Former miners from the region will march on Parliament today (Tuesday, October 28) to demand more support for coalfield communities.
The protest comes as MPs debate the release of 1984 Cabinet papers which allegedly showed that the Government at the time misled the public about the extent of pit closures and tried to influence tactics used by police dealing with picketers.
Members from organisations including the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) and National Union of Mineworkers– Yorkshire Area will travel to London to take part in a rally outside the House of Commons.
Dave Hopper, DMA secretary, said the impact of the pit closures was still being felt 30 years later.
“It is now only right that Parliament recognises just how badly ministers at the time treated the coalfield communities and acknowledges the full scale of the economic legacy of the pit closure programme,” he said.
“The problems in the former coalfields are horrendous and made worse by the current Coalition Government’s policies.”
Parliament will debate a motion put forward by Labour which calls on the Commons to acknowledge the evidence that the Thatcher Government “misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics”.
Miners also want a full investigation into the so-called Battle of Orgreave, which saw brutal picket line clashes between police and union members, including many from the North-East.
“What happened at Orgreave 30 years ago was a black day in South Yorkshire,” said Mr Hopper.
“The Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to get its act together. If they can’t or won’t undertake a proper investigation, then Labour has said the Government should consider initiating a swift, independent review along the lines of the Ellison Review.”
Cabinet papers from 1984, released earlier this year under the 30-year rule, revealed Government plans to shut 75 mines over three years. The government and National Coal Board said at the time they wanted to close just 20.
Source – Durham Times, 28 Oct 2014
A gathering to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike was held in the North-East over the weekend.
Durham Miners’ Association staged the event at its headquarters at Redhills in Durham City on Saturday, three decades on from the bitter industrial dispute.
It was held at the weekend to tie in with the 30th anniversary of the infamous clashes between pitmen and police at Orgreave, near Rotherham, on June 18, 1984.
The union invited friends, supporters and miners who took part in the strike to ‘to renew old friendships and celebrate the spirit that endured a year-long battle for the preservation of jobs and communities’.
The eight-hour celebration started at 2pm and included a bar, buffet, films and music as well as speeches.
General secretary Dave Hopper said: “A lot of people who have not see each other for quite a while were there.
“It was nice to get together, reminisce a bit and look back at the situation and just think how unlucky we were not to achieve what we set out to achieve.
“Society would have been far better, certainly in the Durham area and a lot of coalfield communities. It is always important to keep issues like this in the public eye.”
Source – Durham Times, 23 June 2014
Statue to honour village’s miners
Work has begun on a memorial statue to honour men and boys killed in the pits.
A turf-cutting ceremony took place on Friday (June 20) ahead of the creation of a life-size statue of a miner, his wife and child for Esh Winning, in County Durham.
The statue will honour people who died in the collieries of Esh Winning, Waterhouses, Hedley Hill and East Hedleyhope.
Work on the memorial is expected to take three months, followed by an unveiling ceremony.
A long-running community campaign raised £65,000 to pay for the statue.
That included donations from the County Durham Community Foundation, Esh Winning Community Association, Hargreaves, Durham Rural Community Council, the Co-operative Society and others.
Councillor John Robinson, chairman of Durham County Council, was part of Friday’s event.
He said: “This will be a wonderful memorial to the local community and the families of those who worked in the mines.”
Hargreaves, a mining firm which is based in Esh Winning, is the main commercial supporter of the project.
Development director Ian Parkin said the company was honoured to be involved.
Bob Heslop, a devoted leader of the memorial group, sadly died last year, before the campaign reached fruition.
Source – Northern Echo, 22 June 2014
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
Unite union has teamed up with Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) to set up a “community hub” centre at the Miners’ Hall in Red Hill, Durham, which they say will become a resource for those most in need of help to deal with cuts, changes in benefits such as the bedroom tax and the tests carried out by ATOS, the company contracted by the Government to carry out the fitness-to-work assessments.
It will also launch a Benefit Buddying scheme, offering peer-to-peer support for those who are most vulnerable and are facing difficulties (which sounds like it might be a good idea), and campaign for welfare rights.
The centre will open two days (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 – 15:00) with the volunteers also offering support, help to learn new skills and guidance as people search for work.
The official launch is on Friday, November 15, at 2pm.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “We have opened the community support centre in partnership with Unite in a response to the vicious attacks on the benefits system brought in by the Con-Dem Government.
“The last Conservative Government decimated our coal industry, now this Government is making the people of the North East suffer all over again.”