Parades policing cost 'unsustainable'

Published Monday, 22 October 2012
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Parades Commission Chairman Peter Osborne says the cost of policing contentious parades in Northern Ireland is "unsustainable" and must be reduced through dialogue.

Parades policing cost 'unsustainable'
Peter Osborne said policing parades is unsustainable. (© UTV)

Commenting at the conclusion of the traditional marching season, Mr Osborne said over £7m has been spent policing parades in the region this year.

"Spending upwards of £7m over the course of a year on policing parades and related protests is unsustainable," he said.

"Take Rasharkin, for example, where £600,000 was reportedly spent policing parades through a small village with a population of less than a thousand people."

"Clearly that is not the best use of scarce public resources.

"People will rightly ask how many neighbourhood policemen could that money provide, tackling the needs identified across the community?"

"Obviously public order must be maintained and the rights to parade and protest must be protected, but as a society we can't ignore the financial, economic and social costs associated with parading disputes."

The momentum generated by ongoing political leadership, a willingness to engage in dialogue and further demonstrations of goodwill and mutual respect could have significant benefit for the 2013 marching season, provided the work is started now.

Peter Osborne, Parades Commission

Mr Osborne recognised the "leadership and positive input" from many in the community but added that trouble in north Belfast demonstrated the challenges that still exist.

There were incidents of disorder in Ardoyne following the Twelfth of July celebrations as well as minor trouble outside St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street during a Black Preceptory parade in August.

The Parades Commission imposed restrictions on bands parading after a video showed a loyalist band playing an alleged sectarian song whilst circling outside the church on 12 July, although the band denied the tune was sectarian.

Since then there has been increasing pressure on the Orange Order to talk with local residents in addition to their conversations with the parish at the church ahead of parades.

"It is important we also acknowledge the progress made all over Northern Ireland rather than concentrate on just one or a few areas," Mr Osborne said.

"We hope people have the opportunity to step back, and examine their own approach and contribution to helping resolve contention in the relatively few areas where it still exists.

"Obviously significant issues remain, but the Commission recognises the leadership shown over recent weeks, both at a local and regional level."

He said the Commission was encouraged that the Orange Order have made steps to remove barriers from talking to residents about parades, which it hopes "translates into tangible progress on the ground".

"Where an expectation has been created that dialogue will occur, it is important to follow that through," he said.

He said the Commission advocated "constructive leadership" as being key for progress on contentious parade issues and they would assist any efforts for further engagement.

"Ideally, if local accommodations were reached the Commission would not be required to make determinations during next year's traditional marching season. That is an ambitious target, but the building blocks are already in place," Mr Osborne added.

© UTV News
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17 Comments
Lokie in Belfast wrote (636 days ago):
If they want to hold parades then they should pay for them. If the parades cause trouble which many of them do then they should get the bill from the police. I reckon trouble will see a dramatic drop.
Ellie in Canada wrote (637 days ago):
Why do they have so many parades in the 1st place,? don,t give me that old argument it,s our right , look how much it disrupts the city centre business,s and the cost to tax payers , walk if you may but maybe using some common sense and cutting them down would be the wiser thing to do.
s magowan in belfast wrote (638 days ago):
How much is it costing to keep your quango in business?I Bet you don't complain about resources when you are collecting your pay cheque for a couple of hours work a week.Nice work if you can get it.
Linda in NI wrote (638 days ago):
oh dear its all so simple if Protestants have parades they should pay for it and there wont be as many. I take it then SF/IRA will be paying for the bloody sunday enquiry & they will be paying for all future public enquiries they will also be paying for the billions of damage the troubles cost the exchequer & the Roman Catholic church will then be paying for the public enquiry into the child abuse which was worldwide and Peter Osbornes should amke sure they do so? The public should realise that Protestants pay their taxes and are entitled to police protection when they are under threat.
Laura in North Belfast wrote (643 days ago):
All parades have a policing cost attached to them, even if it is out-riders ensuring roads or parts of roads are closed off. I agree that any policing costs associated with a parade should be picked up by the organisers, as should the cost of picking up the litter left by supporters. Equally, if anyone is prosecuted for rioting, then perhaps they should be fined as well to contribute towards the cost of the clean up. When will the loyal orders get it into their heads that Nationalists and Republicans are not out to stop all loyalist parades. What we want is dialogue with residents so that the intolerance shown by many of those taking part in Loyal parades to Nationalist/Republican residents. I went into Belfast city centre on the day of the Covenant parade and saw a heavy police presence by no protesters in sight, what I did see, among other things, was the litter including empty beer cans, laying all over the streets and roads.
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