Miners’ leader warns big legal costs could threaten future of Miners’ Gala

The cost of a failed legal claim could place the long-term future of the Durham Miners’ Gala in doubt.

The Durham Miners Association, which organises the annual Big Meeting, says it may be unable able to afford future events after landing a £2m bill for costs.

The DMA spent six years fighting unsuccessfully for compensation for former miners who developed crippling osteoarthritis of the knee because of their work.

Although the pits are long gone, the Gala has regained much of its old popularity and is considered the country’s foremost trade union gathering.

The mix of colourful union lodge banners and brass bands from across the North marching through the city and political speeches still attracts thousands of spectators each summer.

DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said staging the Gala cost between £70,000 and £80,000, with around £28,000 spent on the bands.

The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, launched in 2012, had brought in £40,000 in its first year, but more was needed.

He said: “We believe that this is a people’s Gala and if we have thousands of people giving a little each year the Gala will be safe.

“Of course, we will be more than happy to receive bigger donations from trade union organisations but it was the people of Durham that saved the Gala and in the long run it will be the people of Durham, and our many well wishers who attend from all over Britain.”

But North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones, who has heavily criticised the DMA over payments it received from members over previous compensation claims, questioned the situation.

He said the last published accounts for the DMA, in 2007 when it officially deregistered as a union and became a claims handler, showed it had £6.4m.

“I find it remarkable that the DNA should be making these claims,’’ he said.

“They should explain what they have done with this £6.4m.including over £1m in offshore bank accounts, they had in 2007.”

To join the Friends of the Gala visit www.durhamminers.org or write to: Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala, PO Box 6, The Miners’ Hall, Durham DH1 4BB.

Source – Durham Times   28 April 2014

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