Calls to reveal cost of 'Irish' policing meeting

THE Policing Board should reveal how much the controversial public meeting held in Irish in Londonderry cost – at a time when policing is at an "all-time low".

Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt slammed the meeting as "nonsense" and as "a shameful waste of time and resources".

Critics pointed out that it happened at a time when the highest policing priority in the city was the violence in the Fountain interface.

Mr Spratt said that the Policing Board-funded event was a waste of public money "at a time when resources within the police service are finite to say the least and without exaggerating the situation it would be fair to say policing is at an all time low".

A Policing Board spokesman said: "Costs are being finalised for this event, however they are in line with the other public engagement meetings that the board has held."

The spokesman was last night unable to give out details of what an average public engagement costs, saying it would be available in coming days.

Mr Spratt said the meeting was not only a waste of "time and resources" but that it set a precedent for "people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds in the Province who also require assistance whose first languages are not English and who struggle with interpretation".

Fellow DUP Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr reiterated the point that he made last week in the News Letter that the meeting would have been much more useful if it acted as an outreach to the growing Cantonese or Portuguese community, has been proven.

"The meeting was luxury gone mad. Those at the meeting already speak English and understand it perfectly well. This meeting was as helpful as holding a similar seminar in Ulster Scots.

"We need to use our language policy and resources to accommodate the Portuguese and Chinese communities who have massive presence in Northern Ireland and who do have genuine policing issues."

Mr Spratt said he wanted to know how much the meeting cost and what resources and time was spent on preparing for it.

"All that needs to be open and transparent," he said.

"It is shameful to spend money in this manner as it is only to tick a box. It is scandalous waste of money in the month when we are losing more than 1,000 senior officers."

At the meeting on Tuesday night, PSNI chiefs ruled out a call for Irish signs on police vehicles.

More than 100 people attended the first public meeting held in the Irish language by the Policing Board at the City Hotel in Londonderry.

During the meeting cordless headphones – to hear a translator – were supplied for the non-Gaelic speakers in the audience, and a wide range of literature in Irish was also produced for people who attended.

Last night, a PSNI spokeswoman said: "The PSNI has a duty to reach out to every section of the community. In this way, we are working to make Northern Ireland safer for everyone and to ensure that the whole society receives the professional police service they expect and deserve.

"By working in partnership with the Policing Board and communities through engagement events, such as that which took place in Londonderry, the service can only gain a better understanding of the needs of individuals and groups, and ultimately deliver a policing service tailored to those needs."