Mining communities have been let down by Westminster time and time again. The Home Secretary’s refusal to initiate an inquiry into the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ has reopened old wounds for former mining communities. The announcement reminds us, yet again, that people in these forgotten about communities are worth so little to politicians in Westminster.
We have just marked 50 years since the horrific Aberfan disaster. 116 children and 28 adults needlessly lost their lives when a coal tip slid down the mountain and buried a school and 20 terraced houses.
Though it happened before I was born, older people in our valley – the neighbouring Rhondda – had this tragedy burned into them and it has been passed down through the generations. It was something I was aware of from a very young age. Older people could not talk about it without tears. The emotion from the 50th anniversary commemorations was palpable.
The Labour Secretary of State for Wales at the time, George Thomas, was a working class man from the southern coalfields. He should have known better but, regardless, he coerced the people of Aberfan into using money donated by well-wishers and those who had been affected by the news from Aberfan, to pay for the removal of the tips. This was a kick in the guts to the community that had just seen an entire generation “buried alive by the national coal board,” to quote one bereaved parent.
There were other disasters and other government failings, but Aberfan has to top the list in the Hall of Shame. The actions of Margaret Thatcher’s government during the 1984/5 miners’ strike are yet another example of people in coalfield communities being dealt a blow by the Westminster government.
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