Cost of policing Twaddell almost £7m

Cost of policing Twaddell almost £7m

The cost of policing a loyalist protest in north Belfast is approaching £7m, it has been revealed.

The demonstration on the Woodvale Road has been ongoing since last July when Orangemen and bands were prevented from walking past the Ardoyne area on their return Twelfth of July route.The costs have been outlined by the Justice Minister David Ford in a written response to an Assembly question tabled by NI21 leader Basil McCrea.Justice Minister David Ford has revealed the cost of policing the Twaddell protest had reached £5.45m by the end of December.With police now estimating the daily cost of the operation at £40,696, the total bill is now thought to be in the region of £6.8m.Mr Ford outlined cost implications in response to a written Assembly question tabled by NI21 leader Basil McCrea.As well as providing an update on the Twaddell protest, the minister confirmed the total cost of policing last year's loyalist Union flag protests was almost £22m.The vast majority of the community are committed to democracy and the rule of law and it is essential that we continue to work together to tackle underlying issues and build a truly shared society for all.Justice Minister David FordThose demonstrations, which pre-dated the summer unrest in north Belfast, were triggered when Belfast City Council voted in December 2012 to limit the flying of the flag on top of City Hall. A number of the protests descended into serious violence.Police made public the financial implications of the flag protests last year, but on Monday, Mr Ford confirmed the PSNI bill from 3 December 2012 to 31 March 2013 was £21.9m.Mr Ford said around £250k had also so far been paid in criminal damage compensation linked to the flag protests, with that sum set to increase as more claims were resolved.The Alliance Party leader stated: "The flag protests and civil unrest have placed, and continue to place, a financial, and indeed a more general, burden or cost on many different sectors."These costs impact significantly on the PSNI's ability to undertake other work on behalf of the community."The minister said processing those arrested in the various disputes through the justice system also had an impact on the public purse."Given that nearly 400 people have been charged in connection with the protests and associated disorder the cost will be significant," he said."There are also wider costs to local businesses, especially in Belfast, where uncertainty around protests have impacted heavily, particularly in the run up to Christmas 2012. Images of the flags protests and associated disorder were seen across the United Kingdom and Ireland and further afield."The reputational damage that such scenes can cause, the related impact to the economy should not be underestimated," the minister continued."But the greatest cost of all is arguably to our community."As I have said before, everyone has the right to protest peacefully but there can be no excuse for the scenes of violence we have witnessed."At a time when our hospitals, schools and public services are under serious pressure the public will find it difficult to understand such spending.Basil McCrea, NI21 MLAThe figures have been described as "truly staggering" by NI21 leader Basil McCrea."As the Justice Minister has stated they are having a significant impact on the PSNI's ability to undertake other work on behalf of the community."The PSNI is being seriously hampered in its ability to tackle crime and protect the community across Northern Ireland. This is a serious issue which I believe political leaders in Northern Ireland need to get a grip of."He continued: "Loyalism has been led up the garden path by Unionist leaders who have strongly suggested to them that the Parades Commission is illegitimate and the Union flag will go back up 365 days a year at Belfast City Hall."SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness has called on those responsible for the Twaddell Avenue stand-off to re-engage with residents."The money being spent on this operation is sickening, especially when we look at the situation facing our health system."I would urge those involved in the stand-off to seriously re-consider their actions and to ask themselves what are they really achieving," the SDLP Justice spokesperson said."My fear is that if this is the amount of money being poured into yet another parades saga, what kind of bill will we have after the summer marching season, and what resources will we have left to deal with it?"The time has come for residents to re-enter dialogue and to find a solution to a local problem.Such a solution will enrich and reward all sides of the community - Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and unionist, republican and loyalist. "Now is the time for the Twaddell protestors to make a move and call it a day."


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