence that erupted that day, and that the police were acting in self-defence. But we in the labour movement have always known that wasn’t the real story.
“6,000 officers. Riot gear. Horses and dogs set on picketers. This wasn’t a standard police action, it was an ambush intended teach the miners a lesson through overwhelming force, in an example of what Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt has called ‘a brutal example of legalised state violence’.
“And in the aftermath considerable effort appears to have been spent painting striking miners – standing up for their communities and their livelihoods – as mindless thugs.
“The allegations against the police are incredibly serious, including officers filing reports on arrests they didn’t carry out. All point towards an insidious culture within South Yorkshire police.
“After the outcome of the Hillsborough inquiry earlier this year, it’s now time this force is also held to account for what happened in Orgreave.
“This was not the only wrongdoing perpetuated by the police against striking miners, but it is perhaps the clearest example of police targeting striking workers in a seemingly pre-meditated and politically motivated attack.
“The time has come for justice to be served and for the truth to be heard, in full, at long last.