Parades policing cost rises to £7.4m

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The cost of policing contentious parades in Northern Ireland has soared to £7.4 million this year.

The bill compares to the £5.7 million total in 2011.

Last weekend’s huge loyal order event to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant in Belfast accounted for around £750,000 of this year’s spend by the Police Service of Northern Ireland while security at annual Twelfth of July demonstrations totalled £1.7 million, almost £1 million of that for the security operation at the Ardoyne interface in north Belfast.

The figures were outlined to members of the Policing Board by Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr.

Mr Kerr said if there was no contention around parades the cost of policing them would be negligible.

“The overall cost was £7.4 million,” he said.

“For the sake of brevity I won’t spell out what the lost policing opportunities were, but every pound spent on that was a pound that wasn’t spent on something else.”

Police usually measure the overall parade spend from April to the end of August.

That total was £5.7 million in 2011 and £6.1 million this year.

Mr Kerr said the additional £400,000 was spent on advance preventative policing at interface areas in a bid to stop trouble flaring.

He noted that there was not as much disorder this July as last.

“We didn’t have that this year but it cost money to make sure we didn’t have that this year,” he said.

Mr Kerr said this year required a further financial outlay of £1.3 million after tensions spread into the month of September.

He said £553,000 was spent during four days of trouble in north Belfast at the start of last month.

While last Saturday’s Covenant commemorations in Belfast passed off without major incident, the senior officer said £750,000 was spent in the lead up and on the day to ensure that was the case.

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Pat Sheehan had asked for the breakdown of costs.

In regard to the Twelfth of July, Mr Kerr said £907,000 was spent on the security operation at the notorious Ardoyne shops flashpoint in north Belfast and £40,000 policing another contentious parade in Rasharkin, Co Antrim.

The officer said if there was no sensitivity over parades, police operations would be limited to public safety and traffic management.

He added: “So you could say that if it wasn’t for the sensitivity and contention the cost would and should be relatively negligible.”