Islington Trades Council secretary and UCATT member Mick Gilgunn asks why the imprisoned pickets of the 1972 building workers strike remain a threat to ‘national security’.
It’s a long and lonely road for families seeking justice, as seen in recent years in cases involving Bloody Sunday, Hillsborough and Orgreave pickets.
For the 24 building workers arrested six months after the 1972 official national building workers strike, it’s a never ending struggle. And for all of us in the trade union movement this is unfinished business as previously reported in Labour Briefing.
Jack Straw, as the former Labour Home secretary in the last government, set the campaign back by not disclosing secret documents, proclaiming that documents were not to be released on “the grounds of national security”.
Kenneth Clarke at the Ministry of Justice announced in 2011 on behalf of the Coalition that documents related to the Shrewsbury trials were not to be released till 2023.
The youngest of the living pickets is near retirement, the eldest is 85. The most well known is actor Ricky Tomlinson, and let us not forget the late Des Warren. Medical research since suggests that medication administered in prison, known as the “liquid cosh”, led to his Parkinsons Disease and death in 2004.
The obvious question we have to ask is, why are retired members of a major official national strike 40 years ago about a national wage agreement and against the Lump (casualisation of the industry through sub-contractors), still such a threat to national security? And were they ever? The obvious answer, and this is why we need “disclosure”, is that many people who were active at the time firmly believe that the state were involved through special branch informers, through collusion of the judiciary, and the interwoven patronage of the then Tory Heath government and major construction companies. This includes McAlpine who have been at the centre of the recent revelations involving the blacklisting agency Consulting Association.
The Justice for Shrewsbury campaign was relaunched seven years ago by Mike Abbott, Ritchie Hunter and Harry Chadwick, when papers related to the case were not being released under the 30 year Justice for Shrewsbury Pickets Islington Trades Council secretary and UCATT member Mick Gilgunn asks why the imprisoned pickets of the 1972 building workers strike remain a threat to ‘national security’. secrecy rule. A national committee was formed and we held marches in Shrewsbury organised by Shropshire & Telford Trades Council. The London committee organised two successful public meetings, a lobby of Parliament and a number of EDMs. There have been motions passed at the TUC, UCATT and Unite, and several unions have got involved in campaigning.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of their arrests; the national committee will continue to highlight the case, which is under review at the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Watch this space for further updates.